Monday, June 1, 2009

The Objective of Prospect Relationships

Why do you really want additional customers? No, really—I’m serious. What is it that drives you to seek out new prospects and new business opportunities? When was the last time you really thought about your reasons for being in sales?

There are all kinds of reasons, and yes, money is one of them. That can’t be overlooked. But, I’m betting there are other reasons outside of that paycheck which keep you coming back to work and back to nurture your business every day. There are things in this life that are worthwhile to be passionate about and one of those things, I hope, is your business.

Now, turn the tables. What is it that drives a customer to buy your product or service? Why would they choose your company over the next guy’s? Is it about passion for them as well? Probably, just not about the exact same things you are passionate about. The trick is finding out how the two of you fit together. Like any good relationship, a customer relationship can and should be about more than money. It’s about finding a good fit and a synergistic relationship. It’s about respect and value that goes beyond dollar signs.

I talked a little bit about this when I encouraged you to define your ideal client. To be successful, you need a very good understanding of your own drives and motivations and an even better understanding of your prospective client’s drives and motives.

First, let’s realize a general assumption. There are two kinds of prospects: new and seasoned. What do I mean by that? Basically, you will encounter two different types of consumer. The first – new – is a new player. They are new to the need for your type of service. They are start up companies or those who are learning a new way of doing things. (Think Grandma shopping for her first cell phone.) The second – seasoned – have been in the game for a while. They know what their needs are, they know how and what they want to buy, and they’ve done it all before. (Think about the teenage grandson Grandma brought shopping with her who is one his fifth cell phone.)

New and seasoned prospects have to be approached differently but your end goals are the same. You both want a positive outcome to your buying and selling relationship.

I’ll focus for just a minute on the seasoned prospect. Why? It’s a matter of logistics. They’re the ones you’ll encounter most often and the biggest question you’ll have is: are they buying from me or my competition?

Having completed millions of prospecting activities, we have learned a thing or two from the tens of thousands of sales opportunities we’ve generated at Ekstrom and Associates. Among these things is the fact there is relatively little complete brand loyalty. There can be substantial loyalty to a provider or vendor, but there typically isn’t blind loyalty to the brand as a whole. This is what you need to focus on. A prospect’s loyalty is generally focused on the company, not the brand of the product. Even if it’s there, loyalty to a brand will not stop you from taking business away from the competition.

Prospecting always works, and if you want to go after your competitors’ best clients there isn’t a better tool. What percentage of your existing clients left you and your company in the past five years? It’s likely that your competition suffered the same loss. Your ability to prospect, among other things, allows you the opportunity to learn firsthand, from your competition’s clients themselves, how dissatisfied they are with your competition. Use that knowledge to draw them away from your competition to you.

In order to take opportunities away from the competition you must be willing to step up to the plate where these seasoned buyers are telling you they have dissatisfactions. You need to know your ideal customer: their drives and passions and be willing to foster a relationship based on their needs. You look for additional services to provide that show your company is passionate about they’re needs.

First, you look for and fill an immediate need, then you work to keep these people by building a fortress around your relationship. These efforts: taking the most attractive clients away from your competition, and guiding you in building a fortress around them are what Ekstrom and Associates specializes in.

It can be that simple. Build a stout fortress around your most valuable clients and tear down the fortresses your competitor’s have built. It doesn’t make economic sense to take 10 great clients from your competition and lose 10 great clients in the process. Let them know how much you value their business. If you don’t show them they are a valued customer, they will find a company who will.

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