International sales directors spend up to 80% of their time focusing on sales prospects and clients that fail to live up to their full potential. Understanding why some territories underperform while others meet or exceed targets is never a straight forward process, yet still, many businesses lack that detailed knowledge of who their best customers already are, even though these businesses drive their profitability.
Karim Iskandar, Vice President International of OneSource Information Services, gives some practical advice on how to maximise the potential of all clients.
Get to know your valuable customers
Identifying your best customers and their attributes not only gives you an understanding of who they are and the traits they share, but also –will enable you to know why clients want you in the marketplace- which gives you the opportunity to increase your penetration in your most successful industries.
By segmenting your market, you can extract insightful information about the qualities of your best customers such as quantifiable data including employee count, sales, annual turnover and industry classification. Knowing this can help you to develop a highly effective, specifically targeted marketing strategy to maximise success.
When developing these strategies, it’s essential to know your current penetration in each industry. This not only exposes how many prospects remain in that area, but also sheds light on how closely your existing customer base aligns with your target market, and helps you to drive your sales campaigns to the right segments.
Make a start by grouping your clients, and prospects, by industry and sizing them against the total universe (all companies in that industry). If you calculate that you have 30 customers in a market that contains 200 possible customers, then you know that you have a 15% penetration rate. The remaining 85% in your list will give you a good starting pointing in forming a targeted sales approach for new business development.
This practice will ensure that you don’t miss out those prospects who could become profitable customers. You’ll be quick to notice trends and similarities in existing clients, allowing you to build these key factors into shaping your sales approach, and directing a more effective long term sales strategy.
Gain insight and penetrate new industries
When penetrating new industries that you’re less familiar with, send questionnaires to your target market, ask relevant questions about their demographic and psychographics, and you might consider inviting industry insiders on board. They will help to immerse you in the field so that you can crack it more quickly. This approach will save you time and money with their knowledge and subject matter expertise. In one step, hiring a consultant can quickly fill a knowledge gap that exists in your company.
Don’t be afraid to try different marketing messages they may suggest too. Experiment with your target audience and see how receptive it is to your marketing and sales techniques. Just be sure to track the outcome. Measuring ROI of a marketing campaign is essential to inform you of those sales strategies that are working, and also those that are not.
Feed all of this information into your database for quantifiable results so you can better identify key segments and keep up to date with your market penetration.
It’s important to keep your penetration in balance, and you can achieve this by analysing your territories to understand the environment in which your sales representatives operate. This ascertains whether your sales territories contain the right levels of opportunity, and can help you decide whether your best territory strategy is geographical, vertical, or a combination of the two, upon which you can determine where you should be investing your time.
Make time for existing customers
Sales is often so focused on new prospects that it can be easy to forget that you’ve got some great clients already, so don’t forget about them. They need to know just how worthwhile they are to you, as much as you are to them. Just as you do with prospects, use triggers - significant events in their world – to give your salesperson a reason to stay with them.
Perhaps a new product has launched that might boost your client’s business, a networking event in their field could earn them useful contacts: be the one to take relevant news and use it to engage with your client – in doing so you’re placing yourself directly in their line of vision, ideally strengthening your relationship.
By staying proactively informed about shifts and changes that matter to the customer, you will create openings for positive, effective engagement, not to mention a better standard of service which you can offer future prospects.
When it comes to engaging those prospects, ensure that you balance your time effectively and always remember to include your existing customers. Analysis of both those new and existing will aid the important decision of where to allocate your time, identify segments for further pursuit and focus your efforts on segments most like your current customers or target market, and ﬁlter out the lower value prospects.
Customer bases change and evolve over time, so regular analysis is essential to mark the developments so that you can respond quickly and accordingly. Stay at the forefront of progression of your clients’ industries, particularly for your most profitable sectors, for optimum planning, decision making and communication to maximise your sales. However, you will only be able to achieve this if your target clients and their values and aspirations are at the centre, and more often than not, it’s those clients who deserve your attention most.