Twenty years ago I started my career in sales. As I was building my list and my accounts, I followed the basic principle of sales I learned – it’s a numbers game. The explosion of tools, channels, and available information for sales people and consumers alike has made this principle, in its original form, out of date. No longer can we count on closing sales by pitching to “everyone” we can find and watch a percentage hit our bottom line. The race to sales targets, however, has gotten more furious, not less. What do you do when the pressure to make the numbers plateaus your revenue growth?
In my consulting with marketing and sales professionals, and in my entrepreneurial efforts, I think a lot about how sales techniques have evolved over the last 20 years. My mind was wandering to this topic during a recent band rehearsal. The group’s sound was muddy, and we were not finding the blend we needed for a clear, emotionally-moving sound. Our band leader spent time with each of us, finding the root or third of the chord we needed to move up the scale. That’s when it hit me. Finding success in sales by motivating our customers to buy is a lot like our band finding our notes on the scale. Connecting sales activities with the musical scale can create clear and moving results for both experienced and new sales professionals.
Restart your sales success with the first three notes of the scale: clarify, discover, and engage. I’ll address clarity in this post. I’ll dig into “Discover” and “Engage” in two subsequent posts. If you’d like a quick, 4-minute summary of all three notes, click on my YouTube video titled, “3 Notes to Pitch Perfect Sales.”
Musicians will recognize the C major scale that I’ve used to step up my sales and teach others to do the same. We’ll concentrate on the foundation of the scale, the first note, in this post.
♪ C = Clarity
I work with and train sales people often. The most common response I receive to my question, “How do you know who to propose your goods/services to when selling?” is “everyone.” Sales Representatives will tell me about lists they’ve purchased, business cards they collected at a trade show or networking event, and lists they’ve made from online business or personal directories (i.e. yellow/white pages). These well-meaning professionals are working so hard to sell to “everyone” and yet they see few results. Repeat after me, “Not everyone needs what I have. Not everyone needs what I have.” Got it? Good.
It’s overwhelming to prepare a pitch that appeals to everyone, either it’s too large and complicated, or it’s so general the presentation appeals to no one. Imagine how your task changes if you know the profile of your ideal or true customer; find out what their problems are and solve them with your goods/services. Now when you approach them, you won’t have to be prepared for “every” contingency but you’ll be armed with the answers that your customers need most.
Here are a few characteristics to consider to get you started:
- Geography: Your backyard is a good place to start, but it’s only a start.
- Demographics: Think about the questions on the U.S. Census such as age, gender, income, education, household size, the age of kids in the household, life stage, etc. Demographics is the most common characteristic, helpful but overused, so let’s add more.
- Needs: Perhaps your product has three main features/benefits; for example, portability makes it convenient, package design makes it easy to hold, and it’s constructed from recycled materials appealing to environmentally conscious consumers. Consider breaking your customers into groups based on the benefits highest on their priority list.
- Buying behavior: Ask yourself if your ideal customer is a first-time buyer or if he or she is switching from a competitor. Is she entering a new life stage that suddenly makes your service a solution to her problem? Is he a heavy purchaser of a substitute product and completely unaware of how much more value he’ll receive with your service?
Let’s put our buyer profile together now. Imagine I sell a kitchen audit service for people with hand pain or weakness. I enter their homes to audit their kitchenware and suggest products/modifications to make cooking easier. See below for possible customer profiles to target my pitch.
Jenna has been newly diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. She has always loved to cook and is devastated that it’s painful for her to prepare meals for herself/her family. She has always been self-sufficient and wants to stay that way, but she has no idea where to start. Jenna lives close to a major hospital, so she relies on their resources for suggestions.
Andre has always loved to entertain his friends. Recently retired with more time to entertain, he is finding his hands tire easily when he’s preparing the meals at the center of his anticipated parties. When he moved to Arizona as a snow bird, Andre made sure he had a kitchen and entertainment area that would support his love of getting friends together. He’s wondering what he’ll do now that weakness and pain in his hands affect his ability to cook.
Can you see the broader characteristics in each of the profiles? I know I would feel confident preparing marketing materials or an elevator speech to appeal to the needs of people like Jenna and Andre. The next two posts in this series on sales will follow Jenna and Andre through the rest of the process – discover and engage.
Let’s be clear (pun intended). You will not make the same number of pitches to generate revenue. What you will have is a higher probability of closing the sale. Less work, more money…and we’re only on the first note of the scale.
I’ll explain how discovery and engagement support the first note as you scale up your sales in subsequent posts.
Yes, there are more principles to the scale that I teach in workshops. If you’re interested in getting early notice of events, workshops, and resources, you can sign up for my newsletter “Grow Your Business” here. Subscribers enjoy not only the latest resources delivered to their inboxes but receive exclusive discounts to workshops, books, and online courses from Intentional Growth Strategies and its partners.
How has clarity improved your sales results? I’d love to hear from you.