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Sales and Marketing Sleuthing: Know Your Prospects

Take a moment to answer two basic questions. Who is your customer and what is your product?

If you’re like most B2B businesses, you likely have more than one answer to each of those questions. You also have to factor in the companies affiliated with each customer; then there’s the fact that one product can be addressed multiple ways, such as offering free trials on a lower-tier model or going enterprise. All of which means aligning customers, companies and products can get complicated.

Consider this scenario: Let’s say you’re a subscription-based business. Some of your clients sign up for one-year retainers, while others sign up for a one-time project; others want something even simpler, like a quick health-check of their business. Today you’re headed into that crucial first meeting with a prospect. And it so happens that based on a variety of factors – such as a negative past experience with a retainer or a skittish decision maker – this company is looking for a one-time arrangement to test the waters, although they haven’t told you that.

Obviously you don’t want to sabotage yourself by referring to a “retainer” when you walk into the meeting. Do that and you could immediately shift the prospect’s perception to the belief that you’re the wrong vendor for them. So how can you know which approach to adopt ahead of time to ensure you prescribe the right product?

Be a Data Detective

Prospects will rarely give you all the information you need to tailor your approach. You’ll have to put that together on your own. The starting point: understanding the different elements that play into a buying decision, such as:

  • Does your contact have trust issues?
  • Is your contact operating at a lower level in the organization?
  • Is the company struggling with budget issues?
  • Will your contact need to go through many rounds of approval?

Clearly your first source for this type of understanding is your CRM system – but be warned that you’ll have to go beyond superficial data. To really pull together a full picture of the client’s needs, you’ll need to be meticulous in recording all the opportunity details, including the process, the buying committee, the demographics, the triggers that convince them to buy and more.

Just as we talked about before with the psychological component of finding your ideal buyers, you’ll employ that same data modeling process now to unearth your prospect’s true mindset. The more data you can incorporate, the more accurate your early stage personas will be. You’ll bypass your own assumptions and identify the hidden nuances driving each customer’s purchasing decision, allowing you to customize the perfect approach.

“But I don’t have enough customers to use as a rich data pool,” you might be thinking if you have a very young business. Maybe that’s true. But I’ll bet you have early adopters you can use as a data group. Get started on what you do have and keep building from there.

One final word of advice: remember that while you’re doing your detective work to serve up the right product or service to new customers, you should also determine if they’re a good fit for you. There’s no point in jumping through hoops to nurture and close with a prospect that isn’t going to pay off for you. But if they fit your criteria, go ahead and study who they are and what they might buy. You’ll outshine the competition and convince the prospect you’re the vendor they’ve been looking for.

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