Thursday, May 8, 2008

Qualifying your customers

Customers are demanding – and rightfully so.
They’re spending hard-earned dollars with us, and we should recognize that.
Now, not every customer brings the same value, as some buy more than others…. and some demand more time from you than others, regardless of how much they’re buying.

The bottom line is that your customers deserve to be treated right – they should have a rep that takes them seriously and helps them with the product they need in the best possible way.
Good customers that is. There is nothing wrong in deciding that some customers just don’t match with the value you can bring.

So, the limited time you have, should be spent with customers you determine are worth spending your time on. How do you decide? Well – here’s some help on how to qualify your prospects and customers. If you can answer these questions, you should be going a long way:

- What individual client’s needs need to be met to secure long-term competitive advantage for us? (is it really just price?)
- What advantages does your company/product offer to meet the individual client or prospect’s needs? (e.g. international presence, flexibility, speed of delivery, product knowledge, availability, product quality (compared to competition in your market space) etc)
- Can you name your top 20 clients and top 20 prospects? What shared characteristics do they offer? What similar needs do they have (if any)?
- In what way does this compare to the answer in the 2nd question. (apparently, you have something special to offer that client. It has allowed you to build a long-term relationship with them. You should sustain that advantage, so you need to be aware of what makes you special)
- Do you have any customers that are costing resources (money/time etc) so that they are not worth keeping? (asking too much time in product advice compared to actual business, too many quotes with little orders, need too much help from pre-sales etc). What are their characteristics?
- Are you spending enough time on your top 20 customers and your top 20 prospects? Are you spending time on customers/prospects that aren’t worth it?
- Who are your most ‘growable’ customers? Do they share any characteristics – similar needs?
- For prospecting; Is there a vertical that has an apparent need for the competitive advantages that your company/product offers? Have you been particularly successful in a certain vertical and can you copy those best practices into a strategic approach? Can you share references with prospects?
- Is there any rationale/validation for expected future loyalty amongst your top 20 accounts?
- How can you ‘build a fence’ around them to protect their value and loyalty?
- Are there opportunities for up-selling or cross-selling in your existing client base? (other products, complementary products, accessories etc)
- What collaborative value is present? Are they willing to communicate / meet with you face-to-face / respond to questions about their business and needs / open to receiving marketing/sales info?
- Have you identified the preferred medium for interaction with the key identifier? (e-mail, face-to-face, phone, IM etc)
- Are there ‘prestige’ accounts that you have or need to grow in order for you to be successful in a certain vertical? Can you develop those accounts into a referral?
- Have you identified the key influencer or key decision maker in each of your accounts? (have you fully penetrated the account when comparing actual sales to how much that customer spends on the same product on a yearly basis – if it is less than 20%: find out who you’d need to talk to so that you can identify opportunities prior to the order being sent, rather than being transactional.)

Think about it - it's really this simple.

Have a wonderful day!

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