Do you really know how customers decide whether to buy from you? Many sales efforts take a business-centric approach to selling. That is, they focus on what their marketing and sales people do.

In starting and leading companies and coaching others to be successful, I’ve learned that many businesses miss most of what drives profitable sales. Think of all of the sales activities going on with you and your prospect like an iceberg. Your business is only directly involved in the 10% of activity that’s visible to you. It’s what’s above the water line in the iceberg. The 90% of other relevant sales activity (for example, the prospect’s market research, exploration of other vendors, contacts with other customers, internal decision processes, etc.) gets less attention. However, just like a ship navigating amidst an iceberg, your sales will sink or succeed based upon how well you understand not only what you see but also what you don’t see.

Develop a deeper understanding of how your best customers buy, and you will boost your sales. With profiles from as few as a dozen customers, you can discern important patterns. You’ll also begin to note key accelerators that will yield faster and more cost-effective results.

The process to follow is a core element of the Success-Based Marketing program that my clients have used effectively for years. Here are the principal steps.

  • Select ideal customers to profile.

Focus on ideal customers you’ve already attracted. These are the people or businesses that need your distinctive value, are willing to pay, and are a pleasure to serve. Pick ten to twenty in a specific market segment.

  • Gather what you know about these customers.

Your task is to figure out how these customers went from not knowing about your products or services to becoming ideal customers who do repeat business with you and refer you to others. For each customer, take a sheet of paper and draw a horizontal line across the middle of it to depict a timeline. Now, review your records and talk with your salespeople to identify what you know about when you first had contact with the customer and how (phone call, mailer, email, social encounter, referral from another customer or friend, etc.). Write this information above the line at the start of the timeline. Proceed to fill in other details about contacts made, dates of sales, and follow up inquiries.

  • Interview your customers to get the rest of the picture.

Think of your ideal customers’ buying behavior like an iceberg. You only know what you are doing with them. That’s the tip of the iceberg—what you can see above the waterline.  Most of the interesting dynamics and opportunities to accelerate sales are things that you don’t know about—what’s below the waterline.

Ask your ideal customers questions like the following. How did you first become aware of our business? What information did you receive about our products and services and when? What other information and factors influenced your thinking? Did family members, colleagues, and friends play a role? If so, when and how? What triggered your first purchase and why did you choose our business? What happened later to prompt your decision to purchase more or refer others? Do you buy similar products or services from other businesses? If so, what factors influence your choice among them? Where and with whom do you talk about products or services like this? Who are other people who might be interested in what we offer?

For each customer, write his or her answers to these questions in the space below the horizontal timeline. When you have finished, you will have a complete picture of the customer relationship from both your business’ and the customer’s points of view.

  • Look for patterns.

Look for similarities and differences in the customer profiles. As unique as each customer may be, you’ll start to see patterns of what makes a difference. After as few as six complete customer profiles, client teams have discovered important triggers.

  • Identify key accelerators.

Among the dozen or more customer profiles, you will notice that some customers decided to purchase more quickly or purchased more. The factors that accounted for those results are sales accelerators. You’ll identify important referral sources or particularly effective marketing messages or follow up actions.

With detailed information about what has already worked successfully for your business, you’ll quickly be able to multiply your sales results.


Copyright © 2017 Don Maruska