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A Death Sentence for Sales People - Failing to Know Your Customer

Jun 22, 2008
Many a savvy salesman has lost a sale because he failed to know his customer. You may have infinite product knowledge, a slick sales pitch, and a phenomenal product - but, if you don't know who needs your product and why they need it - you'll be about as effective as a death row pardon at two minutes past midnight.

So, how do you gain a better knowledge of your customer?

Keep a pulse on the market. Spend a bit of time on your favorite search engine, and you will find a wealth of information at your fingertips. From mainstream media sites, to blogs, to trade publications, much of this information is free of charge; however, if you do have to part with a few bucks to further your knowledge, consider this an investment in your future. Chances are these expenses can be written off as a tax deduction.

Tell time on their clock. Are you selling sports equipment? If so, the possibility of garnering big returns from a display ad in a computer game enthusiasts' publication seems unlikely. By stark contrast, a company that manufactures ergonomic chairs for computer users and gamers will experience dramatically different results. Get into the mind of your prospect, and learn to think like they do. Years ago I read a quote that sums this up rather nicely, "learn what makes them tick, and tell time on their clock."

Know your competition as well as you know yourself. Why? Never assume you are the only choice on the market. You may well be the best choice, but can you articulate why? This is when your product knowledge comes into play. You can never have too much product knowledge.

Now, don't mistake that statement to mean you will be required to recite it all for every customer - you won't. However, when that one prospect comes along that wants to know the finer points of every detail that sets you apart, rest easy knowing that you'll be ready.

Employ systems that turn leads into prospects. Let's go back to your display ad for a moment. You've run your ad in a market-specific publication. Did you obtain the reader's survey results from the publication?

If you aren't asking for this information, you should be. It is something that you can negotiate into your ad contract; it will allow you to obtain leads from readers who have taken the time to complete the request for information card that appears in the publication. These are diamonds in the rough, folks! Make it a point to follow up with these leads, and get them on your mailing list - you can do this with a free report or trial offer, discount, or other special promotion. Whatever you do, follow up with these leads...and do it while they are warm.

Position yourself as the obvious choice. There are a number of ways to go about doing this - article marketing, tele-seminars, webinars, on-location special events, guest speaking engagements, books, ebooks, special reports - the list goes on and on. The important thing is that the more often your prospects are presented with your message and brand, the more it reinforces your position in their mind. Your goal is to become the go-to guy for your market; establish your reputation as the company that offers unrivaled value, superior service, and a genuine concern for your customers. Do these things, and you'll soon become the Pied Piper of your market.

Knowing your customer sounds like an obvious concept at the outset, yet many companies fail in this regard. Taking the extra time to develop your ideal customer "profile" will give you a tremendous advantage. Keep this profile at the forefront of your mind, and let it govern your marketing efforts. If you endeavor to do this, you'll never find yourself watching the clock as it approaches the midnight hour.
About the Author
Traci Hayner Vanover, The Promo Diva(R), is the publisher of Create the Dream magazine, http://www.createthedream.com, and the president of Market Outside the Box Trade Association, http://www.marketoutsidethebox.com. She works with private clients as a publicist, copywriter and consultant.
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