Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lead Generation Checklist - Develop and intensify your Ideal Customer Profile

Lead generation expert Brian Carroll has been doing an excellent series on his blog called "The Lead Generation Checklist". So far, he's discussed changing your mindset to focus on conversations not campaigns and how to align sales and marketing as one team. These are excellent, but I think the most useful to individual sales professionals is step three - developing and intensifying your ideal customer profile. Read on for his tips.

"When it comes to customers, it's essential to understand that there may be a wide range of people you could potentially appeal to," says Carroll. "But the customer group your business will profit and benefit the most from is the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). And, by prescreening potential customers based on the unique attributes of your prime customers you can determine the set of criteria that will serve as the basis of your conversations."

Here's the best ways to develop and intensify your ideal customer profile:

1. Get to know your Current Customers.
Your ideal customers are right in front your nose: your current customers.

Separate your good customers from your bad. Make a list of your top ten - the ones in your sweet spot. What are their attributes and demographics? Make notes about the characteristics they have in common.

Get on the phone to find out what these top customers viewed as the trigger points for choosing you. Ask how you have helped them. Use this information to refine your message to gain more leads just like them. Review the trigger events or attributes that led them to working with you. Once you understand your clients and why they have picked you, you can tailor your message around that.

2. Know the needs you can solve.
Now you need to figure out if you can be relevant. Ask yourself: What's the size of my market? Where is the sweet spot? What are their key attributes? Does a potential company fit into these?

In order to be relevant, you have to understand your potential customer's buying process and current stage in that process. You may have to do a little market research to find answers. Look for free studies, white papers or case studies that your prospects read. What are the issues visited in those? Visit websites frequented by this group. How do they prefer to be communicated with?

Search for applicable trigger events. What hits home with them? Is there new legislation that may affect their purchasing decisions and budgets over the next year? Common trigger events include changes in building, strategy, legislation, tactics, finances or ownership. Growth of any kind is a great trigger event as is recognition such as reviews or awards. Check to see if they are working with a competitor. Find out if there is dissatisfaction on the part of the prospect. Use any of these trigger events to identify how you can help potential prospects and become relevant to their needs.

3. Take down names and numbers.
Now that you have an idea of the companies that you think you can truly help, you're going to have to find out whom to start conversations with. Make sure the folks you are talking to have the authority to make decisions. Figure out which individuals are the key influencers.

Do you understand their typical sphere of influence? Find out what time frame they will make their decision within. Find out if they have budget concerns. Find out the angle in which they are viewing the problem. Are they worried about finding the quickest and easiest solution? Are they concerned with technical issues? Finding the answers to these questions helps you understand how these individuals fit into the buying process. You can then cater information to their particular needs or concerns.

4. Know when to engage and when to pass.
Everyone has customers that just didn't pan out. Maybe they were difficult to work with. Maybe it was discovered late in the process that there just wasn't a profitable partnership to be had. Hindsight is 20/20. They looked like perfect customers from first glance, but what do you see now that should have sent up a red flag?

Use what you've learned the hard way to avoid taking on those kinds of clients again. Create a profile of your non-desirables. Call it your Un-Ideal Customer Profile. Speak with sales and anyone involved in those relationships in order to gather details about what was and wasn't positive. Use that information to create a guideline and make sure that your organization judges all potential prospects against it so you know when walk to away. Don't waste your sales team's time with potential customers that you know already you can’t help.

If you'll remember that the ideal customer drives the process here you'll be successful. Know your customers, know what they need, and know the right time to initiate conversations. Refuse to take the time to find your ICP, and you will suffer the consequences. Sure, your lead list may grow, but chances are it won't include leads and future customers that fall into your sweet spot.

Brian Carroll, CEO of In Touch, Inc. is the author of Lead Generation for the Complex Sale (McGraw-Hill 2006) and the B2B Lead Generation Blog. He is an expert in B2B marketing, lead generation and complex sales.

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