Who Are You Selling To (and Who Should You Be Selling To)?

file000495818648(1)This one’s a little 101, but …

One of the first questions that needs to be asked when working organizations on improving their sales is 'are you focusing your time and efforts on selling to the right people/company?'. Often companies can't really answer that question effectively and some up-front time is needed to go through some exercises to establish the current 'profile client'.

In terms of making your overall process (and business) more efficient and effective there are few things better than profiling. After all, if you can identify which characteristics your best and most profitable customers share than you can focus your efforts on finding more customers that have these characteristics.

The rest of this post is going to be about how one identifies their profile client and how the use of profiling can be used to manage the focus and direction of your organization. Before we get into the nitty-gritty I want to make a quick point – some of the smaller companies that I've worked with have felt that going through the exercises below wasn't going to be a good use of their time. My argument in response would be that it might be even more important for smaller organizations to identify a profile client – they have less margin for error and really can't afford to waste time with difficult, unprofitable customers.

How do I identify our profile client:

Typically the first step in understanding who your profile client might be involves some simple financial investigation:

  1. Take a look at your books – make a list of your top 20% of clients by revenue and profitability.
  2. Next – review the list of top clients and make some judgment calls on which of these top clients are the best to work with: which recognize your value the best, which have been the most reliable repeat customers, which have been the best to work with in terms of relationship, which have been the clients that you most enjoyed working with.

Try to pare the list down by ½ at least so be honest with yourself. There may very well be clients that make you a lot of money, but are a ridiculous pain-in-the-ass. I personally would cut these clients out regardless of the money that they make you - unless of course you enjoy being unhappy and unfulfilled in your work.

When you have the list pared down take a look at it again. What are the characteristics that these best-of-the-best accounts share between them:

  1. Are there services / products that they have in common?
  2. Do the buyers share a common philosophy?
  3. Are they buying your product/service for the same reasons (you might want to ask them how they perceive your value)?
  4. Do they share an industry, size, number of employees, geography, etc.
  5. Do the buyers / champions at the account share similar characteristics (buy on value? Value relationships over price? Etc.)?

Keep in mind that this is a quick list of questions – there might be similarities that aren't represented in this list above. What's important here is that you are looking for anything that seems to be shared across these accounts – these people are your best customers, the people that not only make you the most money, but provide you the most satisfaction and joy in your work. You want to understand what to look for in your search for more clients like these.

And that's the goal – to maximize your profitability, to encourage a more effective and enjoyable relationship with your clients, and to waste as little time as possible dealing with unprofitable jerks.

Understanding your 'profile client' also allows you to make affective adjustments – for example, you might discover that you've been focusing on clients that are too small and won't allow you to grow the way that you would like. That's good information to have and could result in a change of expectations or a change in business model...

You might also find that you need to adjust your marketing efforts because you've been throwing valuable time and money trying to get the attention of people that cause you nothing but headaches and don't make you nearly enough money to justify the effort.

Regardless, understanding who you are selling to (and who you should be selling to) is absolutely critical for any organization, large or small and will, over time, help guide your decisions about where to take your company. It should also fine-tune your investments (both money and time) on marketing, sales, and client support.

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Alex Crittenden



I'm an Enterprise Account Executive with roughly 2 decades of experience working with growing organizations. My focus and experience is on driving sales, building strategic messaging and market positioning, and helping companies to grow. This is a personal blog and does not represent the opinions or feelings of any company that I currently work for or with.

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