Most sales forces underachieve, and that’s putting it kindly. Maybe yours does. Maybe you don’t even know or understand how it underachieves. But, in my 25+ years of experience, few sales forces fully justify the time and effort that the company invests. The reason is simple. Their salespeople spend way too much of their time making meaningless, agenda-free sales calls on people who can’t buy – and whose purchase wouldn’t move the needle if they could. In short, they spend too little of their time calling on their Freds.
I’ve been consulting with business owners, sales managers, and training salespeople for a dozen years now. Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember what it was like to have a job working for someone else. But if there’s anything I’ve discovered in that 12 years, it’s that those business owners, sales managers, and salespeople have an incredibly difficult time with defining their “Fred.”
OK, full disclosure – I don’t remember where I got this expression but I’ve been using it for a long time. “Fred” is my shorthand name for my ideal target client. Not a client that I will accept, mind you – but the ideal target for me. I can ask the toughest questions of my clients and get the straightest answers – but when I ask my clients to define their Fred (and I explain what Fred means), I get weasel words. Why? I think it’s because we want to leave ourselves a lot of opportunities to accept non-Fred business (non-ideal business), and that’s where we go wrong. If you want to succeed in sales, figure out your Fred. Let’s take a deep dive into this.
Figure out who your BEST customers are. Notice that I said “Best,” and not “Biggest.” That’s because the two are not necessarily the same customer. What attributes do you assign to your best customers? I’d suggest that measurements like Profit, Growth, and Time/Labor Spent to Service would be big attributes. A customer that is profitable for you, grows well, and has an acceptable amount of TLS is your ideal client. Feel free to use your own measurements here, but I’d advise you not to use gross revenue as your measurement – we’ve all seen high volume customers that weren’t profitable, didn’t grow, and required an extraordinary TLS to keep.
Your best customers will have some common elements, whether that be demographics (size/location/industry) or attitudinal and cultural, or some combination of the two. Start writing them down on paper – you can always revise them. The key is to make your window fairly narrow – remember we’re talking about your IDEAL business, not the business you ACCEPT.
Don’t just settle for demographics; remember the WHO. What I mean by the “WHO” is this: I might describe my typical client as a business-to-business company from $5 million to $500 million. That’s a big window. But then I have to apply the “Who,” as in, “A business to business company, from $5 million to $500 million, WHO has a sales force and intends to use that sales force as a key growth driver.” The “WHO” defines the attitude and culture. This works on an individual level, too.
A while back, I challenged a new-car dealer friend of mine to define his Fred. He said, “Well, Troy, you’re probably my Fred. You’re mid-40s, you’re successful and have disposable income, and you’re into cars.” Yep, on the demographics alone, I was his Fred. But the WHO knocked me out.
I said, “Nonsense. The newest vehicle I’ve ever owned is a 2004. Attitudinally, I hate the idea of taking the depreciation of a new car and I don’t like car payments. My driver right now is a 1996 Impala SS – which I absolutely love. My wife also doesn’t buy new cars. Worse, we do most of our own maintenance so you don’t get revenue through the service department, and we have no kids to buy for.”
So I helped him with the WHO: “Your ideal customer is probably mid-30s to mid-50s, married, likes new cars and trades every 3 years or so, has a family that also drives their own cars, and has no interest in getting dirty working on their own cars, so you get steady income in the service department, right?” He agreed. Now he thinks in terms of the WHO.
Individualize your Fred. OK, so now we’ve got the demographics and the attitude. We’re still not done, because for all you B2B types, you have defined your Fred in terms of companies. The problem is that you don’t sell to companies. You’d look pretty silly making a sales presentation to a brick building. You sell to PEOPLE. So, now, who’s your Fred? Look at your company “Freds.” Who is your key point of contact within those companies? Again, I’m betting you’ll find some commonalities. Remember, your point of entry into a company determines your chances of success at selling to them; where do you need to enter? Most likely it’s at the top of whatever department buys and uses your products and services. Don’t just settle for an ideal COMPANY as your Fred, or even a COMPANY with an ATTITUDE (the WHO), define it all the way down to the PERSON or the TITLE. If you do not define your Fred this far, you will never have success finding more Freds. PERIOD.
So, now that you’ve defined your Fred, what do you do? Well, you will…….have to read my article next month, because that’s when I’m going to deal with this. You have enough work to keep you busy until then, just doing the above exercise.