Thursday, January 22, 2009

Your People Inventory

Whether we like to admit it or not, we are you are in the sales business. Professional sales people know that there is something called the sales cycle. Think of the sales cycle as a circle that begins and end with prospecting. If you already have a client base, we are going to take an inventory. If you are just starting and looking for that first customer or client, we are also going to take an inventory.

Successful businesses maintain customer databases of various degrees of sophistication. The only difference between a customer and a prospect is history, a customer being someone who bought from us in the past. Satisfied customers make the best prospects. The more we know about our prospects, the better our opportunity for successful selling, and selling is the business we are in.

We want to create a prospect database that contains both quantitative and qualitative information. We will start with some initial questions about our prospects and work from there. We can always add more layers of sophistication as we develop our inventory. If you have existing customers, be as detailed in your answers as you can. If you do not have a customer base, look at who buys from your competitors.

· Who are your prospects?
· Where are your prospects?
· How many prospects are there?
· What do your prospects want from you?
· What do your prospects know about you?
· How much will prospects pay you?

Who are your prospects?

A prospect is anyone who needs what you are selling and can afford to buy it. Suppose you own a commercial cleaning company that does offices and retail stores. Prospect characteristics might include: people who own or manage buildings, have a budget for janitorial service, employ at least 5 inside people, have three lavatories, a kitchenette, a reception area, and a sales floor. They are serviced once a week after 7 P.M. by two people who and take 45 minutes on the job. Less than 10% are government accounts and about a third of them are retail operations.

Where are your prospects?

Prospects may be anywhere if we are selling online or by catalogue and delivering products by transportation we provide. Otherwise they usually live or work with a defined geographical service area, whether you go to them or they come to you. Assume you own a health club. Prospect characteristics might include: able bodied men and women, aged 35 to 55, who live within 13 miles of the club. Half of them want some training. Half of the men and a quarter of the women use free weights.

How many prospects are there?

This is referred to as market size. Do your homework and keep your estimates conservative because your projected sales will be based on your estimate. Whether your business is land based and dependent on traffic or it is web based and dependant in page views, you can search for and find data on the Internet. Another source of such data is your competition.

What do your prospects want from you?

Prospects want what you sell and they want satisfaction after they purchase. Regardless of product or service, prospects want quality, value and service. However, they want price as well, especially now. Warranties and guarantees enhance value and your prospects’ perception of quality. Sears Roebuck and Company understood the balance of perception by making the claim, “Satisfaction guaranteed, or your money back.”

What do your prospects know about you?

They know either what you tell them or what some else they know has told them. Professional sales people rely on an organized sales presentation to varying degrees. Such presentations contain facts about a product or service and the benefits to the prospect. The objective of the presentation is to build value and to get the prospect to start asking questions. When a prospect starts asking, they start owning.

How much will prospects pay you?

Prospects will pay exactly what they think the product or service is worth and not a penny more. Remember that price is relative to perceived value and to what similar products and services cost. That is called “what the market will bear.” Additionally, you want to be sure that you are not selling for a penny less than your product or service costs you. If a pizza costs you $10 to make, you do not want to sell it for $8.50. If that is all that the market will bear, find a way to make an $8 pizza.
Speaking about payments, prospects pay by check, cash or credit card upon receipt of your invoice or based on agreed, written terms. Otherwise they do not qualify as a prospect.

A sale is the process of turning qualified prospects into satisfied clients. The purpose of performing a people inventory is to be able to identify qualified prospects. Such identification helps us focus our efforts, streamline our marketing, and increase our sales – the business we are all in.

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