I have always liked the fishing metaphor for sales. There is vast opportunity, but spending time in the wrong places yields poor results.

“Most of the world is covered by water. A fisherman’s job is simple: Pick out the best parts.” –Charles Waterman

A rare occurrence happened the other day. I met with an organization that could describe their ideal client to a “T”. Why is this so rare?

Most organizations convince themselves that everyone is their client. By taking this approach, they water down their messaging until it is very generic and not compelling to anyone. Generic messaging creates a commodity image that tells your clients – we are the same as everyone else! Some of the most common messaging includes: Scalable, Flexible and Innovative. What does this mean to a client? Nothing!

The organization that I met with didn’t talk about any generalities. Their VP Sales could confidently describe their ideal client from the aspect of the business problem being solved at a company level as well as the persona of the individuals within these companies that are candidates for the solution. To take the conversation further, he was also able to identify the types of companies and individuals where his firm was unlikely to be successful.

One of my mentors liked to say that we should be “maniacal” about the definition of a good prospect. By effectively qualifying, we engage with the people who are most likely to need our services. Maybe not right this moment; but at some time in the relationship. Real prospects who are properly qualified. This leads to an effective sales funnel.

The perceived “negative” of this approach is that the overall funnel will be smaller in volume. But is the goal a large overall funnel or closed business? A funnel that is “stuffed” with unqualified potential buyers consumes valuable time and energy that could be spent much more effectively with ideal prospects.

A historical look at wins and losses can help a company understand the best prospects and ideal circumstances where success occurs. It has been our experience that very few sales organizations conduct effective win/loss analysis to help them improve their participation, qualification and win rates. Often the reason we think we win or lose is not the same reason that the client chose us or our competitor (or does nothing).

To improve your participation, qualification and win rate, it is ideal to take a look at your historical data. For some tips on where to start have a look here http://forceink.com/The-Approach.html

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