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How to establish ideal customer profiles
 

How well do you know your customers?

When planning growth activities, especially sales and marketing campaigns, do you know who your marketers are targeting, who sales team are calling? Are these people you want as clients?

One route to market, where you create buyer personas to seek, is taking the smart and strategic approach.

The other approach, where you throw darts at a board and hope for the best, is one way to be sure you're rarely hitting the bullseye.

Ideal customer profiles - the opposite of throwing darts and seeing what sticks

As we all know, most businesses serve an existing and established market, and so growing your share of that market is the key.

I've always preferred a more scientific approach to selling, where a powerful message can be developed and used to address a specific market. The results are over $85m in revenue so far.
 

Buyer personas - also known as customer profiles and marketing personas - are a smart, tried-and-tested way of gaining a deeper understanding of your target customers. Making it easier to identify and approach them with a much clearer idea how your product/service can solve specific pain points.

What are buyer personas?

Fictionalized, generalized representations of your ideal clients.

Most sales and marketing professionals will give them easy-to-remember labels, such as “Marketing Mary” and “Engineering Eddy.” It’s a simple way to categorize potential and current clients, according to job roles. Buyer personas can also include where they sit in the buying cycle (internal advocate, end-user, budget holder, stakeholder, etc.) and other relevant professional and demographic information, such as age, income, and geography.

Personas can give salespeople critical insights into the customers they are trying to attract. It also ensures that outbound sales calls and marketing can more closely tailor scripts and materials around the needs of potential clients. Making it more likely a qualified sales meeting will be booked, since a prospect can see your company has taken their pain points into consideration.

How to make buyer personas?

#1: Be clear on the companies you want to attract.

Example questions are:

  • What sector or verticals?
  • Where in the country (or world, for those expanding overseas)?
  • How big or small are the companies do you want to work with?

#2: Clearly identify job roles.

Remember: It's normal to have multiple personas influence your buying process.

How many in your target companies need to sign-off on this purchase?

Everyone needs budget holder sign-off. Is that person also the end-user? Does a budget holder need approval too (e.g. the board, investors, shareholders)? How many other stakeholders are involved?

Having a clear idea of the types of companies, markets/sectors and stakeholders involved shouldn’t be difficult. This data should be in your CRM, or if you're just starting out - your initial hypothesis.

Next, we can look at how you use this information to drill down on specific personas that should make it even easier to identify potential targets.

#3: Key questions to uncover personas in CRM data, emails and client interactions:

For every stakeholder in every key client type/sector, think about the following:

  • Job level and seniority (average number of years experience to attain the level they're at)
  • What do they value most (professionally, personally), what do they want to achieve? How can your product/service help them achieve these?
  • What are some common questions and objections to your product/service? You can also use information from those who are either unhappy or chose not to make a purchase.
  • Where do they go for information? Who do they trust online and in their networks? Are there overlaps with your network?
  • Demographic information: Age, gender, income, geography (same as the client(s) unless they remote work)
  • What are their pain points that your product/service can solve?

Gather as much information as you can, then use this to inform sales and marketing strategy. Tailor calls, emails, sales material, web copy, landing pages and other information around each key persona when launching new campaigns.

If you want help creating personas for use in your sales and lead generation process, contact us

 
Why 97% of Buyers Don’t Trust Salespeople
 

After a career in sales, I completely understand why buyers don’t trust salespeople.

It’s called buyers’ remorse, and it’s that terrible feeling you get when you’ve spent too much or signed a contract for a product or service without thinking it through. Research shows emotions are a vital part of decision making, and it seems to me that people don't trust salespeople because they have experienced negative emotions after the positive ones go away, and they have someone to blame. 

However, it is very easy to experience this without being able to blame a salesperson. Have you ever won an online auction because you didn't want to lose the item rather then really needing it, or bought something on impulse without fully thinking it through? I have, in fact I did it just last week.

Those of you who have bought from Apple in the store will know they don’t have salespeople. You have to go tell someone you want to buy. Earlier this week I took an iPad I had bought back to the Apple store, explaining that I thought it was a great product, I just didn’t need it. It doesn’t fit the way I work.

 
 
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How did this happen?

I have a very enthusiastic non-Apple employee friend who loves her iPad for work and convinced me to give it a try. I walked in, made a selection and found a team member to buy from. I tried the product and it just didn’t fit my workflow. Props to Apple for being awesome and taking it back. Yet there it was: “Buyers remorse” as the reason the associate entered for my refund.

What’s my point?

Apple has an almost unique position being that they have no salespeople and awesome products available at an impulse price point. Your business probably is not in this situation, and you have to handle with care. 

Salespeople are professional influencers, a very powerful skillset that must be used responsibly, and there are certainly those that don't consider the knock-on effect of pushing a deal a little too hard for a close. In a situation where a professional salesperson is involved, they need to be careful to earn and maintain a buyers trust, and protect people from buyers remorse.

Just because a prospect filled out a lead form or called you today doesn’t mean they’re an ideal fit for your product or service, and selling them something they don’t want or need guarantees buyers’ remorse, and potentially issues for the company, too.

Qualification helps a lot, but the best fix is having the right mindset which means your team is not desperate to close every person they meet. The act of telling people they’re not a fit for your product or service and WHY earns their trust, with bonus points for suggesting an alternative solution.

So how do you maintain trust?

Taking an approach that assumes nothing, making sure you ask great questions to ensure the problem being solved is clear and the buyer is acknowledged and understood before suggesting a solution is the mark of a professional salesperson.

A great reputation, which just 3% of salespeople apparently enjoy, is the result of sometimes saying “no” in order to get to “yes” with the right buyer.

When the person you said “no” to does need what you sell, they will be back.

Are you in the 3%?

If you want your team to be in the 3%, and you want help, contact us

 

* Inspired by this article from Hubspot

 
How To Avoid The Most Common Pitfalls of U.S. Expansion
 

Whether your business is VC-backed or self-funded, founder-CEOs around the world view America as an accessible land of opportunity. Over 300 million consumers and an $18 trillion dollar economy; who wouldn't want to break into this market? 

In my experience, founders think they broadly understand the American market, then quickly and expensively learn that they underestimated almost every part of the expansion.
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First are the cultural and language assumptions that trip up ambitious founders. Having an accent may give you an extra few seconds at the start of your first interaction but after that, it's down to the value you present. It certainly does not overcome the fact that unless your offer is truly unique or high value then a version of your business is already here, and your competition likely has both bigger budgets and more market experience than you do.

The second is that it's a good idea to make a trip to the U.S. and work it out with your team on the ground, assuming that deals will be easy to find because there is so much opportunity, only to waste months without gaining traction. This lesson is a tough one, which is easily avoided by preparing better and ensuring you have a lead generation strategy in place before making the investment in an exploratory trip.

The third is that it's ok to arrive without a strategy for servicing U.S clients in their own timezone and to the standards they expect. Without a local presence and some raving fan U.S. clients in the same sector or region, International companies will struggle to build meaningful revenue. There is no substitute for a book of U.S. clients and a local team.

 

This sounds like a chicken and egg scenario. Here are a couple of common strategies:

Send your best salesperson

This is the most common strategy we see, and the most common flaw is that the business sends a deal closer to a new market. The flaw is that this requires they change roles and become a door opener, also working without appropriate marketing resources or founder support.

A rep who has previously been used to the home market where they enjoy a prospect’s familiarity with the brand, leads being generated for them, a team to bounce ideas off and compete with internally is suddenly out on a limb, in the noisiest and most competitive market on the planet, using foreign case studies. Not ideal. Remember that simultaneously this strategy takes the best closer away from the home market, potentially affecting revenue. You can see how this can be a recipe for failure.

One way to start this strategy is for the rep to arrive along with the founder with a full calendar of introductory meetings already booked. Focus on a vertical in which they can demonstrate they excel in their home market. From here they can assess the opportunity and the founder can make any required decisions on contract flexibility or execution and fulfillment strategy to get deals done.

Recruit in-country

Instead of sending over a top salesperson and learning slowly, why not recruit in-country?

Recruiting a senior in-country role can be very valuable very early in the process to work alongside you, the founder to learn the ropes directly from you. If you are prepared to pay more than you normally would for a similar role in the UK or Europe, you can realize the investment of adapting your company to do business sustainably in America much more quickly.

However, it’s worth noting that the price difference between an exported leader and a local market hire is significant, and a combination of cash burn and lack of trust most often sways the decision towards migrating talent from the home market, which can cause huge delays in adjusting to the new market.

If starting with a local hire, the founder also needs to commit significant time to living in the states, ensuring the new hire and team is supported while also learning how U.S businesses really work. It’s important to recognize this will likely change the whole company culturally from the founder down.

What can we do?

In order to succeed in the U.S., your business has to be prepared to provide the support the expansion team need. An established sales pipeline. Marketing. Customer services. Aftercare and sales enablement. Can you ensure that warm leads coming in and a diary that is filling up with introductory appointments before they take off for JFK?

What support can you give them to ensure that American customers know they will have support tickets handled quickly? Five or more hours time difference kills response times: the market demands answers to problems and resolutions in real-time because that’s what they get from your local competitors.

Be Strategic, Lay the Groundwork

Plan carefully. Assess the lay of the land, the market, your class of competitors, and routes to market that will ensure you win introductory meetings, then learn from those and progress to qualified meetings.

You need a team with market experience to point these things out to your management team as soon as you can. As expats, you don’t know what you don’t know, and it can kill both deals and retention.

One advantage of starting by hiring local is that the team will come with a local network. It will be easier and take less time for someone familiar with the market to generate leads and win clients. Plus, they should come with an established reputation and trust factor locally. All of this would prove valuable in the early days when establishing your brand.

As with any expansion plan - be sure to check the variables with legal and tax professionals before deciding your strategy.

If you need help planning U.S. expansion contact us

 
What To Do About Inaccurate Sales Forecasting
 
 

91% of people fail their New Year's’ resolutions, most before the 6-month mark*. Why? It’s the same reason most sales demo’s don’t turn into deals.

Accountability.

Setting vague goals and keeping them to yourself is a sure way to fail. Yet every day, all around the world salespeople end a sales demo with a vague goal of doing business someday, without a committed next step from their prospect. Others secure the next step meeting but don’t underwrite that hard-earned next meeting without a true game-plan to make progress.

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As a salesperson, when was the last time a buyer let you down when you had assumed you were going to move forward on the next call or forecasted a deal which then disappeared?

If this has happened to you, then try this:

As you’re wrapping up your initial demo, confirm with your prospect what you learned, any outstanding points to clarify, and their criteria for satisfaction with a new vendor (you!). Agree the time and date for the next call, who will be on it, and who’s doing what in between the calls. You may have some tasks to get this moving, and so will they to sell it internally. Have them agree.

You just exchanged a verbal contract of accountability.

Just like sharing a new years resolution with a partner or friend, you’re making it harder for both of you to fail.

Next call - you lead with: “Last time we spoke, we agreed we would get [list the tasks] done and then we would meet today to take the next steps, how did that go on your side?”

When they have done their part - you now have a partner in getting this deal moving, you know you can work with them on this two-sided project called a deal.

If they have not done their part it will tell you a lot about your forecast, their ability to get things done, and any issues that would have arisen way later, potentially wasting your time and killing your month.

Congratulations. You just used accountability to make your forecast way more accurate.

If your sales team needs help improving accountability, we can help. Contact us

Stays from * https://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/

 

 
 
5 Steps Founders Should Take When Hiring a First Salesperson
 

#1: Know the skills you really need

Recruiting salespeople with experience has a high investment requirement. Hiring salespeople with the wrong experience or not enough experience is very expensive. There is a huge difference between the two.

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If you’re a great closer of deals, you have time to do it and you just need some help booking appointments then hire an appointment setter, or consider outsourcing this function. If you have an effective lead generation marketing strategy running, then perhaps you just need a deal closer to take the work off your plate. If you don’t identify with either of those, you’re going to need someone with experience as a self-starting, full cycle salesperson. Early-stage growth companies often fall into the trap of being sold into hiring a salesperson who’s wrong for their business, using hiring criteria like “hungry” and “determined” when they need “experienced” in the right areas.

Some key characteristics include the following:

  • Can explain their sales process in detail
  • Can explain qualification and pipeline stages clearly
  • Will roleplay a cold call with you on request
  • Makes you feel comfortable talking to them
  • Listens first, ask questions, doesn’t make assumptions, identifies solutions
  • Can give great examples of things they’ve learned from lost deals
  • A naturally curious, compassionate and competitive nature
  • Shameless. Not afraid to ask for new business and will close you on the interview
  • Doesn’t take rejection personally and can give good examples

#2: Create a job description, and set it in stone.

We can’t say this enough. Too often we see Founders fall in love with a candidate who promises to solve all their problems but fails at the skills the company really needs at that stage. They got distracted from their own Job Description.

To create a winning Job Description for the first salesperson really takes some self-awareness from the founding team. Bring together the various sales functions you, as a founder, and any other team members are currently performing, identify areas where you know you should be doing better, and make these into the basis of a job description. In the early days, depending on resources, the hire will most likely need to generate their own leads. Make sure, when you advertise the role, potential candidates know what they are going to do as your first salesperson, and do not compromise on the spec.

#3: Begin the search

Start looking for this person within your immediate network. Ask for referrals and recommendations. A word of caution: stick to your Job Description. A warm introduction to the wrong candidate, a “great guy/gal” in the eyes of the referrer but a bad fit for what the business needs can set a founder up for a tough experience if they let an intro override their process.

If necessary, put a request out on LinkedIn (prepare to be contacted by recruiters and salespeople looking to jump ship).

If none of that works, you may need to post a job ad out or potentially engage a recruiter. Although some charge high fees - these are oftentimes negotiable, and they should give you peace of mind that unsuitable candidates are filtered out before you meet them.

#4: Interview and shortlist

At this point in the process, you should have a pile of resumes and/or LinkedIn profiles to go through.

Look for those with the track record of being the first in a sales group and working out the sales process. These are the transferable skills you need most at the early stage because they will see things you may not, and help you navigate. Contact and interview everyone you consider viable.

Now it’s your turn to sell. Anyone considering joining an early-stage growth company as the first salesperson is going to need to know that the company is secure. They will want a clear idea of the work involved, and support/resources in place. Not everyone you want to hire will want to work for your business, so take any rejections as an opportunity to ask for referrals, especially if they’re already working in sales.

TIP: If the person seems perfect and super keen to join - this is a good time to remember to ask for references you can verify if you make an offer.

#5: Close the deal

Hiring is a sales process.

You are always pulling leads into a pipeline, qualifying them and then closing. Now is the time to close the deal. Agree on a salary and a compensation structure. Compensations structures vary massively depending on your goals, and this will need to be in place before making an offer. Finally check that their references back up their career history and success stories before proceeding.

If you get stuck with any of these steps, we can help. Contact us here.