I have seen reliable estimates that more than 80% of the sales calls in the United States are made on the wrong person. Nearly every sales executive I’ve asked about this has been comfortable with the estimate. One executive recently confessed to me “I figure if they’re out talking to somebody, good things will happen. “Clearly, there is some level of mismatch between the sales efforts of most companies and the actual marketplaces they serve.
There are two sources for this mismatch. First, companies are often uncertain about who is the "best" customer. When there is no identifiable target it's hard to hit a bulls-eye. Best customers are easily defined: they are those who recognize your unique differentiators and are willing to pay a premium price for them. They are actually not all that difficult to identify. But companies rarely expend the time, talent and energy required to identify them. Even less often do they create marketing and sales messages and processes specifically adapted to these most desirable customers. This leads to the second source...
The second source for the mismatch is an ill-managed marketing and sales effort. Even when the company has a good idea of whom to pursue, it often fails to target its marketing and sales efforts on these ideal customers. One company I spoke with a week before this writing had a target definition ("IT managers with midsized companies") but expressed frustration that so few of their customers fell within this definition. The management had no clue at all whether its pipeline was targeted correctly or not. The management had a target, but the marketing, sales force and price strategies were not aligned. So salespeople were "on their own" to pursue such opportunities as came their way, and the company compensated for the mismatch by offering high discounts. The company had a targeting policy, but neither supported nor followed it. In effect, they were trying to sell to "everybody."
One consequence of the attempt to sell to everybody is the downward pressure it exerts on price. As companies attempt to close buyers who are not squarely within their target market, the unavoidable reaction is to lower the price (or raise the discount) in order to make the offering more attractive. As companies make this a habit, they begin a fruitless search for the price that will make customers buy.
How do you target your sales people? Or do you?