What do you Know about your Prospect?

Here’s another case where sales people need to take a concept further than their marketing colleagues (last time as we going on about using Sales 2.0 tools in general).

This post is about knowing your prospect.

Marketing types have actually formalized a methodology around knowing your prospect and call it “persona marketing”. This methodology stemmed from thinking about how to develop websites. Somewhere along the line the marketing folks figured out that the way to come up with a good website was to actually think quite specifically about the people using the site. They realized they needed to understand more about these people than the traditional marketing “segments”. (I always see segments as bits of a pie chart like we’re playing Trivial Pursuit together in case that helps you).

Persona marketing ends up with marketing people having sheets of paper with fictional prospect characters on them. This helps the marketer is thinking specifically about one imaginary human that they may be marketing to. So you end up with “Harry, the CIO, who only buys Windows PCs, lives in Darien, CT, has 3 kids, likes baseball and eats sushi” Well in fact the profile will likely include 20-40 points but you get my drift. By thinking of “John” specifically now you are not just treating him as an amorphous blog of people in a pie chart. You can know start to market to his specific traits – like an email piece about PC software that has an image of sushi on the front etc.

We sales people have always known we should know specific stuff about our prospects but during sales episodes like cold calling “blitzes” we seem to have been trained to forget about the person on the other end of the phone until they buy something. Once they buy something they earn the right for us to care who they really are. Or maybe more optimistically when they invite us in for a meeting we will spend some time looking at their family photos in their office or their sports memorabilia and we’ll start trying to figure out who they are based on what we see.

But as our prospects’ world has gotten more and more frazzled and as our competitors have figured out how to be smarter, prospects are raising the bar on what they expect sales people to know when they call. So today, knowing nothing about the person you’re calling is basically waving a red hanky in their face saying you don’t care. And who wants to buy something from another human being that says they don’t care about you, they just want your money?

Circa 2012 it’s so easy to find out some information on your prospect that the prospect expects that you’ve done it. In the old days (PLI – Pre Linkedin) you could be expected to struggle to find out anything about me. You might have had to go to the effort of finding one of my colleagues to speak to and having to get a coffee with them just to find out about me. But now with social media where it is and Google everywhere you just need to Google me to review my resume and anything I’ve ever written or any news I’ve ever created. You don’t have to leave your comfy office to do it.

A key difference between marketers and sales people is the number of prospects we deal with. Marketers deal with thousands and tens of thousands of prospects (suspects I would say) they put in their big mailing lists. Faced with thousands or tens of thousands of prospects they struggle to tag these lists with a couple of criteria at best. Maybe they can tag ten thousand contacts by their industry or sub-industry or maybe by income levels or maybe if they like sushi or not. But that’s still about as personal as it gets for most marketers when you’re blasting out an email to 10,000 to 20,000 people.

But as sales people we deal with much smaller prospect lists. Maybe we’ve got a 100 target accounts and maybe we’ve figure out five titles worth calling in each account. So now we’re dealing with 500 people not 10,000. Given we’re dealing with so many fewer people we need to invest that extra time in knowing those people a lot better than our marketing colleagues; otherwise, we’re just marketers with a remarkably small list.

Knowing more about our prospect is our key edge over marketers. We increasingly have the tools to know more about our prospects right at our fingertips. We can find out some pretty useful things in one Google search and one Linkedin profile review. We can find out our prospect’s work history, college, some groups she belongs to (aka some interests), maybe something she’s written – maybe even some fun stuff, like they ran fast in their town’s 5k (that’s happened to me several times when Googling a prospect).

Since knowing some details about someone is so easy today, I think it’s pretty rough when sales people call me or email me and know nothing about me despite me plastering so much information all around the Internet.

How about you? What do you expect sales people to know when they call you? What standards do you set when you’re doing the calling?

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