“The best way to sell prospects is to treat them the same way you treat your customers now.” Some salespeople hear that message so frequently they consider it a basic selling rule. But it’s a major mistake.
Recent research shows that salespeople who treat prospects the same way they treat existing customers are committing a major sales sin.
About 70% of prospects taking part in the study said they wanted different things than existing customers look for. The survey also reported that what salespeople do to please prospects may not work for existing customers.
Bottom line: Salespeople who deliver the same presentation to prospects and customers are missing their targets.
Those who understand the differences in their prospects’ and customers’ buying criteria and adjust accordingly score the highest returns on their sales efforts, according to the survey.
Explore this question with your salespeople: When we want to keep existing customers and sell them more goods or services, do we tailor our communications to be more specific to their perspective?
Ask them to list the differences in sales messages they currently deliver to prospects versus those they present to existing customers. Is there a meaningful difference, and what is each pitch based on? Is it feedback? Or is it their own intuition, perception, or experience in the marketplace?
Not everyone has the best intuition or perception. The result is that your salespeople may come up with a mixed bag of messaging.
It’s essential for your salespeople to know what their prospects and existing customers want so their presentation will be relevant. After all, a prospect may decide to buy from them because of your product’s brand or financing options. But once he or she becomes a customer, their buying concerns may change. They may continue to do business with you because of your reliability, prompt deliveries, top-notch service, product durability, or the fact that you stand behind everything you sell.
Start with the definitions
The best way to understand the differences between prospects and customers is to start with definitions.
Prospects can be:
- Potential buyers who have never heard of your company
- Buyers who know of you but have not yet chosen to buy from you, and
- Former customers who know you and have bought from you, but left you.
Customers can be:
- Brand new – you’re in the honeymoon stage with them
- Long term, loyal — you have a lengthy, solid relationship with them
- Price shoppers — customers who have little or no regard for who they buy from so long as they get the right price
- Bounce backs — customers who leave you for someone else and bounce back to you because things didn’t work out well with the new supplier, and
- Hybrid’s — a combination of price shoppers and bounce backs.
Understanding the trends
Changing times and conditions affect what prospects and customers prefer, creating trends and cycles that salespeople must understand in order to remain relevant. The easiest way for salespeople to learn when and what to change is by asking their customers and prospects what they value most.
Knowing precisely what each customer or prospect wants will help you deliver the sharpest, most relevant, most productive sales messages on a regular basis. Trying to use a one-size-fits-all approach for prospects and customers will act as a turn-off.