It might seem obvious to everyone reading the title of this post. Of course we know that not everyone is a prospect or a potential customer. One would never guess that is common knowledge based on emails and phone calls I receive.
I reflect on the emails and calls, astounded, thinking, “Why do they possibly think I might be interested in a conversation or that I could even be a prospect for their solutions?”
Recently, I was speaking with the top sales executive of a very large firm. He was relatively new to the organization and was very frustrated. We were talking about prospecting and growing the qualified pipeline. I asked him what I thought was a relatively harmless question, “Who are your target customers—both from a market, enterprise, and persona point of view?”
It was almost as if I had lit a fuse on a bomb. He exploded, saying, “They seem to think everyone is. They aren’t even checking to see if the person they are meeting with even fogs a mirror. They are calling on anyone and everyone.”
He thought his situation was unique, I tried comforting him saying, “The good news is you are not unique, the bad news is it’s a huge time and productivity drain, not to mention the adverse impact on your company’s reputation and brand.”
Not everyone is a customer or a prospect. We produce the greatest results when we focus on our target markets or sweet spots. These are organizations and individuals who have the problems we are the best in the world at solving. We may find people or organizations that have problems, but that are out of our sweet spot, we are wasting our time.
They may be someone’s customer or prospect, but they aren’t ours and any time invested is wasted.
It’s such a simple concept to improving our effectiveness and our hit rates. Focusing exclusively on customers in our sweet spot produces the best results.
This problem becomes worse as pipelines and funnels get lean. When sales people don’t have enough qualified opportunities in their pipelines, they tend to cast a wider net—going outside the sweet spot, relaxing qualification criteria. Wishful thinking drives too many bad opportunities into pipelines, creating a devastating impact on pipeline quality and win rates.
While it’s counterintuitive, when we are having trouble with our pipelines, we need to narrow our focus within the sweet spot and tighten our qualification criteria.
Even when we are exclusively focused on our sweet spots, not everyone in that sweet spot is a customer or prospect now. 100% of them should be interested in our offerings at some point, but it may not be until next year or even five years from now. Our prospecting should help us identify those that can and should be prospects now and we should put the rest to the side for nurturing.
Sales becomes so much easier once we acknowledge that not everyone is our customer or prospect. We become much more productive when we narrow our focus to those that are or can be.