Customer Experience News & Trends

What to do when prospects, customers have different hot buttons

“The best way to sell prospects is to treat them the same way you treat your customers now.” Some people hear that message so frequently they consider it a basic business rule.

A major mistake

Recent research shows that treating prospects the same way you treat existing customers is a major mistake. About 70% of prospects taking part in the survey 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.

Salespeople who deliver the same presentation to prospects and customers may be losing one of their targets. Salespeople 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.

Bottom line: It’s essential to know what your prospects and customers want so your presentation will be relevant. A prospect may decide to buy from you because of your product’s reputation or financing options.

But once they become customers, 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.

Different folks, different strokes

Even salespeople who know that prospects and customers value different things may deliver the same sales pitch to both. They may want to increase sales to present customers or turn a prospect into a customer. Trying to meet these goals with the same presentation may not work.

Sometimes prospects and customers do value the same things. It’s essential for you to determine if this is the case for each customer or prospect. When your prospects value something very different from what your existing customers value, try to be relevant to each.

List the differences in sales presentations you currently deliver to prospects versus those you make to existing customers. Are there meaningful differences? What is each pitch based on?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you sell your company the same way to customers and prospects? Do you use the same message to convince customers to stay with you that you use to sell first-time buyers?
  • Are your sales pitches consistent with your marketing materials? Are the materials pertinent to both customers and prospects? Is there dated material that may reflect poorly on what you’re trying to sell now?
  • Is your presentation current with changes in the marketplace? (i.e. Does “on time” mean the same thing now as it did five or ten years ago?)
  • Have your customers and prospects changed in what they want most from you? Try to keep up with the rapidly changing needs of both customers and prospects.

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, despite your efforts.
  • Former customers who know you and have bought from you, but left for any number of reasons.

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 – buyers 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.
  • Hybrids – a combination of price shoppers and bounce backs – customers who buy from you and your competitors, but the amount varies.

Remain relevant

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 may act as a turn-off.

Adapted from the book “Relevant Selling,” by Jaynie L. Smith,  international speaker and consultant on developing a competitive advantage.

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