Last week I had a couple of people ask me about “how do you know if you have a business fit with a prospect?” Which I thought was a good question and there are probably a few others out there wanting to know the answer to this question.
So, let’s discuss a business fit. What exactly is a business fit? I feel there are actually two levels to consider when answering this question.
The first one is about having a ROI for your outcome to assist the potential customer or prospect in making a decision. Therefore, this answer is more about business acumen and knowing the financial results of your offering. This is more of a logical approach.
The second is -in my opinion – more important to discover and reflect upon during your visits with a potential customer. What I’m talking about here is more of a psychographical point of view. This is about the potential customer’s ability to fit with your company and especially your offer.
One of the first things you must discover or learn – does this company believe in taking a value added approach when making a purchase or entering into a new deal? If they have no interest in a win-win for your solutions, then life will be interesting in the commodity world of price only issues.
However, when looking at a company’s history and whether they actually walk the talk or just use the talk to keep you in the game then you need to do some additional homework.
Here are several factors to look into when learning about the potential customer – or even an existing customer you may have recently taken off from someone else. Here is a quick list…
- Value added pricing or initial (acquisition) cost only
Talk is cheap about value unless they have a track record of using value based selling (or Consultative Selling or any number of specific sales systems all designed to increase value for both the customer and you.) If a decision maker only wants to discuss the widget price without any additional information or understanding of value added to your offering – then either make a commodity pricing offer or walk away.
- Strategic relationships versus the short term vendor approach
Some companies relationships need close partnerships or joint ventures for their ultimate success. If the potential customer only talks about safety – for them- and actually states they only want an arms length transaction, then you may not have a open relationship.
- Corporate cultures compatible
This is the one thing most often overlooked. Learn about the corporate culture(s) of the potential customer. The reason I used the plural on cultures is due to the high number of mergers in the corporate world. This lack of attention leaves a lack of alignment relative to vision and accepted performance levels within the prospect organization. Make certain there is a close match if you want things to go smoothly during implementation.
- Level of Technical Expertise and Usage
Many times a potential customer has NO technical expertise and their systems may as well be manual rather than automated. The compatibility of the technical worlds of the prospect and your company should be aligned and compatible – again for smooth transition to your solutions. I have seen technical differences blow up many great deals and the sad thing is the sales people could have learned about this early in the process. This is a key areas for the use of team selling – having a technical person in the b2b sales process early.
- Financial integration and flexibility
Are the running a sophisticated financial system? Are they using SAP or some other EWA system? Compatibility with financial systems can enhance the transfer of data – especially when using just in time delivery systems. System wide financial systems shows a level of sophistication on the part of the potential customer and a trigger to engage someone from your financial group in the sales process.
- Willingness to share all information
To me this is the biggest factor of success or a lack of success. If the potential customer holds back valuable information or feels it is not appropriate to share all information with a sales person – then you are going to have a problem at some point with this account or this person. Learn if it is the person or the company policy for limiting information. The need to know decision maker is usually a problem and becomes the limiting step for your successful implementation of any project. Open and Honest Communication is necessary for successful partnerships and account relationships. By the way, this is the number one reason I have found from both my clients and myself relative to unsuccessful projects. Always check this point with all your accounts.
- Management and Leadership Styles
Learn as much as you can about the leadership of the potential customer and all the managers you will be dealing with relative to what you are selling. Back in the early 80’s I was a turnaround consultant and advisor, helping to get companies with serious performance issues back in the black and have the ability to thrive again. The one variable I found had to be present if the plan was to work – was the leader. Bad leaders tended to fail with any plan while the good leaders would take responsibility and execute the plan leading to a successful project.
I continue to watch the leadership with all my customers and prospects knowing they will make or break any project in play. Also, checking out the style of the immediate managers involved in your implementation of your solution or offering is equally critical. Find the good ones and work with these people as they will also grow your business as they grow. The other kind of leaders and managers drive your accounting and finance people crazy.
There you have a quick list of important items to learn and review to learn how compatible this potential customer will be for you and your company in the long run.
Actually this work is very similar to developing an Ideal Customer Profile which you should have available today. Then, when you learn the answers to the above elements or factors – you will know if they match the Ideal Customer Profile.