Matching Your Sales Approach to Your Target Market

Beverly Flaxington Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

Paula N.

Our approach really resonates with some prospects. We’re thorough. We might meet with someone 4-5 times before we agree to do their planning. We want to make sure the fit is right. However, sometimes, prospects are referred to us and they just want to get going. Our paced process irritates them. Should we change our process to match the audience, or match our process to the right people? It’s an internal debate right now, and we’re not sure what the right answer is.

Ellie N.

Dear Ellie,

Before I answer your question, let me applaud you. You have a rigorous, committed approach that you stay true to all the time. It’s great that you are noticing that it works for some people and for others it might not fit. The best firms have identified what they do well and know what target market fits best for their approach. That said, there are a couple of things to think about in this situation:

  1. One of the underlying issues you are uncovering is related to communication and behavioral style. Some people are slow, thoughtful and process-oriented in their decision-making. Your team might be like this, based on what you have explained about your process, and some prospects will really appreciate this approach. Other people are more bottom-line oriented. They won’t like the slow pace and will prefer to get the information and get moving. You have to consider whether those with this style are the right fit for your firm. If they are irritated in the sales process, will they be irritated by other things?
  1. Your process is set, but you might want to consider whether there is room for modification for certain audiences. Think about why you do what you do. Can you explain the value of your approach to a prospect? Is there a way to make it beneficial so even the fast-moving people see it will be better for them in the long run? Be sure you are clear in explaining the WIIFM (“what’s in it for me”).
  1. Can you make this process part of your positioning or sales proposition? If you aren’t already doing so, look at your messaging. Is there a way to profile this process and show how it is a core part of who you are and what you do? If you can do a good job of illustrating this up front, people who are considering working with you will get a sense of what they might encounter working with you earlier in the process. Then there are fewer surprises.
  1. Lastly, think about the target markets that might work well with this approach. What types of career choices might lend themselves to desiring this slow and thoughtful way of working? Engineers, accountants, technical people? Define the target market, and focus on them.