Door to door salesman to illustrate selling before customer profiling

Let’s say you sell vacuum cleaners door-to-door. Armed with a shiny new machine, you venture into a neighborhood, knock on doors and hope somebody answers. When they do, you demonstrate how your vacuum cleaner works, describe the benefits (how your product does a better job than the competition), and finally, you ask for the sale.

Only to be told your prospect has hardwood floors…and they only use a mop.

A better approach would have been to skip that house and spend your time where the homeowner has wall-to-wall carpeting. Before you ever try to sell your product or service, you need to determine whose doorstep you should be visiting; who’ll be receptive when you knock. The first step in marketing your business is to determine the characteristics of your ideal customer.

To improve your chances of making the sale, here are 10 questions you need to answer about your prospective customers:

1. What industry are they in?

2. What products or services do they need?

3. Do you offer the products or services suited to their needs?

4. Where are they located (are there geographic limitations to working together)?

5. What advertising and marketing channels are they exposed to?

6. What’s their budget – will your offering be in their price range?

7. Will your prospect benefit from working with you?

8. Can you get access to whomever makes the decision to buy or hire you?

9. Are they open to working with you?

10. Can your business provide the quality or quantity that they need and on their timeline?

So how do you discover this information? Here are some suggestions:

  • Track your social media and content marketing followers – – those who Follow, Like, Share and Comment on your news have indicated their interest.
  • People who sign up to receive your blog posts and enewsletters want to find out more about you.
  • Brainstorm with members of your team, cooperative colleagues and others knowledgeable about your field.
  • Check out your competition: see how others in your industry are pitching their offering…and to whom.
  • Profile the customers you already have, according to the above questions and, if possible, email or question your customers in person. Ask about their perception of your company, their use of your product or service and what you could add or change that would make your offering of more interest to them. Sometimes the best results of such an inquiry may be obtained when the head of your company, or an outside consultant, makes the contact—in that situation, the interviewee may be more forthcoming.
  • Circulate a survey…or a create a custom-made quiz from a company like Interact (they have both free and paid options) to ascertain the desired information (bonus: those surveyed or quizzed can opt-in to your mailing list).

When you begin your marketing efforts, be willing to focus on a targeted audience and experiment – promote to a limited segment of your prospects and see what the reception is. Do you need to adjust your message or adjust your audience?

Customer profiling, undertaken before you market your business, will improve all of your sales and promotion efforts; besides saving time and money, your efforts will be more effective. From your mission statement and elevator pitch to your branding message, website content and online marketing: all will be succinctly targeted to your ideal customer. By identifying better leads, your contact-to-conversion rate should improve.

illustration by Steve Vance/RetroReps