Square Peg Round HoleI’ve been in sales a long time.  More years than I care to count.  It’s been eleven years since my business partner and I founded AG Salesworks with the goal of helping sales and marketing teams succeed through identifying and delivering their ‘ideal’ prospect.

My management team and I spend a great deal of time thinking about how we can innovate our processes to deliver more value to our customers.  When I think back over the many discussions we have had over the past few years, there is one common theme that appears more often than not.

Most often when we take on a new customer that falls outside our ideal profile, things end poorly.  Now there are several reasons why this may occur.  Maybe we just want the business.  Of course every business needs more customers.  The lure of reaching and exceeding sales goals is powerful, especially when the powers that be are pushing.  Whether it be the VP Sales, CEO, investors, or the Board of Directors, the pushing pressure can be intense.

In my experience, it’s just not worth it.  Expectations are most often not aligned as well as they should be, which leads to process and production problems.  In order to solve these problems and ensure the customer is happy, additional resources are assigned.  These resources could be focused working on an account which, because its a great fit, requires significantly less effort to ensure success.  I’m sure you would agree this is a far more productive and less frustrating approach both for client and service provider.  More often than not, neither the customer nor the service provider is happy, resulting in the dreaded lose-lose scenario.

Another reason is just not seeing the potential problems during the sales process.  Let’s face it: this is the dating phase.  At this point in the process, optimism abounds.  The prospect has identified a pain and it looks like you can help solve that pain.  How exciting!  At this point I suggest slowing down a bit.  Sound familiar?  Something else I like to consider, and it’s certainly not very scientific, is the good old gut feeling. Of course there are the hard facts and figures, but I still believe in good old intuition.  If it doesn’t feel right, at least take a harder look.

Another important area of business to avoid the square peg, round hole scenario is hiring.  Companies that are fortunate enough to enjoy high growth are under pressure to grow their team.  The same pressure exists here as does on the sales side.  Get those positions filled and fast; we can’t grow revenue without growing the team.  This is especially true for services companies.  I would argue even more damage can be done with a bad hire than taking on a customer who is a bad fit.  One bad hire could touch several customers, and of course there is the negative impact on company culture to consider.

Just as it is necessary to have a well-thought-out process to identify and onboard a new customer, so should there be one to recruit and onboard a new team member.  Always trust your gut.