What world do your customers live in? Tailor your efforts accordingly.
By Patrick McClure
Most experienced sales professionals know that understanding the target market is of paramount importance in designing and executing an effective sales campaign. If you don’t know the personal characteristics, motivation, demographic details and purchasing habits of your potential buyers, you won’t be able to connect with them, much less convince them of the value of your product.
The world has changed dramatically in the last 20 years, and many of us are spending ever increasing amounts of time in cyberspace. Whether we’re communicating and socializing, gaming with hundreds of opponents in real time, researching the vast electronic databases in the digital world or simply educating ourselves about the latest news, we spend huge amounts of valuable time staring at our technology screens.
The amount of time we allocate to digital reality often depends upon our age. Those in the Baby Boomer era (ages 45 to 65) were already adults when the Internet was introduced and experienced the rapid transformation of the Information Age. We struggled to stay current with technology, as we were challenged to learn, unlearn and relearn the latest. We made the many transitions from mainframe computers (punch card interface) to minicomputers to personal computers to laptops, and now to mobile devices and tablets. The amount of computing power in today’s iPhone far exceeds the computing power that existed in the Apollo 11 spacecraft in 1969.
Conversely, Millennials (ages 20 to 30) and Digital Natives (ages 10 to 20), who are just now entering the workforce, have grown up in the digital world. To them, the reality of cyberspace is just as familiar, if not more so, than “physical” reality.
Questions to Ponder
What reality does your target market “live” in? How do they make buying decisions, and what influences them? When they read books, magazines or white papers, are they reading them physically or electronically? How much time do they spend on a computer each day, and for what purposes? Do they conduct research over the Internet, and with what search engines? Are they participating in any social networks, such as LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter? Do they prefer to be contacted over the phone, by email, text message or face to face (F2F)?
It’s crucial to know the communication and sales preferences of your target market. If you can precisely determine the reality in which your prospects live, you can dramatically increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your sales performance.
Two Dominant Realities: Points to Ponder
As a result of the generational, technological divide, there are two dominant realities to which you must sell—changing your sales strategy depending on which your prospect prefers. So, how do you sell to them? How do you differentiate your selling strategies and make sure that you’re connecting with your target market? Check out the chart below for the main characteristics of the two realities and their preferences.
Target Market Profile
|How They Read||Electronic||Paper|
|How They Socialize||Social media (e.g., Facebook and Twitter)||F2F; Networking meetings; Dinners|
|Preferred Communication||Email; Texting||Phone calls; Meetings; Light email|
|Typical Age||13 to 30||30 to 70|
|How to Meet Them & Set Appointments||Text; Via social network; Email; Phone calls||Referral from a friend; Phone calls; Email; Text; Light social network|
|Their Focus||30 to 50 percent digital||10 to 20 percent digital|
|Type of Reading||Short burst (e.g., Twitter, Email, Webpage)||White papers; Books; Industry magazines|
|Values||Social causes; Environment; Teamwork; Collaboration||Return on investment; Profits|
|Hobbies/Pastimes||Internet gaming; Surfing the net; Connecting with friends||Outdoor activities; Attending sports events; F2F meetings/dining|
|How to Influence||Size of your followers and “likes;” Extent of your electronic presence||Your office building; History; Balance sheet; Customer list|
|What Interests Them||Intellectual property; New ideas||Success stories; Financial success|
|How They Usually Transact Business||Electronic purchasing via credit card, PayPal or e-banking||Purchase orders; checks; Electronic exchanges|
|What Influences Their Buying Decisions||Internet; Electronic databases; Social networks; Electronic chatter/scoring||Word of mouth; What they’ve read in business journals; Economic forecasts; Corporate research tools|
With these preferences, you’re trying to determine the dominant reality of your potential buyers. If you’re selling B2B to a large company, you will want to investigate their buying process and determine who the buyers are and who the influencers are, planning your strategy accordingly.
An effective sales strategy will always include elements of selling to both worlds, but the emphasis, whether digital or physical, will depend on where your target market spends their time. Also, bear in mind that as the world marches on, your current buyers are getting older and being replaced by a younger generation of buyers who have dramatically different perspectives. For a great read on this topic, I recommend “Entering the Shift Age” by David Houle. It’s available in all different sorts of media, so pay attention to how you order and read the book.
Hockey great Wayne Gretzky was once asked why he was so successful on the ice. His reply: “I skate to where the puck is going, not to where it’s been.” He knew not only his target, but also where it was headed. He would’ve made a great salesman.