Top 4 mistakes sales people make by not understanding their prospects

Every sales professional knows that information is power, and that it’s critical to take a data-driven, strategic approach to approaching prospects and closing deals.

Every sales professional knows that information is power, and that it’s critical to take a data-driven, strategic approach to approaching prospects and closing deals. Or do they? I’m still seeing sales teams make four key mistakes that are undermining efforts and wasting opportunities. 

1. Targeting the wrong company profile 

Knowing which company to target seems obvious – doesn’t it? But according to new Avention research, a surprisingly high percentage (43 per cent) of organisations don’t use data to build a profile of their prospects when planning their sales and marketing strategies. Building customer profiles should be the first step of any targeted sales strategy. 

Without these, you are “flying blind” and your prospecting will be unfocused, unproductive and unprofessional. The importance of customer segmentation is greater than ever amid an environment of increased M&A and joint ventures that may see companies change focus or geographical presence quickly. In my experience, targeting the wrong company profile points to a lack of data maturity. This means a company either doesn’t have enough data to profile customers or they lack the ability to make sense of the data they do have.

2. Targeting the right company profile but the wrong contact 

Once you’ve identified a company that fits your target profile, the next step is deciding just who to approach. Again, this can seem simple but in reality, it’s also easy to get wrong, and can have long-term consequences for your relationship with the company. Today, people move between jobs and roles more quickly than they did in the past, and increased M&A activity can trigger changes to leadership or organisational structures that will impact how decisions are made. When a sales person targets the wrong contact within a company it’s usually a sign of inaccurate data, or information that is hard to access or difficult to use to its full potential. Another common mistake is to focus on establishing contact with just one person when, in most companies, decisions are made by a team via a series of processes. You need to identify and build relationships with this entire team and understand their decision-making process before tailoring your sales approach to suit. 

3. Targeting the right company profile, the right contact, but at the wrong time 

Timing is becoming an increasingly important factor in any sales and marketing strategy. Knowing the right person to contact at your target company is a great start but determining just when to make your approach can make a big difference to the response you receive and your chances of closing a deal. Understanding how timing impacts sales still appears to be a blind spot for a large proportion of sales teams, with many lacking the data to use this information to their advantage. 

A recent Avention survey showed that only about a third of companies are segmenting their database based on their propensity to purchase.

4. Targeting the right company profile, the right contact, at the right time, but with the wrong message or process 

You’ve targeted the right company, and the right person, and at the right time – so go for it, right? Not so fast. This is a mistake many sales people make and it’s easy to see why. When you have all the right contact information in place, it can seem like your preparation is done. 

But in reality, this is where your work begins. Now it’s time to craft the right message that will resonate with your target audience and their peers. The reason many sales people fail with this critical step again comes back to not having enough customer or market information or not having the ability to harvest real insights from this data. Finding specific and relevant nuggets of information, such as their strategic initiatives, growth or expansion plans (particularly postBrexit) helps you stand out from your competitor, build stronger, sustainable relationships and close more deals, more quickly over the client life cycle. 

See the big picture 

Unfortunately if you make one mistake in misunderstanding your prospects, it will tend to lead to the next. This is why it’s important to take a holistic approach to designing your sales and marketing strategies. See the big picture before you begin, prioritise quality over quantity and keep your end result in mind. 

Following a data-driven process to approaching clients will yield results that go far beyond a quick win. Instead, you’ll build a level of trust with your prospects that influences the decision-making process, has a positive impact on pipeline conversion and drives better opportunities over the longer-term.

Joe Lim, Director, Australia & New Zealand, at Avention OneSource Solutions