One of the first steps to effective selling is getting clear about how you position yourself and your business. I like to tell the story about my friend Jim, who was looking for more clients for his law practice. One night at our networking group he said, “A good referral for me is someone who needs a good lawyer.”
I pulled Jim aside during a break and asked him if he really meant that. “In other words,” I said, “Anyone with a pulse and a check that doesn’t bounce is a good customer for you?” He smiled. I continued. “Someone getting a divorce is a good referral?” No, he said he didn’t do divorces.
“What about an immigration problem?” He said no, he didn’t do immigration issues. “Okay, so we know what you don’t do, what is it that you do?”
Jim clearly explained an ideal client for his practice, with exactly the kind of clarity it takes to be successful in any business.
This is an example of gaining clarity about your positioning for your business. Without such clarity, without knowing your position relative to your competition, selling is going to be much harder for you to do successfully.
Here are some questions that help to guide you when seeking clarity about potential clients and how they perceive you relative to your competition:
- How do your competitors perceive you?
- How are you perceived in the marketplace by prospects?
- How do you perceive yourself, and is there a gap or a difference?
- Do you know your competition and how they position their businesses?
If you aren’t sure, start asking colleagues and associates for their perceptions. It is essential that you position yourself properly, and communicate how you want that position to be. Otherwise, your competition and prospects will do it for you, and perhaps not the way you’d like.
Here are some further suggestions upon which to define your position:
- Geographic: you may wish to focus on a specific area
- Industry: it can be very broad or narrow
- Function: job titles are a good way for services providers to specialize
- Ownership or company maturity: you may choose to specialize in non-profits, large corporations, family-owned businesses, small businesses, entrepreneurial start-ups, etc.
- Specialty: if you are a subject matter expert, then the subject matter will define your markets.
Once you have defined your market and position within that market, you must learn as much as possible about it as you can. This is all preparation to building relationships that lead to effective sales.
Going after too broad a market, or one that isn’t clearly defined, means your efforts will be dispersed and most likely wasted.
What have been your experiences with positioning and preparing yourself? Feel free to leave a comment.
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