Don’t Confuse “Target Market” with “Ideal Client”

2550349404_f7bacf427f_oSales and marketing play different roles in lead generation.

It’s not marketing’s job to identify and nurture your ideal clients, or to convert them into qualified prospects. Your marketing colleagues can certainly help. They have already identified the company’s target markets, which is half the battle. But within that targeted group is a smaller, much more important group—your ideal clients. Identifying and communicating with them is your job.

Sure, you can sit back and wait for marketing leads to fill your pipeline. But how long will it take? And how many of the leads that come from marketing are actually qualified?

Top salespeople don’t sit back and wait. They take responsibility for defining, finding, and nurturing their ideal clients.

Target Market vs. Ideal Customer

Tell me your target market, and I see the big picture. Describe your ideal client, and I see the color and every line in your picture. I’m crystal clear about the exact person you want to meet, and I’m primed to help you get referrals.

“Target market” is a marketing term. They do careful analysis on the competition, demographics, segmentation, positioning, and messaging. Think about it in dating terms. Marketing understands the high-level criteria for your perfect mate—age, gender, background—and can even tell you where you’re most likely to meet people like this. But it doesn’t tell you which people within this group would actually be ideal mates for you.

It works the same way in business. Market research offers some meaningful generalities, but the profile of an ideal client is specific.

Fine Tune Your Marketing Data

Every company has its ideal clients. No business can be all things to all customers. Every organization has a best geographical fit, best vertical, and best relationships. These are key factors that drive sales.

Marketing gives us a great head start on lead generation by identifying target markets. Then it’s salespeople’s job to enhance market research by asking:

  • How is this information helpful to me?
  • How does this information apply to my customers?
  • How does this information fit with the way I work and the way I communicate value to my customers? Is this my voice?
  • Using these demographics as a starting point, how can I create a narrower description of the people I want to work with and who are most likely to buy?

When describing your ideal customer, the key is to be specific. Sales pros often think that if they don’t mention everything they offer, they’ll miss a sale. Actually, the opposite is true. The more specific the description, the easier it is for your connections to help you get referrals.

When you’re precise about your ideal customer, people will no longer be confused about the best leads for you. You will elicit remarkable suggestions about people you should meet, and get referrals to clients you want to serve. Quality always trumps quantity.

Bring Sales Back Into the Loop

Market research is the beginning. It provides a great base of knowledge. Marketing can also find leads, nurture them, and then send them to sales when they’re ready. But how does marketing know if these people are actually ready to buy? In all fairness, maybe some are. Armed with powerful automation tools, marketing is now much better at producing qualified leads than ever before.

However, marketing shouldn’t be the only one nurturing clients, prospects, and referral sources. What really drives sales is getting the “right people” into the funnel, and increasing their velocity through the sales process. These “right people” are our ideal clients, and salespeople are better at spotting them than anyone else. Just as importantly, relationships drive referrals, so sales reps can’t afford to lose touch with ideal customers (a.k.a., top referral sources).

Know this: People want to make the best introductions possible for you. And you can choose your clients. But you get what you ask for, so ask for exactly what you want.

Want to learn how to get referrals? Check out the No More Cold Calling video page.

Connect with No More Cold Calling

Follow Joanne on Google+ or Twitter @ReferralSales, or connect on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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One Response to Don’t Confuse “Target Market” with “Ideal Client”

  1. Alice Heiman says:

    I love this Joanne! It is spot on. Not everyone in your target market is an ideal customer. It is exactly the job of sales to find those ideal customers, nurture them and help them become customers.

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