(this is an update to the original post of April 2018)
When I first started in meetings’ site selection, I became a prospecting fiend! I did not come from hotel sales, so learning how to sell was my first priority. And BOY, did I make a ton of mistakes those first few years. I tried to fill my pipeline with as many potential clients as possible, and build my business as quickly as possible. I didn’t understand the concept of defining my ideal meeting planner client. I saw success in the “shooting fish in a barrel method”, but with building a business that quickly came a ton of challenges as well. It’s a common sales pitfall, especially among new salespeople who want to impress their bosses and colleagues with closing as many deals as possible.
Over the years, I’ve honed my prospecting strategies – every quarter I evaluate what I’m doing and measure its success. I try to make adjustments as I go and find new (and better ways) of sourcing new business and servicing my existing business. And while I still make mistakes, I’m getting better at finding and helping those that are a better fit for my skillset and experience.
One of the most powerful tools in every salesperson’s toolbox is a good understanding of their ideal client profile. Knowing who you serve (and who you serve best!) may help fill your business with the RIGHT type of clients versus ANY type of client.
How do you define your ideal client?
By asking some of the below questions, you will be able to determine the client type that you can work best with, and respectively best exercise both your sets of strengths to develop the ideal client relationship:
- What are the demographics of your ideal client – items can include things like:
- Gender – Your working style may be a better fit for male clients who like your no-nonsense approach to business, or perhaps more relational style typical of female clients.
- Age – Perhaps you like working the younger generations; their way of decision-making is different from Gen Xers and Boomers.
- Income Level – The pricing of your service may dictate the income levels you see convert most often for your product or service
- Job Title – You may prefer working with the top decision maker, or you may have more influence with those in an administrative role.
- Job responsibilities – You may work better with those with lots of authority and decision-making ability, or you may thrive in a coaching environment where you provide more training and teaching moments to your potential clients
- Hobbies – If you share some similar hobbies, you can build rapport and trust faster with those individuals. In my field, my colleague has a daughter in dance lessons, so prospecting other dance groups is a natural fit.
- What are some of the characteristics of the clients you enjoy working with right now? What values and personality traits do they possess?
- Personality type – If you are an introvert, you may find working with extroverts to be exhausting. The opposite can be true if you are an extrovert and like to be friendly with your clients – you may find people who are “all business” to be standoffish.
- Working style – If you have an aggressive sales style, you may find working with passive clients to be very frustrating.
- Ethics – Perhaps you value ethics above all else, and finding clients that are ok with “bending the rules” would make you feel uncomfortable. What do you value, and what are “deal breakers” for the clients you serve?
- What values will you not compromise to make a client happy? I call these the deal-breakers. These are things you will not compromise on, no matter the paycheck at the end of the day. For me, meeting planner clients that blatantly disrespect our supplier partners because they feel entitled to the supplier’s services is a big “no” in my book. I prefer to build my business with planners who believe in the team effort and collaboration required to make a program successful.
- What does the ideal meeting/conference look like? If you are a supplier to the meetings industry, defining your ideal client in terms of the program size or specs will also help tailor your prospecting. Its interesting how many times I’ve asked hotel salespeople “what does your ideal group look like” to a venue, and they say “we’ll take it all.” This does not give me reassurances that your venue will be a good fit for my programs if you are not sure who you can service best. Be realistic about your venue and the type of business you can realistically book:
- venue size – maximum capacity in largest ballroom
- venue’s ratings – high end groups versus budget-conscious groups
- location – amenities onsite or nearby
- What strengths does your ideal client possess? How are they different from your own? By finding clients that complement us, we create a true partnership in sales, one that will reap trust and translate into repeat business and referrals. If your clients are skilled at decision making, but lack research skills, this is where you can truly partner to create an amicable sale. I thoroughly enjoy working with clients that are very savvy meeting planners. They can pull the details together like nobody’s business but may lack the contacts and buying power to make their jobs easier. I help them connect the dots and match them with resources that save them time, so they can be more strategic in their strengths and their work.
- Define your service from your client’s point of view – By brainstorming things such as “why would they buy from me” and “what do they like about my service, that no one else can offer”, will help you narrow down the niche you work best with, and what niche works best with you.
I’ve also created this handy worksheet to help you map out your ideal client profile – its yours free to use!
By going through this exercise, you will be able to spend your time more effectively working with clients that are ideal for your business. You’ll meet your goals faster and be happier with the business you’re building. Good luck!
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