I've got news for you...your opinions are costing you millions.
Let’s start with a very basic business revenue principle: The only opinion that matters is from someone who is in a position to write you a check for your products or services. Your opinion doesn’t matter. Your spouse’s opinion doesn’t matter. Nor does the opinion of your neighbor, dentist, or consultant.
This is a tough principle to master, as it requires that we fully put our ego aside and we accept taking the risk that we are wrong. Getting “inside” your prospect’s head, and seeing the world through their eyes, while critical to success, is not a natural.
Here are three rules to make mastering this process easier:
1. Spend lots of time defining your buyer personas
Everything starts with your “who.” Understanding your customer’s DNA provides a tremendous marketing and sales advantage. I’ve found that the number one reason that executives seek so many opinions is that they don’t clearly understand who their customer really is.
Further, the knowledge that they do have about their customer has not been filtered down throughout the entire sales and marketing organization. The creation and distribution of buyer personas is the most effective way to do this.
When buyer personas are clearly communicated, discussions become far more effective because everyone knows who you are trying to motivate or influence. Effective buyer personas cover:
- Company Information
- Types of industries
- Size range
- Growth Profile
- Competitive Environment
- Common Challenges
- Contact InformationHow you can impact them
- Demographic info
- Psychographic info
- Experience with your product/service
- How you can impact them
At a minimum create a bullet list covering these topics. To make your personas even more effective, turn your bullet lists into narratives for each persona (note, you should rarely have more than 5 personas). Then give each persona a name and a picture.
When discussing your personas, talk about them like they’re real people. When your personas create a real life feel to them, creating effective messages and strategies to win more business becomes far easier.
2. Adopt the philosophy of rapid prototyping
I’ve always found that the biggest bottleneck for most small and mid-market companies (SMEs) is worrying too much about getting things right off the bat. It’s this desire to be right that causes one to seek so many opinions.
While it’s a noble aim, it is far more effective – and faster – to get something out and adjust as you gain feedback. This is why movie studios screen movies before finalizing production, or why restaurants do soft launches before the big openings.
Don’t jump right into the $15,000 marketing video. Spend $2,000, test it and refine it. Don’t design the new brochure and print 50,000 copies. Test the concepts on web pages (with clear calls to action), watch what happens and refine.
I call this rapid prototyping. Allow yourself time to iterate and reiterate you ideas. Test them in the market; it’s the best market research for SMEs.
3. Develop a formal debriefing process
I learn far, far more when someone says “no,” then when someone says “yes.” Yet, I find that SMEs rarely debrief effectively on a regular basis. When they do, they’re filled with opinions from either the executive or rep.
A good debrief focuses on facts and actions. What did the prospect/customer say in response to something? What did they do? Keep your opinions (and ego) out of the debrief and you’ll learn faster.
Follow these three simple rules and you’ll find that opinions will quickly give way to actionable knowledge, and your sales will accelerate as a result.