Surprise Yourself by What You Know: Doing More with Your Client Database

By Colleen Francis


We live in an age of abundance. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the amount of data available about the markets you sell to.

Be selective. Measure items that are most meaningful for hitting your sales targets. Remember, data isn’t just what’s in your CRM. It should also include outside sources that can help you compare your assumptions with the reality of the market.

Be resourceful. Seek to create unexpected connections between the data points that are at your disposal. Let’s look at four steps you can take that can reveal important new opportunities to you and your business.

1. Define your ideal customers for growth and size

Assess your customers globally and regionally. This helps ensure you take into account faster or slower growing regions or any anomalies with both newer and older businesses.

Here at Engage, we worked with a global high-tech client to assess their ideal targets. First, we ranked their fastest growing 50. Then we examined their largest customer (regardless of growth) to make up for the fact that not all customers showed growth Why? Because they were first-time customers. When we compared the lists, removed duplications and anomalies we had a comprehensive list that comprised customers in the top 50 percentile for growth and top 75 percentile for size: a balanced representation of both large and fast growing customers. Their ideal target.

2. Segment in a meaningful way

Use a standard database for categorization, such as Standard Industry Codes (Dunn and Bradstreet is my recommendation). This will make research on prospects easier in the future, because you are using standards that apply to multiple databases worldwide.

Break them into individual geographic regions—cities, states, provinces, countries—for territory realignments.

Identify which sellers are assigned to which accounts. Consider: geography, market segment, complexity of sale, existing relationships, whether the accounts are global or local, and whether there is a correlation between region/skill and your best customers.

3. Define annual revenue targets of ideal customers

Break down the clients by their annual revenue or turn over, so you can see clearly what size each of the best targets are.

For example, for one manufacturing client, Engage categorized their top 75 customers into six buckets: those between $1-10 million, $10-50 million, $50-100 million, $100-500 million, $500 million to $1 billion, and $1 billion-plus. To the seller’s surprise, we found 80% of their biggest clients fell into the $10-50 million range. In the past, they’d assumed their best customers were the biggest: they focused on chasing the largest multinationals. A wise interpretation of the data showed they’d get better results by instead focusing where they were thriving—those companies in the $10-50 million group.

4. Make it visual

Visuals help us grasp complicated ideas quickly, giving us the ability to analyze in multidimensional way and make better decisions faster.

When crunching data, I like to see three specific graphics: show the target customers by region and size; show target customers by industry segment and size; and show a heat map of target customers by industry segment overlaid on a map indicating their location (see caption for example).

Exercise these steps and gain the facts you need to compare to your assumptions.

Remember how important it is to not arrive at conclusions first and then use facts to reinforce what might be a bad decision. Again, be resourceful in your use of data: it can give you the unvarnished truth about where your market is going and what you need to do to capitalize on the right opportunities.

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Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions ( Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.

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