Know your prospects Featured

6:22am EDT March 28, 2003
In The Pink Panther, Inspector Clousseau asks a lady walking a dog, "Does your dog bite?" When she says, "No," the Inspector pets the dog, and is bitten. Shocked, he cries out, "I thought your dog doesn't bite." The lady utters her famous response, "Yes, but that's not my dog."

How many times do you take sales action without knowing what job your prospects have in their organization? A classic mistake is assuming you know your prospect's real position, and therefore his motivations in doing business.

Companies do not buy, people do, so it's important to know how your services or products can enhance your customer's personal success -- whether he or she is a C-level executive or an owner-entrepreneur.

C-level executives

Executives are responsible for setting the direction of their organization and achieving results. Helping them to show results and increase corporate wealth will win them over. Here's what to do when selling to corporate leaders:

* Sell strategic solutions that let them achieve their company's visions.

* Sell peer-to-peer. They have enough subordinates and sycophants.

* Create heft and credibility in all you say and do.

* Build deep, multiple relationships throughout the organization to help clients create the consensus needed for their decisions to succeed.


First, owners dread failing, particularly if it makes them miss a payroll or ultimately results in having to work for someone else. Second, once the fear of failure is past, their focus is on increasing their company's wealth by producing quality products.

Finally, owners turn to creating their legacy, first as a successful business owner and thereafter as a creator of greater social good.

Those most successful at selling to owners can tell which step prospects are at. When selling to entrepreneurs:

* Sell to your prospect owner-to-owner.

* Sell as much to the person across the table as to his or her company; they are indivisible.

* Appeal first to their business needs to gain their attention, but understand their egos and personalities.

* Display empathy and the ability to lead them to success.

Make it your sales goal to only make new mistakes. That way, every sales opportunity presents a lesson , even if you do not close. As Inspector Clousseau learned, next time you will know to ask if the dog you pet belongs to the owner walking it. Andrew J. Birol is president of Birol Growth Consulting. He helps owners grow their businesses by growing their best and highest use. Reach him at (440) 349-1970, or at