Finding hidden buyer potential, prioritizing customer groups: the principle of big stones

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The cosmetics manufacturer L'Oréal has developed a catalog of questions in order to systematically explore the potential of individual hairdressing salons. This was not a questionnaire to the owners, but a template that helped the salespeople find out the customer potential themselves.

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Here writes for you:


Dirk Kreuter's Profile dirk-kreuterDirk Kreuter is one of the most influential thinkers on sales, sales and acquisition.


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The opportunity is changing

Another classic misconception: If the overall market shrinks, your share will also decrease. The key word for this is “economy”. In fact, especially in situations of upheaval, you have huge opportunities to capture market share from the competition.

By having the better concept, the better product or service, the better service. In short: by offering your customer a real advantage. I don't mean to say that you absolutely have to plan to take over the entire industry. That would be oversized. And that's not what I care about.

It is enough for you to look closely at your customers' potential, which you have overlooked so far. Usually a lot is found.

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The principle of large stones

In his lectures on time management, the best-selling author Prof. Lothar Seiwert is pleased to present the following: He has a bag of stones, a bag of gravel and a glass full of sand.

If he now places pebbles and stones on the glass with the sand, then the glass swells over. But if he first fills the big stones, then the gravel and finally the sand, then it fits.

Set priorities: A customers, B customers and C customers

He is concerned with planning the important dates first and then completing the smaller tasks afterwards. In other words: the right prioritization. And this is not only needed for self-organization. But especially for you as a seller when dealing with customers.

Any salesperson who understands something about his business divides his customers into A customers, B customers, and C customers. He takes care of the A-customers first, these are the big stones. Then around the B customers, the gravel. And when there is time left, the C customers turn to it, the sand.

You must assign customers correctly for this priority setting. And you need to know as much as possible about them in order to assess their potential for your business relationship. How do you find out? There are different ways. For example, you can draw conclusions from the information you already have or can easily determine.

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Find information about the customer

To figure out how much of the product or service you offer your customer really needs, you'll need an idea of ​​that customer's annual sales. If it is not a listed Company that publishes an annual report, the revenue is not publicly available. But that should not keep you from your project. Because you can open up the sales wonderful.

Ask the company owner for the number of employees. Or find out on the company website. You know how much revenue an employee has to make to be lucrative for the company; So, based on the number of employees, you can calculate the minimum turnover of the company.

Or: With a car dealer, you can easily estimate how many used cars he will sell from the number of new cars he takes from you each year. From this you can then tap the sales.

How L'Oréal increased its turnover

In the L'Oréal questionnaire, questions such as:

  • How many employees does the hairdresser have?
  • In what position is the salon located?
  • Does he have a customer car park?
  • Does he have a shop window?
  • What's in the shop window?
  • What products does it use from L'Oréal and which of its competitors?

Overall, 42 questions should help sellers to take a closer look, understand the customer's situation and draw their first conclusions. From the answers, the management was able to determine very precisely the market potential of each individual hairdressing salon - and thus divide it into A, B and C customers.

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A, B and C customers

This gives you an idea of ​​how much potential each of your current customers has. Perhaps you have already assessed some companies that are not yet part of your customers, but are interesting for you. And how do you now split them up into A, B and C customers? You have to define your own criteria. What is important and what is not is different in every industry.

My personal classification is based on the principle:

  • An A customer is one who makes a lot of sales and also has great potential for further sales.
  • A B customer either makes a lot of sales, but has little more potential (then he is in my terminology a B1 customer), or
  • he makes moderate sales, but has great potential (so he is a B2 customer for me).
  • The C customers are the ones who neither make the right sales nor have potential.

What else you need to consider

But apart from the present and possible sales, there is still more to pay attention to. For example the questions:

  • How much effort do I need to run for this customer? So what is the return on time?
  • How liquid is the company? Can I expect to pay his bills promptly? - For example, I know a contractor who basically does not do anything for the public sector because the municipalities only pay months later.
  • How well connected is the customer in the industry? Will he recommend me, will I win over him new customers? So they judge his reference potential.

Once you have categorized your customers, set your priorities so that you can take full advantage of the potential.

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