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Segmentation for sales success

Segmentation for sales success

Sharon Williams has over 25 years’ experience working in strategic communications in the UK, Hong Kong and Sydney. A pioneer in the Australian agency industry and a fellow of the Public Relations Institute of Australia, here she talks about why segmenting your sales efforts into target markets is still best practice.

It takes a special combination of skills to keep sales pumping and exceed revenue expectations, but there are multiple ways to make the process faster, simpler and more effective.

I’ve been selling for years and still love it. Carrying the responsibility of sales is a unique high with the ongoing cycle of signing new customers and responsibility for maintaining business longevity with each new signed contract.

There are lots of sales tips and training courses to help you sell more effectively, but selling B2B services for SMBs demands courage, tenacity, self-belief and the ability to listen more than you talk. My mother (a professional sales manager) made it clear to me early on that I was born with two ears and one mouth and to use them in that ratio in relationship-building.

Breaking your sales efforts into smaller, identifiable target markets or segments is old-fashioned marketing speak and a long-held principle, but it is still plain-old common sense. Why spend time and money going after everyone when only certain people will or can buy? And why address the whole pie when you can focus on bite-sized chunks with an individual and more tailored offering?

B2B selling successfully demands a very accurate understanding of who your audiences are and what and why they buy. This is where sales segmentation helps.

Before you look at your prospects and sales process, start by breaking your customer base into identifiable and unique groups. It can be a breakthrough moment when you see how your markets divide and that you can approach them differently. But how many companies do you know do it well? And how is your business doing?

Five questions to ask about your segmentation process:

  • Can you break your customer base into groups or similar characteristics?
  • Do you tend to attract and service like-minded businesses/individuals?
  • Where do you get your largest revenue and who makes you the most profit?
  • Do you note that certain individuals refer you?
  • Have you studied your sales life cycle?

Some tips for successful segmentation

  1. Examine your CRM system and divide up your customers

    While I service entrepreneurs and large corporates, I find that my entrepreneurs with certain characteristics are more practical to service than my larger corporate brands because the entrepreneurs allow me to get on and deliver results quickly with little or no red tape. So servicing moves quicker, which makes their companies grow quicker, which means I get more referrals and so on
  2. Consider running events tailored to individual markets

    Go to where your potential customers are rather than leaving them to find you.
  3. Look for partners who can give you better access to those segments

    My company targets entrepreneurs as one of my segments, and I have sought out and partnered with many of the entrepreneurial networks. I also blog for their websites and try to create as much mutual value as I can. Tech companies are another segment of mine, so I write for the tech press, attend tech functions and partner with those associations around technology and innovation.
  4. Tailor your brochures/literature/website/social media to talk to different segments and markets

    My company offers marketing and PR services and we found we were servicing more and more financial brokers and advisory firms. We revised our standard brochures and tailored the language to that industry, using testimonials from the industry we had served successfully. We then re-printed our standard brochures and amended our website. I wrote articles on the problems common to the financial industry and attended more industry events. Suddenly that sector took off for us and we ended up trademarking a product offering, even further deepening our expertise and sales success in that sector. This was segmentation working to increase sales in the best possible way.

Listen to me, talk to me and deliver what I want

Selling is hard enough without wasting time with wide-angled marketing programs that speak shallowly to the masses. Tailor your efforts, speak the appropriate language and give those segments individually and specifically what they need. Once you segment, you may want to develop or revise your business plan.

Sharon Williams is the founder and CEO of boutique public relations agency Taurus Marketing. She established the business in 1995 and has since gone on to help over 1000 businesses internationally.

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