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Are You Chasing Sales or Creating Opportunities?

Chasing sales instead of building your business could lead you down a slippery slope of mediocrity.

By Richard G. Zalack

This may sound like a surprising thing to say but focusing on the tactics of your business, the activities you do that keep your business alive, may actually be preventing you from growing your business and making more money.

The need to keep your business alive on a day-to-day basis, if treated like a god, will allow you only to serve that god’s needs: improve cash flow, make more sales and sell to everyone who walks through the door. Such a tight tactical focus prevents you from looking at the bigger picture, from standing back and observing, from determining your intentions and then making them happen, from developing a strategy and implementing it.

The problem with a focus totally targeted on chasing sales is that you have created a tactical whirlpool that keeps you from seeing the big picture.

The basis for most of our training, education and experience make us extremely good at one thing: getting things accomplished or checking items off our to-do list. As a result, we become task-oriented. If your primary task in business is to sell, for example, then what you become good at is selling. As you mature in sales, your focus is on the various elements of developing and perfecting the sales process. This might include prospecting, client analysis, closing techniques, etc. However, you soon discover that everything you do is totally centered on sales. As a result, you find yourself constantly chasing sales, becoming successful in the process and feeling quite good about what you’ve accomplished.

The problem with a focus totally targeted on chasing sales is that you have created a tactical whirlpool that keeps you from seeing the big picture, thus missing other revenue producing opportunities and talents you may not be able to visualize.

Creating growth
To avoid this narrow vision, you must clearly identify what you sell and to whom. The answer to this is the basis for creating true growth opportunity. If you don’t know what you sell to whom, you can’t create new opportunities to grow and develop your practice. In the financial planning industry, as in many others, very often business owners answer this question in a manner I call “specifically vague.” You may think and sound focused, but in fact you are not. Typical answers like, "I target small business," "My main clients are doctors," "I only deal with professionals" do not identify who you’re really selling to and why.

Successful business builders are able to define, very specifically, who their ideal clients are and what the equation for sales success has been. By being crystal clear about who and how you are successfully selling to, you’ll be able to see the requirement and value in creating new opportunities in other veins of business.

How do you become crystal clear? First, start by looking at the profiles of your best customers, the ones you’d like to have more of. Second, look at current customers who provide the greatest return for the least amount of effort or maintenance, who think like you do and appreciate what you do. Third, examine them with regard to these three categories of creating new opportunities. This is not prospecting, but a form of target marketing through identifying existing opportunities your vision did not allow you to previously recognize. I use the terms: demographics, psychographics and geographics.

Using opportunities correctly
Before you seek new opportunities, you have to identify the opportunities (demographics), what those opportunities represent (psychographics), and where to find and target the opportunities—by market, industry sales, etc. (geographics). After that assessment and vision, you will need a crystal-clear definition of the kind of person with whom you’d like to do business.

Once you have identified the parameters of your ideal target market and the types of people you’ll work with, you need to become an expert in their problems. For example, a client of mine decided that he wanted to work only with printing firms that used real ink (demographics), employed between 10 and 20 people (psychographics), and did business in a specific three-state area (geographics). To become the leading expert in solving their particular problems, he created a list of the 10 most vexing situations that would apply to all his target markets of opportunity. Then he created and matched his solutions for those problems. He now explores new opportunities knowing ten of the most prevalent problems in a market and provides an appropriate solution for each. He created a niche or opportunity to provide a solution to many firms that did not recognize the problem to begin with. He provides the solution and creates the need at the same time.

Attracting the perfect client
Finally, you need to design your business so it attracts the kind of clients you are seeking. I call them “perfect 10 clients.” For example, when you think of steak dinners, you could think of Ruth Chris’ Steakhouse, Outback Steakhouse or Ponderosa. All three sell steak. But each of these businesses has tightly defined their target market and the growth opportunities. All three companies saw unique opportunities, then created the ways to secure sales and grow market share within that opportunity. Ruth Chris’ targets special occasions, high-quality product and exclusivity; Outback sells no rules, a party environment and good times; Ponderosa sells family dinner, lots of food and value. Each has created an opportunity to market to the specific audiences they have chosen to chase.

We all want to grow our businesses. Recognize that a requirement to growing your practice will entail diverting some of your time and energy from chasing sales to creating opportunities. By determining early on who your preferred clients are and designing your business for acquiring them, you’ll be in control of who you want to do business with, based upon the intent and opportunity for sales rather than chasing sales out of comfort and habit.

You will get more opportunities by knowing what market opportunity matches your criteria, rather than creating one sale and chasing the next.

Dick Zalack, author of “Are you Doing Business or Building One? How to turn your business into your benefactor,” is an entrepreneurial strategist based in Cleveland, Ohio. He can be reached at 330-225-0707. Visit his website:


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