Do you know what your market wants?

Last Friday I spent an enjoyable few hours watching Sex and the City, the movie. Please note that I said “enjoyable” as I wasn’t dragged there kicking and screaming against my will, I actually wanted to go. Several male friends have questioned my sanity let alone my virility for engaging in such a female oriented event. My response is that you can’t get a very good understanding of your target market by hanging out with your competitors.

You need to know your market to really succeed.

Traditional male bonding won’t allow you to differentiate between Manolos and Jimmy Choos. To understand your target market, you must understand why such things (shoes for those of you who don’t know) are actually important. While you might not have worn a pair yourself, an appreciation for the needs of your target market goes a long way toward closing a sale. (If in doubt as to the particular brand a comment such as “Nice Shoes” will suffice.)

Unfortunately many entrepreneurs don’t engage in an actual determination of the needs of their target market before developing a product. This is typical “Supply-Push” behavior hence the expression that women use: “Pushy males.”

To determine the needs of your target market, you’ll need to do considerable research about their needs as well as their buying behavior. This research cannot be done in sports bars or hockey rinks as these venues are filled with competitors who tend to exaggerate their market penetration in an age-old game of one-up-man-ship. Instead, you should study your target market’s needs either through secondary market research (Sex and the City) or primary research (art or cooking classes.)

The next stage is the sales call. In a sales call it is advisable to use the old adage, “Spend two thirds of your time listening and one third talking.” Use your listening time to ask questions to find out if she likes Sevens or Citizens (jeans for the uninitiated). Don’t spend too much time talking about her previous suppliers or your other customers, as this isn’t very client centric.

As you proceed towards the close remember that you want to lead your prospect to the inevitable conclusion that she should buy from you. You don’t want to be known as the pushy salesman who is satisfied with an inappropriate product placement. Instead you want the client to decide that a long-term supplier-client relationship may be possible, as you appear to be able to meet her needs. As with any good supplier you should offer a money-back, no obligation trial and hopefully that will enable you to close the deal.

So back to Sex and the City (I got a bit sidetracked there thinking about sales calls). Whether you have an established customer base or are trying to identify prospects and close your first sale, get out there and research your target market, get to know them and someday you too will be able to say “You look great in an Empire waist” with confidence.

Charles Plant

Charles Plant has been the CEO or CFO of several successful software companies. He’s also been a management consultant, an investment banker, an auditor and an advisor at MaRS. See more…