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Focus Pocus

Focusing your sales efforts

Watching Mark McGwire hit his record-breaking home run, you could almost feel his intense focus on the ball as it sped toward him. Beyond McGwire's tremendous upper-body strength and dedication to the game, focus played a key role in his ability to break the home run record for a single season.

Focus is a major problem for many new business owners, who often find themselves pulled in multiple directions. To be a big winner in business, you'll need to have something in common with sports superstars like McGwire: the ability to focus your efforts on clearly defined objectives and stay the course despite constant distractions. Here are three ways to bring your sales into focus:

1. Successful entrepreneurs don't wait for the right prospects to find them. They put programs in place to win the business they need to get their companies on the fast track. Who are your ideal clients? If you're targeting too many different types of groups, you may be unwittingly fragmenting your marketing program and compromising its effectiveness. Worse yet, if you're accepting anyone who comes your way, you're sacrificing your ability to build the type of business that fits your vision, while letting the competitors who actively pursue the plum accounts walk away with the most desirable work.

To build a strong client base from the start, focus on creating programs that reach your best prospects. If you're selling to other businesses, decide which types of businesses need and currently purchase your kind of product or service. Focus on your prospects by category and any special qualifying criteria that are important to you. Keep your number of categories small (no more than six) in order to maintain your focus and to prevent your marketing campaign from becoming too fragmented.

If you're marketing a consumer product, such as custom draperies, or a consumer service, such as home remodeling, it's extremely important to focus on a narrow target audience. This will save you money on advertising and help ensure the leads you generate meet your criteria for good prospects. Write down a target audience profile-a brief description of your prospects that includes important demographic information such as their ages, genders, and household incomes. Then use this profile to guide your marketing.

2. Do you have more than one business or does your business offer a range of unrelated services? When you run more than one business, you're pulled in different directions all day long. To be successful, focus all your marketing efforts on your core business and communicate a single unified message to your best prospects.

What do you want prospects and customers to remember about you? It all starts with the right business name. Choose one that's highly descriptive of the products or services you offer. If you choose to include your last name in the name of your business, be certain it's clear what you're selling. If you're saddled with a nondescript business name, you'll need to add a positioning statement. That's a four- or five-word phrase that should appear along with your company name and logo on all your stationery and marketing materials.

To position your new business properly in the minds of your prospects, everything that is read, heard and seen about your firm must relate back to a single message. That message must focus on the benefits customers will enjoy when they hire you. Make a list of the principal benefits your customers receive by virtue of working with your business, and string them together into a single sentence that you can easily say or write.

3. When you maintain a clear focus on your short- and long-term goals, you'll wake up each morning prepared to sell. Assign a goal to every interaction with prospects. Before you ever pick up the telephone to make a call, decide what you want to happen. Will the goal of your call be to secure a meeting, or must you close a sale? The same principle holds true when you meet with prospects.

You wouldn't build a backyard deck without a set of plans. So it's not surprising that something as complex as building a new business requires a strong, written marketing plan. One of the most crucial sections of any marking plan is your list of marketing objectives-what your business will accomplish in the coming year and how you'll do it. Refer to your written plan regularly to measure your progress.

Think about the way McGwire focuses on his objectives the next time you're tempted to stray from your core business prospects, message or goals. Just keep your eyes on the ball!

Kim Gordon is the owner of National Marketing Federation and is a multifaceted marketing expert, speaker, author and media spokesperson. Her latest book is Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars.
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