Business is looking up. Are you getting your share?

When looking for new business there are some basic “in the know” rules to follow, most importantly:

* Know why your clients buy from you;

* Know who your prospects are;

* Know what they like and where they go; and

* Know who affects the buying decision.

I am amazed how many business people do not fully understand why their customers really buy from them, and who the people are that influence the decision to buy their product. So let’s start there. The best way to find out why your clients buy from you is to indirectly survey them. Use an online service or an independent survey firm. The survey should determine what your customers perceive as the advantage of doing business with your company by ascertaining the following data: * The various people/positions that influence the decision to employ your services. Remember your primary target is usually not the sole decision maker. That’s why any presentation needs to be geared so that each influencer can see a payoff from their perspective. Focus your presentation on the benefit to the prospect’s goals, but be sure to add specific benefits for each influencer’s department or division.

* The precise criteria that defines your prospective targets. Most of us are clear regarding our prospect’s demographics, company size, industry, region, etc. Psychographics define their likes and behaviors; the whys of their decision-making criteria and when, where, and how they seek services that you offer. Find out the times of year budgets are submitted, so your ideas have a chance of being included. Uncover the big trade shows that your client’s industry attends and show your face, let them know who you are, and that you intend to be a player in their world. Become aware of their corporate goals and how you might be able to make your product or service part of the solution.

* Your best prospect profile. This can be accomplished by matching up trends with your most satisfied clients. Some of my clients seek companies that do not have certain dedicated roles as part of the company. For example, a freight forwarder who offers the highest level of service realized, after going through the process, that the overwhelmingly majority of their client base did not employ a freight or traffic manager. They simply relied on my client’s top level service to not only ship their freight, but to manage the whole process. They now target shippers that do not have a management person dedicated to freight. This will lead to a much higher close ratio. The moral: Don’t fish for sharks in a fresh water pond!

* Most importantly, your USP, the Unique Selling Proposition. Your USP provides the prospect with a clear differential between you and your competition. The ability to powerfully communicate your USP goes hand in hand with understanding it. So practice, practice, and more practice. Tape yourself, and have friends put you on the spot by asking you to tell them why they should buy from you and your company

Let’s recap the critical success factors that can lead to really knowing your customers:

1. Uncover the reason your best clients buy from you.

2. Define your prospects precisely.

3. Know the why, who, where and when of their decision criteria.

4. Be completely aware and confident in your USP and communicate it to the right people.

So make a plan, set specific goals, and take action. Now is the time for a fresh start. Go out and land your share of that new business. Good Luck.

Anthony Quaranta is the president of Q Group, Hauppauge, N.Y.