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How to differentiate a customer

21st Nov 2017
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Far too often, today’s business leaders make the mistake of failing to differentiate between their prospects and their customers. Such mistakes can cost your company serious dollars, and speaks ill of your professional performance; so how are savvy workers today supposed to tell the difference between a prospect and a customer, anyway?

It’s not always easy, but it’s certainly not impossible. Determining whether you’re dealing with a prospect of customer can be accomplished by following a few key guidelines, just like the WW points system, which, once you’ve mastered them, will help you bring in profits for years to come. Follow these tips and avoid the common mistakes made by beginners, and you’ll find yourself and your company better off than you ever imagined.

Prospects versus customers

Let’s start with the basics; what’s the basic difference between how you treat a prospect versus a customer? First and foremost, in today’s competitive marketplace, you’ll need to understand how vital securing every sale you can get your hands on is. Only after you’ve realized how crucial every potential prospect is to your success will you understand how to treat them; prospects are often taken out to dinner on the company’s dime, for instance, and lavishly showered with reservations, gift baskets, and other goodies to win them over. These are no ordinary customers; they’re the men and women who will make or break your financial future.

Prospects are so vital to your future because they’re potential customers who have yet to sign the dotted line; they need to be made to feel extraordinarily important and so lavishly treated precisely because they’ve yet to make up their minds on whether to do business with you. Prospects are different from customers because there’s a lack of trust in your relationship; you’ve no business record with them yet to prove you’re reliable. Prospects and customers want and expect different things from your company based on their position, which you’ll need to keep in mind if you ever hope to finalize a deal.

Your existing customers have already been won over; it’s likely they’re content with your services, if they’ve continued to shop or trade with your business. This doesn’t mean you can toss them to the wind, forgotten, however; any current customer can become a former customer in the blink of an eye, particularly if they feel left behind because you’re too busy wooing over other prospects. Be sure to remember both sides of the equation, then, lest you end up losing a long-time business partner because you flew too close to the sun.

Understand the vital distinction

Telling the difference isn’t always easy; indeed, it can often be a dizzying maze capable of stumping many business professionals, especially those new to their trade. Looking to the works of established business professionals is thus a good way to avoid common mistakes and to learn how to make the distinction between a customer and a prospect.

Part of being a successful business professional is understanding how the distinction between a prospect and customer changes your approach to dealing with them. You can’t engage your prospects the same way you would your customers – there’s a serious trust deficit between them and your company until you’ve proven yourself with your first transaction, and they’ll have copious amounts of other salesman barking up their tree to buy other products or services. Making a list of your prospects versus your customers, then, and outlining how you’ll treat both differently, will help you avoid gaffes while catering to the needs of both.

Don’t forget that words matter; mislabeling your customers and prospects can cost you serious money, and your reputation. Remember the fine distinction between the two, so as to not end up with pie on your face in front of your business colleagues.

It’s also important to remember that once your prospect starts being a customer, your entire business model centered around them will need to change as well. A prospect becoming a customer doesn’t mean you stop lavishing them with praise or wining and dining them to win over their business; it just means you need to start delivering on the results you promised, so as to begin a trusted relationship that will generated business dividends for the both of you for years to come.

Don’t let your customers feel deceived by forgetting them the minute they sign a contract; by committing to your existing income sources as much as your prospective ones, you’ll show would-be clients that they’re getting a reliable business partner when they agree to work with you. There’s a fine line between prospects and customers, and it’s not always easy to delineate between the two; but trusting your business instincts and treating all of your clients – prospective or otherwise – like kings will go a long way towards keeping you in business for years to come.

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