If you’ve seen the film Top Gun, you’ll recall the classic one-liner “because I was inverted” which Maverick uses to describe his up close and personal meeting with a Russian MIG fighter.

It’s a skill that’s not just held for elite fighter pilots, my guess is you also have this ability…

Earlier this year I sat across the table in a meeting with a relatively new supplier. To be totally accurate, there were two of them, two of us and a plate of M&S sandwiches. We’d engaged on a couple of small projects earlier in the year, they’d delivered as requested each time, they were very good at what they did and even helped out with a favour or two, so we were interested in growing the business relationship with them.

When you’ve worked in the sales industry for a while, you pick up a number of quirky skills, one of which is reading upside-down. You can imagine how I “lost that loving feeling” when I applied my ‘Maverick-like’ talent and covertly read the opening lines of the email which my opposite number had on full view, clearly written by his colleague.

It read; “Agenda attached. No doubt they’ll be asking for more favours, so kick me under the table when you’ve had enough…”

My guess is that many companies have some customers they wish they didn’t have for a variety of reasons. Too small, too big, maybe they’re late payers, possibly they’re difficult to work with or even ask for the occasional favour? Maybe you’re looking after one now because your competitors had a go and decided they no longer want to.

In my post ‘How happy people sell’ I share some ways to get focused on who your target customer is and by default, who isn’t right for your business. What’s clear is that the process must be a two-way street, with both seller and buyer being equally responsible for finding the perfect fit and agreeing acceptable trading terms in advance if a mutually beneficial business relationship is to grow and prosper.

Looking back on my meeting, it was clear that despite the fact that they met our needs, we didn’t match theirs. But what surprised me most was not the tone of the upside-down words I read that day, but the fact that we were even in the room at all? It’s OK if a customer doesn’t fit your target profile, but what’s not OK is finding it out and then doing nothing about it.

A simple call to me beforehand to explain their position would have been met with acceptance and gratitude for being honest and not wasting my time. Done ethically and professionally they may even have persuaded me to shift my position to meet the criteria they set to be a valued customer of theirs.

When was the last time you MOT’d your customer list? Have you got a few in there that don’t meet your target profile? How many of these don’t just rob you of time but also cost you money? The paper-thin margins (clue) eroded by late payment or disproportionate account management time?

Maybe it’s time to prune out that customer or at least run them through your target profile process once again to see if they truly deserve a place in your business plans for next year?


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About the author: Matt Sykes is founder of Sales Training company Salescadence. He works predominantly with Personality-led Business Owners to help them convert more of their leads into customers via transformational products which improve Mindset, Ability & Process.

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