Choose your customers

by Admin
Updated: June 19, 2018

How it is possible to choose your customers and why it is an important aspect of any sales process

The customer is always right - but not always right for you.

“Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door” (misquote of Ralph Waldo Emerson), “If you build it, they will come” (misquote from the 1989 movie Field of Dreams), and even “Content is king” (Sumner Redstone, Bill Gates) are examples of ideas which, by popular consensus, imply: Concentrate on high quality targeted production and the customers will simply appear.

Apart from the obvious, if you don’t build it there is nothing to come to, there are many scenarios that are less than ideal:

  • If no-one can find it, no-one will come
  • If you build it badly and no-one will come back
  • It might not attract the people you were expecting
  • If it’s appearance is deceptive, they might get angry
  • If they all get the wrong idea, it becomes that idea

A simple example of this last case would be when you create a forum intended for one type of discussion and it becomes popular for discussing something else. This could be good, in which case you’re responding to customer needs. Or it could be bad, in which case you have the wrong customers!

Customers may be equally interested in buying from you but order at different efficiencies and demand different levels of service. They may be more or less vocal about how much they like your business. Total sales may look the same but some customers will represent greater net value than others.

All customers are equal but some are more equal than others.

Choose your fish

When I was a kid, we went fishing. This involved dangling our lines in the water and hoping to catch something. Our answer to the question, “What are you fishing for?” would have been, “Fish!”

Years later I was introduced to the idea that it’s possible to go fishing in a very specific way. This is important if you’re depending on it to eat or make money.

A guy I knew won thousands of dollars at fishing competitions. He also had a sideline business making fishing videos - not hours of him motionless holding a fishing rod, but detailed techniques for catching exactly what was wanted.

There are two key elements for a successful expedition:

  1. Is there sufficient density?
  2. What makes them bite?

If the fish are few & far between, the chances of catching anything are greatly reduced (or could be zero if there are no fish at all).

If you don’t know how to make a catch, you won’t catch anything, regardless of density.

The more expert you are, the more you can tolerate a lower density.

Back-calculate customer profiles

A sound business plan will identify intended customers by their needs & desires for what the business provides.

Whether or not there is enough demand (enough density) should be analyzed qualitatively as well as quantitatively:

  • Quantitatively Production should be matched to customer demographics (under supply could also be a problem).
  • Qualitatively The demographic data should be interpreted in terms of real people as a way of crosschecking that the actual customers are the ones originally identified.

A qualitative analysis like this can reveal subsets of customers who are more likely to have a mutually beneficial relationship in ways that aren’t easily spotted through numbers alone.

When you have such a detailed understanding about the different types of customer, you can take steps to choose the customers who are right for your business. It is an important and often overlooked aspect of many sales processes.

I used to run a business supplying boutiques. Some of our account holders were business professionals while others were not. The ones who were not needed a lot of extra support & coaching which we were not really set up to provide - something we needed to consider when opening new accounts.

Understand the complete buying process

When you understand the complete buying process you can fine tune it to be selective towards the customers you prefer.

The definition of a customer can be quite flexible. Sometimes, the primary customer is an intermediary - someone who doesn’t buy from you at all but provides critical connections to those who do.

I used to run a business that did highly specialized work that almost always required the end customer to have a permit. The people in charge of issuing permits were always being asked if they could recommend a contractor and these people would recommend us if they thought it would be a good fit. Not only were they our primary customers even though they didn’t pay us anything, they filtered through the most appropriate customers.

Deserve each other

Relationships with customers that share your values will be more successful - more mutually valuable - in the long term.

Your choice elevates their status

In cases where it’s feasible to have a qualification step, it’s a good idea to make this a feature - people like to feel special.

More info

“Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door” is investigated by

“If you build it, they will come” is broken down by

“Content is king” is discussed at and at - Bill Gates’ original 1996 essay can be found on

Harvard Business Review has an in-depth analysis of Choosing the Right Customer (Robert Simons, 2014).

Internal links

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