How you find out what you like by knowing what you don’t

[Image courtesy of Henry Burrows at Flickr Creative Commons]

Wouldn’t the world be a very dull place if everybody agreed with you?

The older I get, the more I realise that it’s important to focus on the things that matter. To accept that other people don’t necessarily see the world as you do, and that you’re on a hiding to nothing if you try to win them over.

Over the weekend, I was talking to a friend about a book we’d both read. He’d loved it, but I had some reservations about the style: in my view, a first-person narrator who wrote so lyrically about his experiences wouldn’t make random grammatical mistakes.

What I thought we were actually seeing was an author attempting to rework his eloquent prose so it had a few hiccups here and there. He ain’t, he don’t, they done.

Not consistently, mind you – almost as if he’d done a search and replace, and had decided on a light sprinkling of colloquial speech to make it feel a bit more authentic.

Except for me, it didn’t. And my friend? He was having none of it. The book was a masterpiece of storytelling, handled with a deft touch. Pitch perfect, he said.

So we agreed to disagree. 

Likes and dislikes

Knowing what you like – and more importantly, what you don’t like – is a valuable way to save time and focus your efforts.

So I might choose not to read a book by the same author, or eat snails a second time (a French friend has just offered to cook them for me, which will be a first). 

Knowing what doesn’t appeal moves you – and me – closer to what does. But it’s peculiar then that what works in our personal lives often doesn’t translate to our professional ones. 

Because by identifying what you don’t  like or what you’re business isn’t trying to do, you move a step closer to eliminating the time-wasting, soul-destroying job of chasing leads and pursuing directions that are taking you nowhere.

Something I often ask my clients is what their ideal customer would look like if they walked through the door. Their character traits, their company profile, where they are in the decision-making process, what they already have in place, who else they’re looking at, and why they walked through the door in the first place.

And it’s all very useful as it helps us both to focus on the target audience with more precision.

But an equally useful exercise is to identify the customer or prospect who’s at the opposite end of the scale. Because if it’s true that 80% of your conversions come from 20% of your prospects, then it’s worth taking the time to recognise what the majority looks like – so you can focus on that lucrative minority.

Say hello the anti-client

So recently, I’ve been asking people what their anti-client would look like. Company size, budget, current setup, decision-making process, sector and barriers to sale. 

It’s really useful because it enables us to eliminate people who just aren’t going to respond the message we’re sending out. It helps me focus the copy on the people who will respond, and it helps them recognise the warning signs when they’re dealing with prospects. 

Saying no is often very hard, but if you know why you’re doing it, it becomes much easier.

Recently, I read a book on CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and got some great tips on how to handle and reframe the emotions and reactions we feel.

One was to examine whether feeling something negative (anger, shame, resentment) helps advance you towards your goal. Mostly, the answer is no. So it’s best to move on from it and focus on something that does advance you towards you goal.

The same, I think, applies to directly to sales and marketing. Does this activity or communication piece advance me towards my goal? If not, scrap it. 

From no to yes

So it’s worth asking yourself some tough questions: 

  • What’s the opportunity cost of focusing on the 80% who don’t actually give you business?
  • Which prospects (or even clients) can you afford to lose or alienate if you put a stake in the ground? 
  • If your time, budget and resources were slashed, who and what would become your top priority? And why are you not prioritising them now?
  • What do you want your brand messaging not to be? What sector of the market do you not want to appeal to? 
  • If you suddenly had to cut your website in half, which pages would you and your audience not miss?
  • If you could only talk about half (or, given the ubiquity of the Pareto principle, just 20%) of your products or services, which ones would you not choose? 

Ironically, far from being negative, this ‘getting to no’ approach has a very positive result.

Having recently disposed of books, clothes and other ‘invaluable’ objects, I can highly recommend the process of dejunking. And this is nothing more than dejunking for your business.

You’ll end up knowing what you really value, and what you can’t do without. And in my case, that doesn’t include the book my friend was raving about.

But then, he don’t need to know – and I ain’t gonna to tell him.