How much do you value your time and the time of your customers? You can’t value time too highly. Whilst most products or services can be bought repeatedly, time is finite and so is our cognitive capacity. Business owners need to understand the value of both when they create their ideal customer profile (ICP).
15 minutes or one hour? An example of lost time
Let me start with an example. Recently, I was asked by a business contact to listen to a 15-minute-long demo of a product that was not business-critical to me. I pointed out that fact to help me explain why I wouldn’t be able to invest time in the demo and was told: “But it only takes 15 minutes.”
The important thing is that 15 minutes is never only 15 minutes. In reality, watching a 15-minute-demo takes an hour. Apart from the time spent getting ready to watch the presentation, pitch, or other content, there is the time you spend “offloading” your brain.
We can’t simply switch off and move on to another topic. Our brains aren’t wired in that way. We take time to process the information we’ve heard or seen before we can refocus and concentrate on something else. This is how 15 minutes turns into an hour.
What time means for ICP iteration
Before we go any further, it’s worth going into a bit of detail about ICP and how it differs from defining your target customers. The ideal customer framework – ICP for short - is a sales and marketing strategy that can help you speed up your sales cycles.
Rather than simply defining your target audience, ICP aims to identify those prospects that are likely to become your company’s most valuable customers. For example, you may define the target audience for your SaaS product as retailers occupying an area of more than 1,500 square feet per store.
ICP then applies environmental and behavioral criteria as well as firmographics to select the VIPs among your target customers. Your business may use quantitative and qualitative analyses or software to identify your top targets. In our example, you might conclude that out of the entire group, retailers generating a revenue of more than $1 million per quarter are your best prospects.
You start targeting them and notice that your sales are not increasing at the expected rate. As a result, you adjust the original group to improve your outcome.
My point is this: there is a big chance that your highest-value prospects are also your time-poorest targets. They choose who to give an hour of their brainpower to. If you’re looking to strike a successful business deal with your top targets, you should be just as selective.
Find out for which companies your product or service is truly business critical and approach them. Make it clear from the first contact why you have the solution they have been looking for. Those are the prospects that will benefit from devoting an hour of their time to your product.
They will only spend the time if you can show that your solution is truly business-critical and their success as a company may depend on it. Human beings have a finite amount of attention per day. According to productivity experts, human brains can only work efficiently for four to five hours out of every 24. Before asking anyone to watch your 15-minute demo ask yourself this: Is your demo really worthy of that person investing one of those hours in it?
Finding a compromise
With all that said, what is the best way to balance priorities between time constraints and making sales?
There are a few different options to consider. Most SaaS products can sell themselves without the need for large sales teams or extensive demos. Once your product is sufficiently developed and you are starting to scale, there is rarely a need for “hand-holding” prospects.
Assuming this self-serve approach works for some of your customers, you can then focus your in-person sales efforts on the remaining segment. If you have been conscientious during the ICP iteration process, you will already know who is ready to buy and who needs a stronger push.
But here is the thing: even if you know that those customers need a bigger push, are they happy to invest an entire hour of their brain capacity? Perhaps creating an even shorter demo to maximize their investment of time is a better solution.
If a 15-minute video requires one hour of brain time, then a five-minute video may only require 20 or 30 minutes. That’s a much more reasonable demand to make on a prospect’s time. Shortening your demo video also allows you to target more of your ICP prospects in less time. It’s a win-win.
And what about that demo?
Fun fact: I actually tried to watch the 15-minute demo I mentioned in the beginning. When the person originally contacted me, I admit I was intrigued, despite the video not being business-critical to me.
My intrigue did not last long. As it turns out, my contact had added the video on a free plan of YouTube. Before the video even started, the platform wanted to force me to listen to and watch a two-minute video about ear wax removal. Imagine having spent time and effort pursuing a prospect only to put them off by wasting their time with an irrelevant video!
Don’t waste your prospects’ or your time. Ask yourself what you can do to optimize and respect both their and your time and brain capacity and how you can best use your four to five golden hours of the day.
One last thought – optimizing your approach can only take you so far. Success depends in equal measure on your ICP being correct. Only by targeting the right people and businesses in the right way can both parties gain the maximum benefit from their time investment.