Many, many clients ask us about their sales process. They know it’s not perfect, but they don’t know how to fix it, adjust it or upgrade it. Inbound marketing holds the answer to that question. Just like we build marketing messaging based on the needs of your prospects, you have to build your sales process based on the needs of your prospects as well.
I’ve written other posts about making sure your prospects' sales experience matches your prospects' marketing experience. But when it comes to building a sales process for 2014, there are some very important concepts to keep in mind.
Identify the different stages of the buyer’s journey.
While every one of your prospects is executing a very personal and unique buyer journey, all of them are moving through some common phases:
Awareness is at the top of the funnel, the phase in which prospects do a general search and find your company. They now have an awareness that you exist and that you might be able to help them.
Consideration is the middle of the funnel, the phase in which prospects are looking at a variety of options and working through their decision criteria to see which one is the best fit.
Decision is at the bottom of the funnel, the phase in which prospects are getting answers to those pesky buying questions: How much is this going to cost? How do I pay for it? How long will implementation take? Who will I be working with day to day?
Understanding these phases helps us build a sales process that moves prospects through the funnel smoothly and quickly. Keep in mind that today’s prospects don’t necessarily move linearly through the funnel, but rather slide up and down depending on their particular situations or personal experiences. Be prepared for this behavior.
Educate; don’t sell.
The fastest way to turn off prospects is by trying to sell to them. Today’s buyers don’t want to be sold to – they want to become smarter. They are looking for partners to educate them, to get them to a safe place, to help them know, like and trust your company. You are going to need educational materials to deliver this for them.
That means having a variety of materials for each of your personas at each stage in their buying process. You also need different materials for different types of learners: Videos and infographics work well for visual learners, while whitepapers, e-books and data sheets are best for the more analytical ones.
Those educational materials mentioned above might sound like marketing materials, but they are much more than that. These pieces need to be woven into the sales process. After your first phone call, send over some information. After your first in-person meeting, send over a few relevant blog posts. Right before you discuss your agreement, send a video with clients talking about what it’s like to work with you. This approach leverages your investment in content across both marketing and sales.
Make it about them, not you.
This is hard. We all like talking about ourselves. It’s much easier to talk about our own company, experience, people and processes. But your prospects don’t care about you; they only care about how you are going to help them. Make sure your sales process includes the delivery of value every step of the way. It’s okay to talk about yourself if it’s in the context of how you are going to help them.
Don’t leave anything to chance.
A well-executed inbound sales process doesn’t have any holes. Each step is thought out and orchestrated. There is a certain amount of theatrics that goes into creating an experience for your prospects. Think about Disney World: The experience starts while you wait in line, before you even get on the ride. Make sure each interaction is accounted for, scripted and delivering a remarkable experience for your prospects.
Just like marketing has become a quantitative science, so has sales. In fact, the sales math streams directly from the marketing math. If you get 20 sales opportunities in the month of May, how many are going to move from high-level discovery calls to deeper-dive diagnostic meetings? How many of those meetings are going to move to design sessions, and how many of those are going to turn into clients? It is critical to know this funnel analysis off the top of your head. You should be measuring this monthly and working continuously to improve those conversion ratios and close rates.
Make adjustments quickly.
Don’t wait for six months to go by before you make adjustments. If you are tracking the above sales metrics on a weekly basis, you should also be making small tweaks to your process up and down the funnel on a weekly basis. This helps optimize your sales process in real time and enables you to deliver better results faster.
In Fire Your Sales Team Today, we discuss the blending of the marketing and sales departments into what we call the Revenue Department. More important, the sales process is quickly becoming an extension of the marketing process. Both of these processes are blending, just like the departments are going to blend together one day.
If you want to secure more customers, shorten your sales cycle and increase your average dollar per new customer, you have to consider making the necessary changes to ensure that you're delivering a remarkable experience to your prospects from the first time they visit your website all the way to the time they sign your agreement or take delivery of your product.
Start Today Tip – If you think your sales process is buttoned up and ready to go, think again. Start with a quick audit. Make a list of all the interactions between your company and your prospect, and ask a few of your prospects to give you feedback on those interactions. Chances are you won't be surprised to hear that, while fine, they are far from remarkable. Remember: If you’re not remarkable, you’re invisible. Start working to impress your prospects early on in the sales process, continue to do so all the way through and keep track of the metrics associated with these improvements.
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