The World May Never Know, Because Only You Know Your Customer
If you’re old enough, you get the subtle references to the old Tootsie Pop commercial that showed a wise old owl and a young boy discussing how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. The owl attempts to find out but can’t wait and bites the candy to get to the chocolaty inside.
If you want to see the old commercial, click here to watch it.
A similar age-old question challenges marketing and salespeople to this day: How many touches does it take to turn a prospect into a customer?
While experts continue to search for this magic number, I’m going to tell you today that no magic number exists. But there is an actual number that you can create for your prospects in your industry and at your company. Not a generic number, but a very specific number for your business.
Curious? Here’s exactly how you can find out how many touches it takes to turn a prospect into a new customer at your company.
I’m fascinated with how much general information is available to people today on the web. While this gives us all unmatched access to information, it also makes knowing what’s right and what’s not much more challenging.
Here’s what the research on this “touches” question shows us today.
According to the RAIN Group and its top performance in sales prospecting research, it takes an average of eight touches to get an initial meeting (or other conversion) with a new prospect. But the initial meeting is just the beginning.
The RAIN Group goes on to report that top performers seem to be able to do it in five touches. “Top performers have better targeting, messaging and value offers for meetings. This leads to more conversations and fewer touches to generate them.
“Indeed, top performers convert 52 out of every 100 target contacts compared to the rest, who convert only 19. That's 2.7x more meetings for top performers. Top performers are also much more likely to say the meetings are high quality (100% vs. 55%).”
To go from meeting to qualified opportunity, the research represented a range of answers:
That’s a lot of touches, no matter how you slice it.
Keep in mind, we’re just at qualified opportunity. Many more touches are needed to get to the proposal and the close.
The TOPO Sales Development Practice recently published The Sales Development Technology Report, which found it takes 18 or more dials to connect with a prospect over the phone, call-back rates are below 1% and only 23.9% of sales emails are opened.
What the research tells me is we’re going to need to touch our prospects (in a professional way) many times along their buyer journey — many more times than ever before.
This means marketing has to be completely aligned with the prospect’s buyer journey to create these touches in an educational, engaging, emotional and disruptive way. Sales then needs to be aligned with marketing to pick up those conversations and continue the strategy behind their touches in a similar way.
All of the touches need to be mapped out, strategically designed and crafted to tell a seamless story to every prospect. Challenging? Yes! Complex? Yes! But it is very doable.
The best way to do this is to talk to your customers and understand their buyer journey experience. How did they find you? What was their first experience with your company? It might have been a conversation with one of your customers or it might have been a Google search.
Make sure that when you’re interviewing them you ask about every interaction, including the smallest email or text message.
If talking to customers is out, get your marketing and sales teams together and talk it out. The salespeople usually have a treasure trove of information on how prospects found out about your company and what actions they took before contacting sales. They’re obviously intimate with every single sales touch, too.
To give these conversations some structure, consider using a predefined buyer journey model, like our Cyclonic Buyer Journey™. This gives you the stages of the buyer journey to frame the conversation with customers or your sales team.
Try to gain insight into how the prospect felt at each stage. These feelings are important, as people make purchase decisions emotionally. If you understand how they feel, you’ll be better equipped to create more compelling messages and better marketing and sales experiences.
Collect an inventory of the questions they ask at each stage. This gives you a map for your content marketing efforts. Design your content around the questions people have and you’ll see your lead generation efforts improve.
Finally, this buyer journey map then allows you to go back and design each touch point, identify missing touch points, improve existing touch points and answer the big question: How many touches does it take to turn a prospect into a new customer?
The answer for your business is going to be uniquely yours.
Once you know every touch point, your work is just getting started. You now need to go back and design those touch points and improve them.
Here’s an example: A single email to a prospect from a sales rep is a touch point. You can create an email template that improves the story, message and effectiveness of that single touch point. You can also add a piece of content to the email that further improves that experience.
We try to coach our clients to never send any “naked emails” emails. A naked email is one without content in context to the prospect’s needs, issues or challenges.
This content can be a simple link to a recently published blog article. It can be a video that supports a point you made in your last phone conversation. It could be a link to a website with a list of testimonials to provide additional social proof. This content should be identified in advance and provided to sales as an inventory of tools to use during your sales process.
Try to be proactive. By providing prospects information that you know they’re going to want before they ask for it can significantly shorten the sales cycle. Send them a video reference reel before they ask for references. Send them case studies before they ask for them. Send them your agreement before they ask for it.
When you map out the buyer journey, these opportunities to be proactive present themselves in an obvious way.
I hope you can tell from the scope and scale of what’s involved in mapping out your prospect’s entire buyer journey that this isn’t something you’ll likely do in a one-hour meeting. This is something that you’ll need a tool to do correctly. It’s going to take thought and discussion. But most importantly, you’ll need to iterate on it over the course of a few months (and possibly longer).
Let me illustrate: You complete your prospect buyer journey map. Congratulations! You map out every touch point, and you execute the correct marketing and sales tactics to drive that designed experience.
Now what? You have to track your progress. You need data to help you make informed decisions and adjustments over time. Your worst mistake would be to think you’re done, so you sit back and watch. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Instead, you must track the KPIs associated with the buyer journey. Specifically, you need to track the conversion rates associated with the movement of prospects from one stage to the other. You’re also going to want to track the time it takes for prospects to move through the entire sales cycle, from click to close.
Tracking these simple metrics will give you insights into areas that need attention, and when you do provide attention, the lift that energy delivered to your full process.
For example, if you see your close rate on proposals is 20%, working to move that to just 40% can double your revenue. Now consider each of the conversion points across all eight stages of the Cyclonic Buyer Journey. Applying energy at even half of those parts of the process could improve revenue generation 10x and make it predictable, repeatable and scalable.
When you start thinking about marketing and sales from a revenue perspective, and you start looking at revenue generation in a more systematic way, you get the makings of the revenue generation machine your business has been desperate for over the past few years.