It Might Be The Most Important Stage And The Most Often Overlooked Stage
It’s the culmination of weeks, months and, for some companies, years. You’ve worked so hard to get your prospect to this point in your sales process. To lose them now would be horrible — all of that work with nothing to show for it. Yet so many companies pay hardly any attention to this critical stage.
This is also the stage in the Cyclonic Buyer Journey™ where so few companies realize changes can have a dramatic impact on revenue. Instead of looking to add more leads at the beginning of the revenue cycle, work harder to drive up the close rate on proposals submitted.
Taking your close rate from 10% to 20% will double your monthly revenue results. No more leads necessary, no redesigned website needed and no increase in marketing budget required.
All you need is better execution in the Decision Stage.
The Secrets To Improving Close Rates Include Alignment Of Sales And Marketing In The Decision Stage
Sales typically wants all of the glory for closing new customers, and including marketing in the sales process isn’t always at the top of their list of things to do. That’s especially true this late in the sales process.
But sales needs to include marketing in the conversation. Analysis and recommendations around how to make this part of the sales process remarkable for the prospect and still highly educational remains key.
Remember, you can lose the deal even after the prospect says they want to hire you. They still need to review your contact. I’ve seen it over and over again, in big companies and small companies.
I’ve seen a multi-million-dollar software deal with a major pharmaceutical company killed because the software company refused to use the bigger company’s legal documents.
I’ve seen companies offering discounts and free services up to and even after the paperwork was finally signed.
Some of this is sales execution, but allowing marketing to work closely with sales and creating a part of the experience that is equally as interesting, exciting and frictionless is key.
To have prospects move quickly through this process, you need to eliminate every single bit of friction by understanding all of their questions, concerns and requirements at this stage of their buyer journey.
Most Common Mistakes To Avoid In The Decision Stage
By far one of the biggest mistakes is ignoring this stage altogether, but assuming you’re not doing that, the two other big mistakes take the form of not providing any content for people in this stage and not looking at the signing experience from the perspective of your prospects.
Content can be provided at every stage of the buyer journey. In the Decision Stage, you should be looking at content that focuses on the delivery experience.
For example, at this stage, potential new customers are looking for detailed information on the team they’ll be working with. Consider holding “get to know you” sessions with your team, sharing kick-off session schedules and showing videos of new customers leaving kick-off sessions.
You want your soon-to-be new customers to feel very excited about getting started. In fact, if you execute correctly, you can have them hounding you to get started instead of you hounding them for the signed agreement.
Your agreements, contracts and paperwork will have a major influence on how quickly you get through the Decision Stage.
If clients need a lawyer, get comfortable, because that will take time. If they can review it on their own, you’ll cut days (if not weeks) off the back end of the process.
Sending this out in advance is also a part of the process you might want to consider. It provides a great assumptive close. If they want to see your agreement paperwork, they’re obviously considering hiring you. If they don’t, you might not be in the Decision Stage but rather still in the Evaluation Stage or Rationalization Stage.
The other mistake we talked about that everyone can avoid is objectively reviewing the signing experience. Do you walk your prospect through every detail? Do you make it educational? Do you try to make it fun? Is a celebration associated with the signing or kick-off? You worked hard, and so did the prospect, so why not celebrate the move from prospect to new customer?
Once you get the verbal agreement, experience-map every single step that comes next, and make sure each and every step is exciting.
Tactics To Consider For The Decision Stage
Tactics in this stage have the potential to provide huge payoffs. Remember, any move on the close rate produces major lift. In terms of low effort and big results, tactics in the Decision Stage fit the bill.
Here’s a more detailed description of some new tactics:
- Sales process: Don’t sell. Instead, guide and advise. Reps need to continue that behavior at this stage. Explaining your agreement, setting expectations, making introductions to others in the company and working to define what success will look like all through the relationship is key to getting quick signatures.
- Emails for sales: The sales team is going to be using a wide variety of communication tactics at this stage, and marketing should be prepared to arm sales with the email templates and the content they need to tell the right story at this critical time. If you don’t want to offer a discount to sign by the end of the month (and we don’t), then what else that is designed around value for the prospect could you use to drive a faster signature? Maybe accelerated onboarding, extra training, access to an earlier start date or an on-site kick-off meeting. By giving sales a library of these emails, they can quickly grab them, personalize them and use them. The big payoff here is the data you should see that shows which of the example offers does the best job of moving prospects along.
- Proposals: Your prospect probably saw your proposal during the Evaluation Stage. You might have walked them through the document in the Rationalization Stage. But it’s also likely that your prospect pulls this out and reviews it again in comparison to the other options during this stage. Keep this in mind when you create your proposal. If it’s filled with jargon or doesn’t have all of the details, your company and solution might be at a disadvantage when the prospect’s team is reviewing and comparing you to your competitors. Make this document all about them and what you’re prepared to do for them. If they want to learn more about you, they can check out your website. Your proposal should be 90% about them and just 10% about you. This is by far one of the biggest mistakes we see when working with clients on their close rate and late-stage sales process.
- Recommendations decks: Similar to proposals, these decks are generally all about your company and what you do, with very little about the prospect and what you’ll do for them. If you think you can save them $1 million over the year, make that your first slide, not your last slide. Provide detailed information on what your prospects should expect from you and when. Give them a clear understanding of the impact you’ll have on their business, focusing on results, numbers and quantitative measures.
- Contracts/agreements: I know contracts keep everyone honest, on the same page and become critical when disagreements or misunderstandings crop up. But you probably spend a lot of time working on these, putting up roadblocks and friction just in case something goes wrong. Instead, consider how to make these short and straightforward. If this happens, we’ll do this. If this happens, you agree to do this. By keeping the legal jargon to a minimum, you differentiate your company, eliminate friction and signal that you are an easy, friendly and fair company to do business with. That’s the feeling you want here.
That is not a comprehensive collection of tactics, but it’s a good start. With the right tools, you can also measure the effectiveness of the changes you’re deploying.
Metrics To Measure During The Decision Stage
Every stage has its set of metrics, and the best way to fast-forward your revenue cycle is to measure the effectiveness of each stage individually. Some of these stats are going to look familiar because this list includes the standard sales-related stats.
Here’s how we design the dashboards for the Decision Stage:
- Close rate on proposals/agreements submitted (this month vs. last month)
- Average length of the sales cycle (this month vs. last month)
- Average dollar value of new customers (month over month)
- New revenue vs. new revenue goals (month over month)
- New revenue from current clients vs. new revenue from new clients (vs. goals)
The best way to keep tabs on this in real time is to set up a handful of buyer-journey-specific dashboards and check the data weekly. In some cases, you might want to look at the data daily, but in this stage, weekly is probably more appropriate.
You may also want to project this stage’s data based on performance to do more accurate forecasting and projections.
Technology To Make Execution In The Decision Stage More Efficient
A lot of the technology designed for this stage is focused on closing deals and getting signatures. This is appropriate if the tools provide the insights you need to adjust your process based on data.
Here are the stage-specific software tools we’ve looked at, tested and recommend to clients building a rich tech stack around the Decision Stage. Remember, these are all built on top of CRM platform software like HubSpot or Salesforce.
(If this looks familiar, it should. We mistakenly used it in the article about the Rationalization Stage. That article has been updated to reflect the correct tech stack recommendations, and these tools are appropriate for this stage.)
- DocuSign: They offer the world’s number one e-signature solution. They provide “a broader cloud-based system of agreement platform, which allows companies of all sizes and across all industries to quickly modernize and digitize the entire agreement process — all the way from preparing agreements to signing, enacting and managing them.”
- Proposify: This tool helps with managing proposals. Proposify also provides insight into the performance of your proposals, including who’s viewed them, how long have they been in the document and what sections are garnering the most attention. If you do a lot of proposals, this tool can streamline and provide data.
- PandaDoc: This tool is similar in features to Proposify, and it allows sellers to do a better job of connecting and transacting with their customers through dynamic, personalized documents.
- CRM tools: Some of what you’ll need in this stage should be in your platform CRM tool, including the data associated with conversion rates and the time it’s taking you to close deals who move into this stage.
By smashing the funnel and applying a new map (the Cyclonic Buyer Journey map), we’re encouraging people to start building more buyer-centric marketing and sales strategies, executing tactics more thoughtfully, tracking the performance of everything, and using technology to automate and analyze your results.
The business outcomes? Month-over-month revenue growth and consistent, scalable, repeatable and predictable revenue generation machines. Give it a try, it works! That’s why we guarantee results for our clients.
Square 2 — Building The Agency You’ll LOVE!
Posted By Author Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist
Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.