This Little-Known Stage Might Be Why You’re Not Closing More New Customers
I talk about it a lot with clients, but most of the so-called marketing and sales experts tend to skip right over this important point. People make their purchase decisions emotionally and then rationalize those decisions.
This means you have to quickly and effectively connect with your prospects emotionally, and this is not about facts, figures, features and benefits. It’s more about know, like and trust.
Once you do this, you’ll still have to help them rationalize their decision before they’ll sign your paperwork, which means you have to identify this stage in the buyer journey and plan for it proactively.
This is where the Rationalization Stage in the Cyclonic Buyer Journey™ becomes just as important as the five other stages that preceded it.
The Secret To Shortening The Sales Cycle And Increasing Close Rates Is Understanding Rationalization
It’s one of the most perplexing stages in the buyer journey. Your prospect has already said “yes.” They love you and everything you’ve said up to this point.
But the deal stalls as they review your contract, discuss terms, evaluate timing and check references. It could be weeks or longer before you can realize any revenue. Why is it so hard to get customers to sign?
The answer is that you’re not helping them rationalize their decision.
Does any of this sound familiar? Your customer agreement is 10 pages long and filled with legal jargon. It takes weeks to coordinate schedules for prospects to check references. Your customer service team is too busy taking care of customers to meet with prospects and walk them through your onboarding process.
You might not know it, but you’ve created a lot of friction in the end of the buyer journey, and that friction is causing your revenue cycle to grind to a halt.
If you want to fix it, you have to look at the buyer journey experience from the eyes of your prospect. Take a good look at your contract. Is it over-architected or overly legal? Do you feel like you’d be comfortable signing it without having a lawyer look at it? Do you even need all of that legal jargon?
For example, we have a two-page services agreement. We’ll do A, B and C. You’ll pay us D. If we don’t like working with each other, we agree to fair notice. That’s it. No lawyer necessary. I met a company last week at a conference and they eliminated their agreement completely. Is that the answer? I don’t know, but it’s certainly a step in the direction of removing friction.
References are another great example. No one likes them. Your current customers are nice enough to do them, but you don’t want to bother them too much. Meanwhile, your prospects aren’t thrilled about having to call strangers and talk about your business. You could be looking at weeks of back-and-forth before the final calls are executed. It’s all unnecessary.
Instead, proactively offer prospects a reference reel of prerecorded videos with the same people you’d be giving as references. Send that link in advance before the reference request comes in, and explain that this is how you handle references. No need to schedule a call, no need to be bothered or bother others and no need to delay your decision. Remove the friction.
Most Common Mistakes To Avoid In The Rationalization Stage
The most common mistake is thinking you’re negotiating. If you take a combative position at this stage in the buyer journey, you’ll be sunk. Instead, continue to guide, advise and educate your prospects.
Help them understand why your agreement includes certain language. Give in on as much as you possibly can, and where you can’t, take the time to explain why this is a benefit to them too.
If they ask about extra discounts, let them know that discount is coming out of your profit and could compromise your business in the long term. If they’re looking for a partner, they should want you to be a healthy and strong company.
Another mistake involves dropping out of the process at this stage. Just because they agreed to hire you doesn’t mean your team should start working on other deals. This is where you need to dig in and remain their guide in an even more diligent way.
You don’t want to work so hard for a new customer only to lose them at the last minute because they felt like you were less attentive. At this point, you should get more attentive and helpful. This means if your prospect has some concerns with the agreement and your legal team is busy, you jump in and help them understand the terms and conditions.
Be extra attentive even with something simple like sending over an agreement or final presentation deck. Never, never, never send anything in advance. That leaves you open for questions, misunderstanding and confusion. This all make prospects feel anxious, nervous and unsafe.
Remember, you’re working hard make them feel safe. Instead, send over documents minutes before you jump on the phone and walk them through all of the details. This way, you answer all of the questions in real time, you explain the context for your agreement details and you make sure everyone is comfortable.
It’s a simple step, but it’s one that most people miss.
Tactics To Consider For The Rationalization Stage
This is primarily a sales execution stage, so the tactics are almost all sales-related, but since we’ve been talking about a much tighter aligned sales and marketing effort, some supporting tactics are listed here that marketing should be equipped to deliver to sales.
Here you go:
- Sales process: How you deal with prospects and the experience you provide at this stage in the buyer journey is key. The sales process must define your approach to getting prospects signed up. Define that now, work on removing any friction now and look at this back end of your sales process from the perspective of your new customers. Remember, your prospects are judging you right now on what it’s going to be like to work with you. If you are rigid here, they’ll feel that and be concerned. If you are accommodating and flexible, they’ll feel that and be comfortable proceeding.
- Sales documents: Your proposals, your sales decks, your agreements, your contracts or your statements of work — whatever you call your paperwork, avoid making it complicated, heavily one-sided or overly architected. Otherwise, you’re going to introduce friction, slow down your deals and, in some cases, turn off your prospects to the point of them looking for other options. Do your best to keep the paperwork simple and focused on making your prospects feel safe.
- Advocacy and references: We’ve covered this concept extensively. By serving up advocacy, making it easy for your prospects and even pointing prospects to review sites instead of having to schedule, execute and evaluate the traditional reference check, you can reduce the sales cycle dramatically.
- ROI models: Justifying the investment is almost always part of the Rationalization Stage. Embrace it and provide your prospect with ROI modeling tools, work with them to build the RIO model and then help to present it to the decision-makers. Now you’re a true advisor and you’re helping everyone move to close.
- Approval content: In a lot of scenarios, your champion decision-maker still needs one final sign-off from the board or from the CEO. Help them by providing content or tools that they can use to sell up the org chart. This could be a board presentation deck, a CEO checklist for sign-off or a summary ROI modeling. Regardless of what it is, equipping your sales team with these tools means a higher close rate and a shorter sales cycle.
- Delivery content: Prospects ask a lot of delivery-related questions at the back end of the sales process. What does implementation look like? Do you have a timeline? Who will we be working with? What processes do you use to ensure success? Who is our point of contact? The more thought out these delivery content tools are in advance, the smarter you look and the faster you resolve any unanswered questions.
If you’ve been following along in the series, you should be starting to see a pattern. A ton of tactics could be deployed all along the buyer journey. The key is selecting the right tactics, setting them up correctly, optimizing them over time and then prioritizing them against other tactics that might enhance or improve overall performance.
Metrics To Measure During The Rationalization Stage
The metrics in this stage have almost everything to do with getting your prospect over the goal line and getting those signed documents back.
Here’s what you could be looking at to measure the effectiveness of your Rationalization Stage revenue growth tactics:
- Number of days from verbal to signed contract
- Percentage of submitted proposals (any contract, agreement or paperwork) that ask for references
- Final close rate on paperwork submitted
- Number of proposals submitted (monthly or weekly views)
- Proposal views per proposals submitted
- Average time viewing proposals
- Number of people accessing proposals
- Downloads or views of Rationalization Stage content
- Usage on your ROI modeling tools
You should set up some specific Rationalization Stage dashboards to keep real-time track of these metrics. If you’re reviewing these weekly and rolling them up monthly to look for gains month over month, you’ll be well on your way to having a good handle on the performance of the tactics in your Rationalization Stage.
Technology To Make Execution in The Rationalization Stage Easier
Here are the stage-specific software tools we’ve looked at, tested and recommend to clients building a rich tech stack around the Rationalization Stage.
Remember, these are all built on top of platform software like HubSpot, Marketo or Salesforce.
NOTE: These technology solutions have been updated (October 22, 2018) since the original post. The technology landscape changes very quickly, and we’ll continue to update our tech stack recommendations as they change and evolve.
- Vidyard – Prospects in the Rationalization Stage of the buyer journey are perfect for video content. You want them to be comfortable and safe. Nothing is better than personalized video, video from delivery personnel, educational video and video that answers late-stage buyer journey questions.
- VisualizeROI – People are looking for justification for their purchase decisions, and ROI tools are perfect for this. We recommend Excel and developing some standard models that you can share, but if you want to take your game up a notch, consider this online ROI tool to make your prospect’s experience that much more interesting and engaging.
- SnapApp – This tool allows you to do remarkable things on a web page, including building some simple calculators. This could be used for cost savings analysis, ROI analysis or to build a custom page on your website especially for people in the Rationalization Stage.
- Showpad – Want to take your sales process up to an 11? Consider Showpad. This innovative tool helps bridge the gap between sales and marketing by creating one centralized location that helps sellers discover, present and share the latest content in visually engaging experiences. Showpad provides back-of-the-buyer-journey metrics to show marketers which content is actually used by sales and tied to closed revenue.
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.