Taking a potential customer and converting them to a loyal advocate for life is the goal of most organizations. While I have covered customer loyalty and advocacy in previous blogs, I recently was asked for suggestions on how to move a potential customer down the sales funnel to make that oh-so-important first sale.
Here are a few tips on how to shorten the sales cycle…
A typical sales funnel may look like this:
As your prospect moves through the sales cycle, your goals will change as they meet each stage in the decision process:
- Awareness – Perhaps your product or service is well known. Maybe it is not. In either case, the goal is to make sure your service/product is top-of-mind when they eventually have a need
- Consideration – Engage with those who are now aware your service/product exists
- Preference – Educate those who are now committed to making a purchase but haven’t decided where yet
- Purchase – Make the sale!
I recommend you think of moving your prospect through the sales funnel as a series of small conversions. Each conversion leads to the next and will eventually result in a sale. To be successful, it will be critical to define what each stage looks like for your particular company, develop a step-by-step plan to communicate with the prospect for each stage, and to track and analyze the results along the way.
I have written blogs on each of the following topics if you care to do further reading. However, I am going to assume we are all in agreement these are some of the more successful ways to generate awareness and drive traffic to your website:
Once your prospects are aware of your service/products, it is time to engage them. To do this, you will need to get their email address so you can communicate directly with them. Not so simple, you say? Here are some great tips on how to use “lead magnets” to build your database with opt-in subscribers:
Keep in mind, the prospect is not only volunteering their contact information, but they are also volunteering what interests them, based on what offer they responded to when prompted. It is important to keep their interest in mind when reaching out, so to not be considered spam and provide the best chance to engage them.
Tips to consider when engaging your prospects:
- Be sure to send them directly to a specific landing page rather than your home page so they can get exactly the information they want without searching
- Each page should have a call to action so the prospect follows the flow of the sales cycle (watch a video, download a whitepaper, subscribe to your newsletter, fill out a contact form, schedule an appointment, etc.)
- Keep forms simple – The less data you require, the more likely they are to be filled out
Now that they have engaged with you, it is time to educate them to why they need your service/product. There are many ways to provide information to help your prospects make their buying decision more quickly:
- Emails – Once a prospect provides their email address, you should have an automated response to welcome them and provide additional information on how they can maximize the value by connecting with you
- Triggered Emails – These should be automated and follow a “drip campaign,” where each carefully written message leads to the next step in the sales cycleThese are excellent suggestions for drip campaign ideas:
All of the data you have been collecting (prospect contact info, interests, frequency of visits, downloads, etc.) should be stored in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. This tool will allow you to determine where they are in the sales cycle and what is the best way to communicate with them next.
Now is the time to convert your prospect into a customer with a series of offers important to them:
- Email your targets with any specials (discounts, BOGO, incentives, etc.)
- Announce your latest services or products
- Make them feel special by providing a sneak-peek or early sample so they are among the first to know and have the first opportunity to make a purchase
- Share reviews and testimonials to better demonstrate the quality and value of what you have to offer
Of course, the length of each sales cycle is different based upon the type of service or product you offer. Along the way, you will have multiple touch points to help move the prospect along, and it can sometimes be challenging to measure. However, it will be critical to have a communication plan in place and track and measure the analytics to determine your success.
Ultimately, if you provide easier steps for your prospects along the sales cycle, you will see your sales conversions increase.
Rick Verbanas has brought his passion for marketing to Fortune 500 companies, small businesses and not-for-profits. He strives to stay current in the latest marketing best practices, and provides a weekly roundup for your news and enjoyment. To subscribe to future blogs, please enter your email address on the left hand side of the page.