You aren’t going to sell anything to anybody if you don’t get them committed to change (on their own behalf). You likely aren’t going to get that commitment until you get them to understand and challenge their own status quo.
And you can’t have any of those conversations until you get a commitment to engage in the buying journey. For us, that customer commitment (equally important for existing customers as it is with new prospects) comes from working through five steps:
- Attention: Having a list of prospects isn’t attention. Sending them an email isn’t attention. Through the right mix of channels and great value-added content, how are you earning attention from your prospects and customers? To get an hour of attention you start with a few seconds, build to a few minutes, then earn more by providing value and insights.
- Interest: If your approach and content is good, you can move from mere attention to interest. It’s often not hard to force someone to pay attention – through bait and switch tactics, fake forwards and so on. But beyond mere attention, you need to work hard on your insights to interest the prospect or customer to want to hear from you more.
- Trust: With a track record of good content and interest, prospects will mentally make the switch from simple interest to trust. This doesn’t happen overnight, nor does it happen with a single email or phone call. But if your body of work demonstrates a level of credibility and competence, you can begin earning trust which further solidifies the differentiated foundation of future and ongoing commitment.
- Intent: Interest and trust out of context doesn’t always move the conversation forward. But if you combine great insights with customer intent – from buying signals or trigger events that demonstrate a customer need – you can accelerate the impact of your interactions and increase velocity towards an active selling conversation.
- Engagement: At this point your prospect starts engaging more directly with you on the problem that needs solved, engaging others in the organization that have a similar problem to solve, building consensus to drive change (or at least momentum towards change) internally. There hasn’t been a decision to buy, but engagement is the first step.
These stages form the foundation of commitment. They help the prospect or customer stay committed to the process of change because they believe in the outcome, and they believe in you.
If you take a close and honest look at your own sales process, your own marketing approach, how successfully are you investing in each of these stages to create customer commitment as well as competitive advantage?