You may have heard me say in the past that people are ready to buy when they are ready to buy--not when you’re ready to sell to them. This is correct, but does that mean you are at the mercy of the prospect to make a sale? Of course not. Every buyer goes on a buyer’s journey. Some people move quickly through that journey, while some move slowly, but with information, contact, and education, you can greatly influence that journey and ultimately get more customers.
All prospects go through the following three phases.
In this phase, buyers don’t even know you exist, so they can’t know what your product is or if they even need what you sell. It is your job to find these people (I call them prospects) so you can let them know that you exist, who you are and what you do. At this stage of the game, you are simply generating leads with a goal of getting some of those prospects to raise their hands and express some interest in your company, product, service or a related topic. When you’re creating this lead magnet or content to attract these prospects, you want to focus on helping your prospect solve a problem they have. Once someone’s opted in, they’ve taken the first step.
In this stage, the prospect now has an awareness of you and your company, but they still aren’t ready to buy because they need more information. In years past, prospects got all of that information from salespeople, but now, thanks to the internet, buyers don’t need to chat with a salesperson to learn more. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be trying to get your information into their hands early and often. Make sure this information is focused on helping them answer the questions they have. It should show them additional pain points your product or service is able to solve; it should tell them about the benefits; and it should enlighten them to the features of the product or service. Having a solid nurture campaign can increase sales opportunities by 20 percent or more.
The consideration phase can literally last weeks, months, or even years. It’s all dependent on you, your follow-up, and the needs of the prospect. During this phase is when you want your prospect to chat with your salesperson or watch your selling webinar.
Advanced Tip: While you’re giving great information and sales presentations to your prospects that position your product or service as better than your competitors’, make sure you also give the prospect proof of why it’s important for them to take action and instead of simply doing nothing. Many prospects bury their heads in the sand instead of working to solve their problems, but most companies never address the issue of doing nothing -- they only address why they are better than their competitors, without realizing that they lose far more deals to people kicking the can than they do to people actually making the decision to use a competitor.
Once your company is on the short list for a buying decision, the prospect’s purchase comes down to simple verification of facts or terms and last-minute negotiations or next steps/setup types of questions. Answer these questions well, and you’re on your way to having a brand-new customer.
By focusing on campaigns that will help you walk each new prospect through their decision-making process, you will be better positioned to not only be on the short list come decision time but to be the company that wins the customer at the end of the day.
Unfortunately, getting a new customer is only half the battle. Once you’ve acquired your new customers, your job becomes turning them into loyal, repeat customers. Most businesses lose money on each new customer, so making sure that your customer onboarding process, repeat purchase process, and customer retention process are on point will protect your investment and ultimately help you see a positive long-term ROI for each new customer you acquire. At the end of the day, there’s no point in acquiring a new customer if you can’t keep them and ultimately turn a profit.
Shaun Buck is the co-author of No B.S. Guide to Maximum Referrals and Customer Retention (Entrepreneur Press, March 2016) as well as CEO of Boise, Idaho-based The Newsletter Pro, the largest custom print newsletter company in the world—printing and mailing millions of newsletters annually for diverse industries all over the globe.