A Prospect-Centric Approach To Revenue Generation Drives Results
I was talking to a CEO of a software company a few weeks ago and he said to me, “I think we’re just going to hire five or six sales reps (BDRs) and hit the phones.” After I got my thoughts together, I responded with, “That’s one way to do it, but is that the best way? Is that how your prospects buy software? They respond to cold phone calls? Is that how you would engage around a software solution?”
The conversation signals that a lot of you are not aligning your marketing and sales strategies with the way people buy today. Click to close is a way to describe today’s prospect buyer behavior and buyer journey in almost every industry. Every complex sale (with elongated sales cycles) that requires education and multiple touches means the sales process is going to start with a click and end with a signed agreement or contract.
Even where relationships, referrals or personal connections drive the initial interest, a click is soon to follow. Once that first click is executed, the buyer-centric marketing and sales experience must kick in, must be refined and must be the focus of your sales and digital marketing investment in 2018.
What Click Are We Talking About?
That’s a fair question. What is the first click? If someone I trust recommends I check out a company because we just shared an experience that supports the fact I need this company’s products or services, my first click and your prospects’ first click is likely to be a visit to the website or a branded search for that company’s website. Click one, and now I’m on the website.
But there are other scenarios around click one. I have no idea what solutions exist, or my circle of trusted advisors couldn’t come up with any reasonable options. But I do have an idea of what I need, and that leads me to Google (or Yahoo or Bing). I start searching. I see organic listings and paid listings. Click one in this scenario is on one of those listings, and then, bang, I’m on the company’s website.
But wait, more click one options exist. I might be on social media sites. I might be on industry websites. I might be doing other related research. In all three of those scenarios, I’m presented with content that appeals to me and my challenge, issue or pain. That content comes along with a link to yes, you guessed right, the website.
In all three cases, expressed pain got the ball rolling, and the result produced a visit to a website where help might be delivered. Now some of you might be saying, “My prospects don’t always know solutions exist.” That is correct. In some situations, your prospects might not be asking, searching or surfing around. But the click one scenario still exists.
In these cases, we have to disrupt the prospect with messaging, content and the belief that they might be missing something. The tactics might vary, such as LinkedIn messaging, Twitter outreach, direct mail or even cold email, but the desired result remains the same — click to visit the website.
So, in all cases, gaining that first click is the first step in what could be a long and complicated buyer journey, but the best marketing and sales gurus today are actively mapping, influencing and delivering a remarkable experience from click one all the way through to that signed paperwork.
What Happens After That First Click?
Upon landing on your website page (it could be your home page or a landing page — click here to see the difference), you have just 10 seconds to get their attention, connect with them emotionally, tell them what you do, how you do it and who you do it for, and explain what makes your business better than everyone else doing what you do.
Sounds tricky, and yes, it is. It’s highly complicated and requires a specialized skill set to tell a story like this in a small space like a website page in just 10 seconds.
Now this is where it gets even more complicated. You can mess up in so many places on your website. You can be unclear in describing what you do. If it’s too technical or has too much jargon, your prospects might not want to take the extra few seconds to try and figure it out, so they hit the back button.
By the way, you’re fighting against the human brain, which is designed to make you feel overwhelmed when it gets overwhelmed. This is the feeling you get when you open a long email and say to yourself, “I’ll read this later.” Your brain is saying, “I can’t handle all of this right now.”
If the site isn’t designed in a graphically pleasing way, your prospects might feel like your company is unprofessional or underfunded. If the site looks good but prospects can’t tell what you do and why they need your product or service, they’re going to hit the back button.
Since people don’t believe all of the marketing on your site, they’re also looking for social proof, testimonials, case studies and success stories. Who have you done this for that looks and sounds like your prospects? If it’s not obvious on the site or page, people will hit the back button.
If the site is fantastic in every way but people aren’t ready to buy something today and the only place on the site to connect with you is a “contact us,” “schedule a demo” or “speak with a rep” page, they’re going to hit the back button. They might try to remember your site so they can come back later, but that’s not likely.
There are many more ways to blow that first click than to capitalize on it. These perceptions, emotions, feelings and interactions with your website are the beginnings of how your new prospect is going to feel about your company.
Remember, people make purchase decisions emotionally first. How they feel when they’re on your site, reading your emails or downloading your content is critical.
You Survive The Site Experience, But What Comes Next?
Your prospect visited your website and had a good experience. Everything that needed to go right did go right. Now what? Your visitor is still an anonymous visitor. You don’t know who they are. You might know their ISP (internet service provider) or, if you’re lucky, what corporate server they came from, but attribution at this level is mostly sketchy.
You have to get them to give up their anonymity and identify themselves. You do this by giving them something of value. What you give them must match their buyer journey, which means you need top-of-the-funnel awareness offers, middle-of-the-funnel consideration offers and bottom-of-the-funnel decision-making offers.
By offering them the spectrum, their selection signals to you where they are in the journey. If you offer enough compelling, educational content and your prospect identifies who they are, now you can create a one-to-one marketing experience, instead of the more traditional one-to-many marketing experiences that advertising is so good at delivering.
By the way, the content offer exercise isn’t so easy. You need to write content that features your prospect as the hero in the story. That content should be about your prospect and not about you. That content has to tweak at their pain and continue to disrupt their status quo. It should move them to action, so getting your internal team or technical writer to support content marketing can be the wrong approach. You need people who write for conversion and for response, and who do it every day.
Nurture, Nurture And Nurture Them Some More
No matter how good you are at sales and marketing, the ultimate decision always lies with the prospect. They’re not picking you if they don’t feel safe and if their pain is not acute.
Both conditions need to be in place for them to be moved as human beings to make a decision. While marketing and sales can do wonders for making them feel safe, and some good salespeople can make pain seem more acute than it is in reality, for the sale to go down, both safety and acute pain need to be realities. This is usually why sales cycles take so long.
Back in the day, salespeople controlled this process. All information flowed from them and they controlled the buyer journey. Today, the buyer is in charge and all information flows through them. In most cases, salespeople are only needed to handle the last 25% of the process, when contracts and details are discussed or negotiated.
The good news here is that the longer the sales cycle, the more opportunities you have to nurture those opportunities. Nurturing helps people feel safe. When done well, nurturing also accentuates the acuteness of the prospect’s pain. After the initial conversion, nurture tactics have to continue the conversation with the prospect in a personal and contextual basis.
Here’s what I mean: A prospect converts on your website for a top-of-the-funnel awareness offer, like a whitepaper. They fit the demographic profile, they fit the psychographic profile and they score high on your lead scoring model. They could be months away from buying, but they’re a high-quality lead nonetheless. Now what?
You could call them, but they didn’t ask to be called. You can email them, but they didn’t ask to be emailed. Is that the experience you want to create for them? Do you want to bother them?
Instead, create an experience that continues to help them by feeding them content in context to their buyer journey and their specific set of challenges. This is where high-quality, strategic lead nurturing comes into play. While you are emailing them, you’re giving them something of value and something in context to their specific buyer journey.
This strategy allows you to continue the conversation in an automated and productive way, making your case and helping them along their journey. By the way, all of those emails (they should be designed to coincide with the length of your sales cycle) are always reminding them that you’re just a call or email away, should they be ready to move down into the sales process. When they’re ready to buy, they don’t start their search. Instead, they start by contacting you.
Now you’re the emotional choice. They want to do business with you, and as long as your sales process doesn’t mess that up, you have a new customer coming your way.
How To Make Sure Your Sales Process Doesn’t Mess It Up
I know all of those steps sound complicated, and getting new customers is much more complicated than ever before. But you’re only halfway there.
Now that your prospect is ready to talk, your sales team needs to manage the handoff and make sure the sales process experience matches your marketing experience, because the fastest way to blow it is to have a traditional sales-heavy process after you’ve worked so hard to get them to know, like and trust your company.
Feeling safe about doing business with you is one part of it. Now you’re introducing a new person into the mix, and your salesperson handling this opportunity has to do everything in their power to continue that feeling all through the sales process, which means you need a sales process that is strategically designed to keep your prospect feeling safe.
Here are a few examples: They can’t suggest one price and then have the actual price be higher. They can’t be slow to respond to questions, concerns or requests for information. They can’t be too pushy around the prospect’s timeline. They have to ask a lot of questions. People like that because it makes them feel like you’re taking the time to get to know them, and as a result your recommendations are going to be more personalized. When they ask for references or examples of companies you’ve worked with that are similar to them, salespeople need access to that information quickly. Delays here make people feel nervous. All of this has to be mapped out and planned for in the sales process.
Here’s the good news: Today, tools and technologies help make delivering a consistent sales experience much easier than ever before. Emails can be templated, content tools can be stored in the CRM for easy access and the process itself can be designed in the CRM to provide a step-by-step wizard for all salespeople. Advocacy, like references and client examples, can also be designed into your sales process. All of this design work makes your sales cycle shorter and your close rate higher, producing significant gains in scalable and predictable revenue generation.
This back end part of click to close is all about the close. Just as many levers can be moved here as up front around the click, except that the moves back here produce dramatic lift and in much shorter time frames. A 10% improvement in the close rate on proposals can turn into big money in just 30 days. When you look at the process from the buyer’s perspective, a lot of improvements come into focus quickly.
I hope you can see why using a click-to-close approach to thinking about marketing and sales differently has a major impact on your ability to get new leads, close those leads and drive revenue. Now you have to start making the upgrades and improvements necessary to impact the metrics all across your funnel and all across the experience your prospects have with your company. Do that and you’ll blow by your revenue targets, producing the best year in the history of your company. Better yet, you’ll know exactly how to do it every year going forward, meaning you’ll have sustainable, predictable and scalable revenue growth.