It's been said that the historical sales funnel is dead. Without entering into that debate, it's probably fair to say that people are savvy about sales techniques, don't like to be sold to overtly and certainly resist pressured funnelling. Our view is that it is better to make it easier for your prospects and customers to buy than to try too hard to sell.
At FortuneWest we take a simple, common sense approach to the sales process. There are two aspects to our approach, one that looks at the company-wide sales process, and another that looks at the management of individual sales opportunity.
All companies have a need to become famous, so far as is possible, and to be understood.
In other words, currently there are too many prospects who have not heard of you or products. How do you take them from being UNAWARE of who you are and what you do to being AWARE of your company or product names? There are tried and proven, structured marketing and promotion methods to achieve awareness, though it can take a surprising number of touches before someone remembers you.
Next, how do you take someone from being AWARE to COMPREHENSION? That is, what information, evidence or persuasion is required for someone to understand what it is you do and why. Next, how do you move a prospect from a state where they are AWARE of you and UNDERSTAND your purpose, to a CONVICTION that you are the right supplier with the right products for them, finally to the point where they PURCHASE?
You can download the 5 Step Sales Journey to see a sales timeline and typical associated activity.
Each of these steps in a prospect's relationship with you is different, starting off perhaps as a disengaged nodding affair and turning into a mutually beneficial trusting relationship.
The marketing and sales material that facilitate your prospect's progress from unknown person to customer, from unaware to purchase, are also distinct and different in nature at each stage. Awareness may start with an ad, an email, even a PR stunt; Conviction and Purchase may require a tailored proposal or a demo or some proof of concept. It is rarely possible to move someone reliably through each of the five sales stages in one fell swoop.
The advent of search engines means that some people will, by searching online, travel part way along the sales journey by themself, and happily satisfy themselves that you are the right supplier for them if information is structured to help them. They absorb information along the sales funnel, from Unaware to Conviction, before they pick up the phone or commit to an order. If people search for companies and products like yours online, then today content strategy and inbound marketing will be any essential part of your sales strategy.
If your company is involved in field sales or face-to-face selling, we recommend that presentations are staged along these 5 sales steps, even if you believe the prospect or customer is fully tuned in. Ensuring the customer has the knowledge or conviction you believe them to have pays dividends, and rules out the risk of assumptions. So, chunk up face-to-face proposals by setting the scene, recapping the evidence, characterising warranties, and so forth.
Sometimes, people debate the relationship between marketing and sales. Our view is that if you don't have a formal marketing programme, your sales team is responsible for early Awareness and Comprehension building as well as the purchase end of the sales funnel. Another topic that frequently exercises business minds is the question of leads. Sometimes a lead is discounted as an opportunity because it does not convert. Our view is that marketing is largely responsible for the prospect's journey to Comprehension, after which they become the responsibility of the sales team, but if they fail to convert to a purchase, they should go back in the marketing pot and a nurturing programme. A nurture programme enables scarce, expensive sales resource to concentrate on winning orders while marketing focus on keeping opportunity up to date with new information and warm to your company.
FortuneWest is a friendly Berkshire-based company with twenty years' experience working on sales and marketing strategy with international companies and pioneering SMEs. We look forward to hearing about your sales challenges.
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