When you think of your business’s sales strategy, you may be tempted to think of it as only relating to the actual transaction where a customer pays for the good or service you offer.
However, businesses today can’t think of their relationship with their customers as a linear one. Instead, people have the opportunity to interact with your brand in a wide variety of ways: on your website, in-person, over the phone, via email, in Google search, or on social media. And they go through different phases, from just coming to know of your product to (hopefully, eventually) being a return customer who refers others to your business. The sum of all these interactions with your brand is what we call the customer journey.
Because this journey is not a straight road, your sales team can play a role in each phase of the journey. As you think about building an hourglass that addresses marketing needs for prospects and customers at each phase, you should also consider how your sales team fits into the hourglass model. Whether someone is hearing about your brand for the first time or is making their 50th purchase, your sales team has something to offer them.
We’ll take a look at the stages a customer goes through on their journey of interacting with a brand, and how sales can play a role in each phase.
Getting to Know You
When someone is just encountering a brand for the first time, you have a tremendous opportunity but also a great responsibility. They know nothing about your business, so it’s up to you to create a cohesive image that quickly, easily, and clearly communicates who you are, what you do, and why you do it better than anyone else in the game.
These early stages of brand discovery—the know and like phases of the hourglass—are often thought of as the territory of the marketing team. Creating advertising campaigns, compelling calls to action, and social media profiles fall under their purview, but sales has a role to play even this early on in the customer journey.
Outbound marketing efforts may well include your sales team. If you undertake telemarketing or cold calling, have a booth at a trade show, or have a giveaway of branded items at a community event, these are opportunities for your sales team to be the first point of contact with prospects.
While outbound marketing techniques have become less popular in recent years, if it’s done correctly, it can help you to create positive associations with your brand in the minds of prospects. The key here is in making sure that you have a sales team that’s comfortable with having a conversation that touches on the important differentiators for your brand, but at the same time doesn’t feel scripted. With the right sales team in place, it’s possible to create positive personal connections with prospects immediately, and that really allows you to stand out from your competition that’s relying solely on inbound techniques.
Coming to Trust You
A recent survey from Wantedness.com found that, in the U.S., 79 percent of consumers said they would only do business with brands that show they understand and care about “me.”
The trust and try areas of the hourglass are where there’s the greatest crossover between your marketing and sales teams, and so they should be working in tandem to create that highly personalized approach. In order to be most effective, they need to have access to each other’s information: sales needs to share their CRM data, while marketing should provide a window into their analytics.
While some prospects will react well to personalized email campaigns and targeted paid advertising on Facebook, all managed by the marketing team, others will need a bit more hand-holding from someone in sales.
Having a call to action button on your website that makes it easy for prospects to request a demo and get in touch with a member of your sales team can help funnel those prospects that need a little extra attention to the appropriate salesperson. Additionally, creating a shared inbox for your marketing and sales teams will allow your marketing folks to easily hand off prospects that would like more, detailed information to the sales team.
The Moment of Truth: The Purchase
This is what the sales team has been waiting for. After playing a role in introducing prospects to the brand and being responsive to their questions in the trust and try phases, the prospect is finally ready to convert.
Of course, the buying phase of the customer journey where the sales team plays the most obvious role. It’s also a point that some business owners take for granted. Just because someone has become a customer does not mean they can now be forgotten.
As Joey Coleman and I discussed in a podcast episode, creating a standout customer experience is an important part of taking people from one-time customer to repeat client. The sales team needs to make sure that the first time someone buys from you, they have an optimized experience. That means automated updates on their purchase, an easy way to get in touch if there’s an issue, and a proactive approach from you.
If your sales team is able to provide a stellar experience for a customer’s first time buying from your company, they’re a lot more likely to come back again. The trick here, of course, is that the stellar experience needs to be repeated on each subsequent interaction. Your sales team can never take a customer for granted, because if they do, that customer will eventually drift away to a competitor.
Part of the trick here is to establish crystal clear processes for your sales team’s interactions with customers. Make sure you have a customer service platform in place to ensure that any issues are being addressed in a timely manner and that efforts are not being duplicated (which wastes your team’s time and frustrates and confuses your customer). Consider a platform like ZenDesk, which allows you to track customer support requests across channels.
Building a Referral Engine
The final stage of the hourglass gives your customers the opportunity to generate new leads for you. When you empower your sales team to effectively generate referrals, you can build an engine that fuels your business growth for years to come.
Encourage your sales team to be proactive about gathering referrals. If they have a positive interaction with a customer, have a formalized process in place for getting a written review from that person.
Customers will also be more likely to refer you if you remain top of mind. Your sales team should be using a customer data platform to track interactions with customers. If you haven’t spoken to one in a while, have your sales team reach out. A personalized email or phone call might not only bring them back to make another purchase themselves, it will also position you to be the business they recommend later in the week when their friend happens to ask if they know a company that does exactly what you do.
If you think of your sales team as a group that only springs into action the moment someone wants to make a purchase, you’re missing out on the enormous potential that they have to support your business throughout the customer journey. When deployed correctly, your sales team can be by your customers’ sides each step of the way, which only serves to strengthen their relationship with your brand and makes them more likely to establish long-term connections with your business.
If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Sales and the Small Business Guide to Shaping the Customer Journey.