B2B sales is notoriously slow in converting prospects from mildly interested to your newest brand evangelists. It can be a thankless task to move them along the never-ending sales pipeline full of unreturned calls, unhelpful gatekeepers and half-heartedly received meetings.
How long is the average timescale from first contact with a prospect to onboarding within your company? 3 months? 6? Longer? How can you make the whole process quicker and less painful for all involved?
Simply put – you need more information. What you need is a sales pipeline journey map – a guide to show you where prospects are in their journey. This will inform what your prospects want at each stage to keep them engaged and to progress them onto the next step.
It is instrumental to your efforts at developing your sales pipeline to know exactly where your prospects are in their buying journey. This should inform all of your actions as you strive to make each interaction deliver for each prospect. If you fail to deliver what they want at the right time you won’t be making their shortlist.
This isn’t just about closed deals and money in the bank either. The more helpful, entertaining and engaging you are to a prospect, the more likely you are to get your email opened or call put through. The more contacts moving forward in your pipeline, the more opportunities you will have to close deals. In other words – the better the experience, the more likely you will gain a prospect as a customer. Plus, if you’re that amazing but your service or product isn’t for them – you boost your chances of them recommending you.
To help you understand where your prospect is in your never-ending sales pipeline and keep your efforts on the right track we have created our Customer Journey Plan.
The Never-Ending Sales Pipeline Journey
Our plan has a customer’s journey divided into 8 distinct steps in 4 zones.
Zone One – Prospects
In this zone communication is one-way and mostly created though established static brand marketing, messaging on social media and awareness of your brand in print publications/online resources. At this stage of their journey prospects are taking note of your general brand marketing. They may be open to the essentials of your brand offering but only details that are available without having to make contact.
The Awareness stage is for those who are window shopping. They may be noticing your brand as they search for other services online, through industry publications or events but are not searching for you or the solution you may provide.
The Consideration stage begins when a prospect begins to align what you offer with their business. This may also include the challenges their business faces. Prospects will now be searching for your offering (directly or indirectly) and require the specifics of your business. They will be trying to get the information they need without making contact or submitting their details until they are more confident that they want to start a dialogue with you.
Zone Two – Lead
In the Lead zone prospects have decided they need a service/product and you are in the running. Contacting a prospect at this stage will be considered a warm lead as they have already shown some interest.
The Research stage starts when prospects see that they need a service or product. Which product is best for them is what they need to decide upon. Now it’s time to unleash the sales materials through all channels available to you, such as case studies, demonstrations, features and benefit reports. This is where you say why you deserve to be their number one choice.
The Selection stage will develop your direct communications into more face-to-face interactions. Content of emails and calls will be moving from the features and benefits of a product into the added benefits of the brand. Added benefits such as training, support and customer service will be key to moving prospects closer to a deal.
Zone Three – Close
Now you are the preferred supplier the prospect has that last step to make to becoming a customer. This means details, contracts and practicalities.
The Acquisition stage is the fine details and starts the onboarding process or the sale. This means contracts, final negotiations and reassurances from existing happy customers.
At the Delivery stage you need to deliver on the promises you made at all previous stages. It will be essential to be well-informed and coordinated to fulfil your new customers’ expectations.
Zone Four – Retain
Unlike many sales pipeline plans yours does not end at the deal stage. It is important to recognize that your customer’s experience of you, your service, product and brand remains a significant source of revenue.
The Service stage continues from your set-up and delivery process throughout the term of their contract or product’s lifespan. This will move your customer into a cycle of support appropriate to their needs. It will also keep in touch with them to ensure that you are still living up to expectations.
The Loyalty stage is the top of the customer pyramid. You can draw upon your VIP customers to feed information back into your business.
Your most loyal customers will be willing to help develop new products, recommend you to their peers, give case studies and take an active role in your upcoming events.
Download our Customer Journey Plan template HERE and complete it with the actions your company already does and the ones it doesn’t do. Use this to help you create assets and communications that address the various stages of your sales pipeline journey.
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