The B2B customer journey is nothing more than a series of decisions that spawn various activities. Companies that effectively use these decisions to frame their strategies and resource allocation report having been able to increase sales up to 10 percent and customer retention up to 30 percent, compared with companies that rely on a traditional "funnel."
Confronted with these decisions of the customer journey, salespeople face personal choices. They must ask themselves, “What is the one task I can perform at each stage of the customer’s journey that will make them more likely to buy from me?”
Here are some answers to that question at each stage.
1. Intimately study buyer personas during the initial awareness stage.
As a salesperson, you may feel that the entire process is mostly out of your control during the prospect’s initial steps. You obviously haven’t established a relationship, or even a channel of communication, so back up a step and ask yourself what you can do to be as prepared as possible for your opening opportunity.
The answer to that question is to have an encyclopedic knowledge of your product's various buyer personas. These categories obviously can’t tell you everything about your lead, and the goal here isn’t to put this person into a rigid box. Rather, it’s to be able to instantly establish a baseline of understanding upon you first contact, so that you can quickly nudge him or her into the next stage through substantive conversation.
Knowing as much as possible about your leads in the earliest stages will help you nurture them effectively, and research indicates that nurtured leads generally produce a 20 percent increase in sales opportunities compared with non-nurtured leads.
2. Sell to your customers' needs as they evaluate benefits.
When prospects begin to evaluate their options more carefully, they’ll weigh specific value against their own needs and available resources. At this stage, every interaction must be framed around their needs, and the value they stand to gain from purchasing your solution -- not a competitor’s.
This evaluation should cover all content, and any communication sent by your organization, whether that means an in-depth sales call or a simple thank-you email.
3. Be a master facilitator when it comes to your lead's purchasing decision.
When it comes time for the prospect to make a purchasing decision, you’ve completed most of the sales work already. If you were successful at knowing your prospect and clearly communicating your company’s value, the best thing you can do right now is switch into facilitation mode. Make sure the logistics are all taken care of, and that all data and deliverables you present to the client are accurate and complete.
Your main goal in this phase is to maintain the trust you’ve built, and make it as easy as possible for your prospect to buy.
4. Continue to nurture during customer onboarding.
Nurturing: It’s not just for leads anymore! The period after the prospect becomes a customer is one of the most crucial in terms of his or her relationship with your company. As a salesperson, you will continue to have opportunities to share value-added content with your client that will help him or her succeed, whether that success is tied specifically to your product or not.
Remain engaged, and always look for genuine ways to help customers achieve something they want. You may have opportunities for upselling and cross-selling during this phase, but they should always be incidental to the value delivered.
5. Earn, then encourage, evangelism to foster long-term engagement.
Making this sustained commitment to your customers is a way to earn the right to ask them for advocacy.
If you’ve reliably delivered on your promises up to this point, customers will more than likely want to share their successes with others, so don’t be afraid to ask. A highly satisfied customer is one of your company’s most powerful resources, so protect the relationship accordingly and be overly generous.