Since writing this page, I have added a blog post that explores this topic in far more detail. Please click here to read “Optimizing your Customer Acquisition Funnel“.
No matter whether you are Cisco, Oracle, Microsoft or Google, there will be blockage points in your sales cycle. As soon as you fix one area, they will simply move to another area. This section will help you identify where your blockage points are and provide a powerful methodology for solving them.
Identifying your Blockage Points
Most sales and marketing execs will have an intuitive grasp of the areas where their sales cycle bogs down. However if you are not sure of these, an easy way to identify your major blockage points is to ask yourself the following questions:
- Where in our process do we have conversion rates that are lower than we would like?
- If you had to quadruple sales in the next six months, what would stop you from accomplishing that?
The second question will make it clear where your process has scaling problems. It is likely that you will hear things like: not enough leads to feed the process; would not be able to handle that number of on-site PoCs (proof-of-concept trials); etc.
Identifying these is the easy part. Now comes the harder part…
Solving Blockage Points
In my experience, most blockage points are caused because the customer is not interested or motivated to do what you want them to do as the next step in your sales cycle. This comes from designing a process from the your point of view instead of from the customer’s. The solution to these blockage points comes by building a sales process that is truly customer centric. This can be done by simply studying your customers’ concerns and motivations at each stage in the sales cycles, and making sure that your sales process addresses their concerns, and ensures that there is a good alignment between what motivates them, and what you are wanting them to do next in the sales cycle.
Sounds simple, and the good news is that it actually is simple.
To help you with this stage, I recommend looking at each phase in the cycle where you have a problem, and following these four steps:
- List their Concerns
- List their Motivations
- List the Tools that you could use to solve their concerns and align your process with their motivations.
- Experiment with different motivational tools, and track the different conversion results
The best way to give you a feeling for this is to provide an example. Let’s take the problem of how to get visitors to your web site to register and give you their contact information:
- Don’t want to be on yet another spam mailing list
- Don’t want to be bothered by sales people following up
- Interested in education around this particular space
- Interested in learning more about your product/service
Tools available to address concerns and motivations
- Offer something of considerable value to them after they have registered. The value of what you offer has to provide motivation that considerably outweighs their concerns.
- Consider not asking them for their registration information until very much later in the process when they are more committed, or when you have already proven value to them. For example, let them download a free trial to your product, and after they have downloaded it, ask them for their contact information to activate the trial.
A/B Testing and experimentation
With something as important as visitor registration, it is very important to optimize the converstion rate. You are likely to find that you will trade off between more customers registering, but fewer overall trials if you place registration as an early requirement. Or you could opt to get more trials, but fewer customers registering because you placed registration later and/or made it more optional. To find out which of these trade-offs results in more overall conversions to the next stage after trials, I recommend using A/B testing, where you try both options out in parallel, dividing half the site visitors to go through on path, and the other half through the second route.
I also recommend similar types of experimentation with different motivational elements for other parts of your sales cycle, and then tracking conversion rates to find the ones that work best.
Example 2, Webinar Invite
Let’s look at another example: how can you get people on your house mailing list to come to a webinar. When they consider your invitation, here are their concerns and motivations:
- Don’t want to waste their valuable time
- Concerned they will hear a sales pitch
- Concerned that it will be boring and not cover information that is valuable to them
- Don’t trust vendors in general as a source of information
- Are interested in finding a solution to their very specific problems
- Are interested in learning more from high quality educational source
- Trust well known industry luminaries in their sector
- Trust other customers with names they recognize
Tools available to address concerns and motivations
- Stress that the webinar is educational and will contain no sales pitch
- Use an industry luminary and/or a customer to deliver the pitch
- Use customer testimonials on the value they saw in the webinar as part of your invite
- Offer them something of value in return for their time and attention. This could be a free trial copy of your product, or something as simple as raffling an iPhone at the end of the webinar. In general, I am personally more in favor of the motivational give away being something that is directly related to your business such as free software, than the iPhone type giveaway. You are more likely to attract serious buyers, than freebie hunters.