Last year I posted about the 5 Minute Inbound Marketing Sales Call. I was talking about the goal of reducing the final closing sales call to 5 minutes, which is possible if you have discussed and satisfied every customer requirement well in advance. Of course, the entire sales cycle is usually much longer, depending on the complexity and cost of the item(s) being sold. The question remains - how can you minimize the time between initial contact or web visit and final sale? Here are my top three tips for doing exactly that.
The first step in shortening your sales cycle is filling your sales funnel with qualified sales leads. The word "qualified" here means more than your prospect's ability to pay for your product or service. The qualified lead is a good fit in terms of need as well as budget. In other words, your widget solves their problem and is likely to be their first choice in terms of value. Now think about how to convince them of your unique value proposition (UVP or WIIFM - What's In It For Me). Develop clear, crisp, concise content to communicate your UVP and place it everywhere - on your website, social media profiles, blog posts, calls to action and landing pages for lead generation content. Optimize your content for search engines with keywords and meta descriptions that are relevant to your primary sales messaging.
You must determine who is most likely to research your products/services and who is most likely to pull the trigger on a purchase decision. In B2B, this could be one person or a team, depending on the size company you are targeting. You need to address as many different customer personas as are likely to be involved in the evaluation and buy cycle. For example, a mid-market company might have committee appointed to evaluate SaaS project management software and present recommendations to the C-Suite for a final decision. In B2C, the evaluator and decision makers are usually the same person
Your top-of-the-funnel content should be aimed at the evaluators. In B2B, think about white papers, ebooks and webinars that address the high level criteria they are likely to select for evaluation, for example functionality, ease-of-use and cost. It's as if you are making a presentation directly to the committee. In the B2C space, it's critical to publish customer ratings and reviews in a completely transparent way. If all of your ratings are 5 stars with glowing reviews, most people will suspect that you are "filtering" the data.
Your middle-funnel (lead nurturing) content should address second level questions they are likely to ask, such as integration with existing systems or customization via API. In most cases, this is where a limited free trial plays a key role, but make sure that your trial is accompanied by direct contact from one of your sales reps to nurture along the prospect towards a sale at trial end.
Your bottom funnel content should be aimed at the final review and decision makers. What's the value of your solution in terms of cost, productivity and other benefits? These are the ultimate questions the C-Suite will ask, so arm your evaluators with facts and comparisons to help them decide.
A core strategy here is to send this information directly to the committee members as they interact with your website using behavior driven lead nurturing. For example, if a committee member downloads a mid-funnel ebook, then proceeds to your pricing and support pages, reach out to them immediately with supporting materials via e-mail or an inside sales call to answer any questions they may have.
One often overlooked strategy is to prepare your potential customers for the sales cycle. Think about the qualifying questions you will ask in the first sales call to identify needs and "fit" for your solution. Why wait until the first sales call? Present your questions in web pages and blog posts so that your prospects can think about them in advance. Teach your leads how to become your customers. Let them know who you are looking for as an ideal end user and how the sales process will go if they choose to take the next step. This eliminates surprises and paves the way for a successful initial call and ongoing follow-ups. The net effect is to pre-qualify your sales leads and so avoid tire kickers and foot-draggers.
A Few Obvious Fundamentals to Help You Shorten the Sales Cycle
I hope these tips help you to close more deals and use inbound marketing to shorten the cycle. Please share your tips in the comments below.
Photo credit: cielokatie
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