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Prospects Take Themselves Through 60% of the Sales Journey

Customers of all types have an unbelievable amount of information with which to use to decide if they want to buy your product – and all without ever having to talk to your sales staff.  In fact, their typical disdain for interacting with sales people is part of what drives this behavior.  The other parts are efficiency (at least they assume it will be more efficient) and the opportunity to get more educated before making a decision.  So what can you do about this phenomenon?  Let’s explore.

The graphic below describes the typical journey taken by one of your target prospects.  They first have to discover you, then they consider what you have to offer and ultimately make a purchase decision.  For each major possible customer acquisition strategy you might deploy there is a different level of willingness and potential for the prospect to take themselves through the journey without your interaction.

Sales Journey - Prospects Take Themselves graphic

For downloadable e-commerce offerings or anything that allows a self-service method of customer acquisition, prospects take themselves through 100% of the sales journey.  But even for moderately complicated offerings that require some level of sales assistance or “touch” by the vendor, prospects often take themselves through 60% or more of the journey.

Although this might sound threatening and risky, if you do things right it can actually be a really good thing.  After all, sales-related resources are often the most expensive of any company function.  So deploying them against a reduced portion of the customer lifecycle journey and precisely when prospects are ready for them is a key way of optimizing your customer acquisition cost or CAC (see related article titled “Visualizing the Interactions Between CAC, Churn and LTV“).

So what do I mean by “doing things right”?  Basically, your website (or app store posting) and related tools/resources for prospects must adhere to the following two principals:

  • Speak directly to a specific buyer persona – namely, the one(s) you have identified as ideal for your offering
  • Support the concept of nurturing – nudging the prospect from early to mid to late stages of the consideration cycle

If you aren’t familiar with buyer personas or nurturing, do a little research and prepare to be enlightened.  If you don’t follow the above principals, viable prospects are highly likely to bail out and never come back.

For more information and specific recommendations on website effectiveness, see my related article titled  “Is Your Website Enabling Sales?“.  And if you happen to offer a free trial to prospects, don’t just let it run the full 30 days and then see if the prospect converts at the end.  That’s “old school”.  There are so many ways to instrument your website and your software solution itself to effectively “nurture” the prospect during the trial (see related article titled “Optimize Free Trial Conversions via Nurturing“).

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