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If you want to be effective with your sales and marketing, you need a system.
A system is simply several parts that work together – each piece in the system leads logically to the next step.
You may have heard this described as a sales funnel or a pipeline. It works similar to how you set up a line of dominoes one after another. You tip the first one and it bumps into the next one, tipping it into the next and creating a chain reaction.
That’s how you want your sales and marketing system to work.
Contrary to what you may have heard from other people – you don’t need to be pushy or psychologically manipulative for this to work. You just need to make it easy for people to buy from you. You do that by matching your sales process to your potential client’s buying process (AIDA)
There are 4 stages buyers go through while making a purchasing decision:
- Attention: the point where the purchaser first learns about or discovers that there is something to buy.
- Interest: this is the curiosity stage. They want to learn more, they have questions. Lots of things can capture someone’s attention on any given day, but they’re only interested in some of them.
- Desire: when the buyer shifts from mere curiosity to a feeling of wanting what is on offer. They can start to see themselves owning the item or experiencing the service.
- Action: the final stage where the credit card comes out. And once again, people can want things, but still not purchase them.
(For a more detailed description of this process, see this post: Sell more by understanding how buyers buy.)
Your job – as the sales and marketing department for your business – is to provide the right information and the right invitations for each step of this purchasing journey.
When you do this well, you’re working in lockstep with your potential client. You’re not getting ahead of them and you’re not lagging behind. You’re just doing the right thing at the right time and everything flows.
There are 3 stages to this sales and marketing system.
1. Creating awareness
This stage matches up with the Attention stage from the buyer’s perspective. You’re letting people know that you exist. The goal here is to attract the attention of strangers who need your services.
In this stage, you’re doing what we primarily think of as marketing activities:
- Prospecting: directly approaching potential clients. You can do this by attending events, making phone calls, sending direct mail or email or reaching out over social media.
- Networking: meeting potential clients through other people. You do this through building relationships. Anyone you meet (or already know) is a networking contact. This includes your colleagues, your friends, family and neighbours. There are business networking groups and events that are facilitated to help you form these relationships.
- Advertising: paying to get your message out there. This includes traditional ways such as newspaper, radio, TV, billboards, bus benches. You can also advertise online by paying to be promoted in someone’s newsletter or sponsoring someone’s podcast. You can also buy pay per click advertising on Google or on social media networks like Facebook.
- Content Marketing: sharing helpful information. Content marketing includes writing blog posts or articles, creating videos or podcasts and teaching via webinar. Your content gets in front of “new strangers” when people share it on social media or potential clients find it through a search.
- Social Media. This isn’t a method of creating awareness as much as it’s a means to do all of the previous methods. You can prospect through social media by reaching out to people, you can use social media to nurture relationships, you can advertise on social media – and social media is a great place to share the content you’ve created.
Once you’ve captured your prospective client’s attention through one of these methods, the next step is to extend an invitation for them to take the next step. This might mean inviting them to sign up for a free report or video, to come to a webinar or workshop – or to have coffee or a phone call with you.
2. Informing, Educating and Nurturing
This stage matches up with both the Interest and Desire stages from the buyer’s perspective. They have questions – you have answers. (For a great case study, see this New York Times article: A Revolutionary Marketing Strategy: Answer Customers’ Questions)
Your goal here is to be helpful – and to stay in touch while they move through the buying stages.
You do this by answering their questions, addressing their concerns and demonstrating that you can help them…by actually helping them!
When you make your money by providing professional services, you can afford to be generous with information and advice.
Here are some ways you can inform and educate:
- Your Website. This is your most valuable sales and marketing asset. It has unlimited space to expand, it provides your “virtual storefront” – it makes a service based business (especially one that you run out of your home – or online over the internet) – seem legit. It’s also the place where people expect to find information about your services when they research potential service providers.
- Writing blogs and articles. In addition to being helpful pieces of information that get you noticed through sharing and searches, these do double duty by also giving you a chance to educate your potential clients. They also add to the content on your website – making your site more helpful for potential clients and more attractive to search engines.
- Producing videos or podcasts. This is another way to provide information and education. By giving your information in visual or audio format, you can reach the folks who prefer that to reading. If you want to be efficient – you can reuse the same content for each format.
- Speaking to groups or teaching live seminars or workshops. Standing up in front of a group and sharing your expertise is a great way to build authority. People assume that if you’re teaching on your area of expertise, then you must know your stuff! This is an efficient way to reach multiple people. Note that in this instance, I’m referring to teaching or speaking either for free for for a low cost. If you’re charging a hefty fee, this activity becomes the end product as opposed to a method of marketing.
- Delivering webinars or teleclasses. Teleclasses are very easy to do technically – all you need is a free bridge line and people dial in to listen to your presentation. You can even record your class. With a webinar, you also get to appear on camera or show a slide deck. You can also record your webinar to create a video. Both formats also allow for interaction so that your participants can ask questions or participate in activities.
- Creating printed materials. These include brochures, in depth documents like white papers…even an entire book.
- Having a conversation. Meeting for coffee or having a phone call. Keep in mind that this is not a “sales call” – it’s a chance to educate and demonstrate your expertise. In the early days, I built my business this way – basically giving away free consulting sessions. Once people recognized how I could help them, they were much more likely to sign up for a coaching program or mastermind group.
- Keeping in touch. Don’t let potential clients fall through the cracks! They may not be ready to buy yet – or they don’t know, like and trust you enough to say yes yet. You can keep in touch by sending a regular newsletter, greeting cards in the mail, connecting through social media – or even picking up the phone to say hello periodically.
- Checking in. This is getting in touch with former clients to see how they’re doing. This is a personal touch – not a newsletter that goes to everyone. Checking in is an extension of good customer service and often leads to repeat business or referrals.
To make these work effectively in your sales and marketing system, you’ll need to include another invitation to either bridge to the next step (learning more about the specific services you offer – agreeing to a sales conversation or visiting a sales page on your website) or opting in to receive more content from you (signing up for your email list.)
3. Enabling the purchase
This stage lines up with the Desire and Action stages from the buyer’s perspective. They are either very interested or already know that they want to buy from you.
Your goal in this stage is NOT to “get them to buy no matter what.”
Your goal is to help them (and you) decide whether or not working together is the right decision.
Approaching this stage from that perspective takes a lot of the pressure off. You’re not trying to convince or persuade, you’re simply checking to see if it’s a good fit.
There are 3 primary ways to do this:
- A sales page and/or video on your website. This can often be adequate for selling lower priced products or services – workshops or online classes, or introductory service packages. On your sales page (or in your video) – you spell out exactly what they’ll get, how it will help them and what it costs along with a “buy now” button. Although a sales page usually isn’t adequate for selling expensive and/or customized services – it can do a lot of the “heavy lifting” before you meet in person or over the phone.
- A sales presentation. Delivering your pitch to a group when there are multiple buyers – a common occurrence when you work with larger businesses. You can also do a sales presentation after a live speaking event or webinar.
- A sales conversation. Meeting 1:1 either in person, over the phone or over a video conferencing service.
Assuming that it’s a “fit” for you to work together, your invitation here is to invite them to work with you. It’s the Buy Now button on your sales page, the “fill out the order form” when speaking to a large group and the “are you ready to get started?” question when talking to a single person or small group of decision makers.
Ideally, your prospective client will say yes. In the real world, they often say something more like maybe or not yet. They may need time to think, organize their finances or check in with someone else before confirming. In this case, you’ll want to arrange to follow up at a mutually agreed time to find out their decision.
As you can see, this system is simple – one logical step after the next. In order for it to work effectively, each piece needs to be in place (you can’t skip any of the stages) and it needs to be effective – which is primarily a matter of getting the format and messaging right.
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