“It’s all about timing. If it’s too soon, no one understands. If it’s too late, everyone’s forgotten.” — Anna Wintour
How true is that quote, especially in the world of B2B sales?
Timing is an integral part of so many things in the world.
A joke told with poor timing isn’t funny, a lesson taught at the wrong time won’t be learned, and a pitch made at the wrong stage of the buying cycle won’t get closed.
It can be hard to gauge whether a lead is ready for the next stage of contact and content, but the better we reps are at tuning in; the more sales we make.
Developing that content, writing the copy of your email, and even the subject line all require knowledge of where the prospect currently sits with you and your brand. Too soon and you risk alienating them. Too late and you risk annoying them.
Segmentation inside of email marketing and customer relationship software has gone a long way toward getting the right emails in the hands of the right lead, but what about the calls and other interactions that you may have with potential buyers?
You have to find out the stages of the buying cycle and measure leads accordingly. That’s what we aim to help with in this post.
Here are the five stages that are mentioned in the book Predictable Prospecting with a bit more focus on the top-of-funnel.
Before You Begin
The most important thing for you to understand before developing any email or pitch for your prospects is to fully realize the problem you’re solving and the pain it causes your ideal buyers. If you can’t convey their feelings well, they won’t listen at any stage.
Find the root cause of their discomfort by asking yourself (and existing customers) real questions about the issues prospects face.
Stage One: Unaware
Unaware means completely so. The coldest of cold leads. Not just of you, your brand, and products but of the very problem and pains you hope to solve for the lead.
Not only is the lead unaware, but you share in their lack of knowledge. In this stage, it’s unclear as to who the decision makers and influencers are. You could have two or more people who fit into one or more of your buyer personas and ideal prospect profiles.
Armed with this information, you can adjust and reach out in the appropriate manner. Here are a few ways to do just that.
- Intraday Emailing: Since you are likely starting out with a few potential names, it’s time to get emailing. Pick the three most likely decision makers and email each (same day) asking for the right person to speak with. It improves the likelihood of response drastically.
- Intraday Calling: Much like emailing, calling can be a powerful way to generate watercooler buzz about your brand. Exercise proper etiquette and make sure to mention the others that you’ll be calling/ have called to help your efforts. “Name dropping” can often get others to open up a bit more.
- Appropriate Cold Email/Calling Cadence: Once you know who you’re targeting (and their influencers), it’s time to start implementing your cold outreach plan. Typically, these are one or two week sprints of attempting to get in direct contact with the decision maker, but that could be a post unto itself.
The goal is to make them aware of their problem and your solutions. Doing so advances them at least one stage into the buying process.
Stage Two: Aware
In stage two, the prospect is (minimally) aware of both their problem and your company/products.
The next stage is ‘interested’ which should help you identify leads that skipped this stage altogether.
A lead is “Aware” if they:
- Understand who you are and what you offer.
- At least partially understand the benefits of the product(s).
- Don’t seem interested in buying yet.
In some cases, when they express that they are happy with a current solution you may want to disqualify them. However, in most cases you are ready to get them interested by completely expressing the pain and solution you offer. Once they want more information, they move on.
Stage Three: Interested
Once the lead is beginning to grasp the problems they face and the opportunity of a solution, they become interested. Still, the information isn’t complete and the process of making a decision hasn’t started yet.
A lead is “Interested” when they do any of the following:
- Express interest and desire to find out more.
- Respond to emails/calls where you offer resources.
- Actively seeks information (visits website and downloads or subscribes).
Once you get here, it’s an immediate jump to stage four. Stage three only lasts an instant. Once more detailed information is being consumed they make the leap to evaluation.
Stage Four: Evaluation
Often the longest stage of the process and the least reliant on direct contact. Leads now want to fully examine their problem, how severe the need of a solution is, and the best solution for the problem.
People are naturally risk-averse and will want to research a matter until they reach a certain comfort level. There is no gauge on how long this is and it’s getting longer as more information is openly available for everything online.
A lead is in the evaluation stage when they are actively researching.
Tips for moving the process along:
- Be available but not annoying.
- Provide resources and demos.
- Send unbiased third-party data (if you are the best).
This stage ends with a decision. A lead can decide to not buy, to make a purchase, or even build an in-house solution.
Step Five: Purchase
At this stage, it’s obvious that you’ve made a sale. Congratulations!
However, it’s really just the beginning in certain ways. You see, the biggest thing that brands (and reps) can do at this stage is ensure that your customer has a positive first experience with your products.
Too often, sales pros move on to the next call without ensuring that new clients are set up for success. Doing so potentially hurts the image of your company and holds you back from referrals and upsells down the road.
Once a lead becomes a client they immediately advance to the post-purchase stage.
Bonus Stage: Post-Purchase
Post-purchase isn’t really a “bonus”, but rather a really important part of the process to understand. Once a lead has enough information and makes the purchase, it really puts them back at stage zero. Now they have the product “hands-on” and need to make the most of it.
Leads at this stage are:
- Figuring the product out and applying it to their responsibilities.
- Calculating the return on their investment in terms of time and dollars.
- Looking at any and all information (tutorials, tips) to get the most of the purchase.
Don’t Just Know, Understand
With these six stages, you have the knowledge to identify where your leads are in the buying cycle. However, unless you use this intel to develop content and strategies to reach them where they are—it’s useless.
Compare their newfound position with your buyer personas to say just the right thing at the right time and move leads down funnel.