There's a widening gap between the way prospects buy, and companies sell. Prospects are using Internet research to self-educate through the first two-thirds of the sales process, but the majority of corporate websites and marketing strategies are entirely focused on the late stages of the sales cycle. Unfortunately, this approach puts companies at a huge disadvantage.
Read more to find out how to position your website and marketing strategies so you can engage prospects as early as possible in the sales cycle, have more influence over their buying decision, and get on their short list of potential vendors.
How the Sales Process Has Changed
Back in the "old days," prospects didn't have access to so much information. They couldn't just go online to get real-time industry information or visit corporate websites and learn about what potential vendors have to offer. Prospects had to engage salespeople early in the sales cycle to get the information they needed. This gave salespeople an opportunity to build a relationship early on and have more influence over the decision making process.
Nowadays, prospects are forming opinions about what type of solutions they need and who can help them through their own research. When they finally talk to a salesperson, they already have preconceived notions, which can be very hard to overcome.
Common Website Mistake Most Companies Make
In the early stages of the sales cycle, prospects are starting to feel uncomfortable about something. They're realizing that something isn't right or how they would prefer it to be. Prospects at this stage are at a heightened state of awareness and are more likely to click on or read any information that addresses their budding concerns.
Most website and marketing messaging is focused on "contacting" the company in some way. Common late sales cycle call-to-actions include things like: Call us! Start a Trial! Schedule a Demo! Get a Discount! Request a Quote! This approach is a very good way to capture prospects in the latter stages of the sales cycle, but what about the prospects who aren't ready for a sales conversation yet? They're looking for information about their problem and how to solve it, not a sales pitch.
Providing content for prospects in the early stages of the sales cycle gives you an opportunity to have some influence on their thought process and differentiate from the competition. You begin establishing credibility and trust so that when they develop their short list of potential vendors, your company is at the top.
3 Requirements for Early Sales Engagement
There are 3 critical strategies companies can use to engage with prospects early in the sales cycle and get on their short list of potential vendors.
1. Implement Strategies to Get Found Online
First, prospects have to find your company online. That means that if you're not doing all of the things required to rank for key terms and phrases on Google or leveraging digital promotional strategies such as blogging, email marketing, and social media, you're greatly reducing - if not completely eliminating - your chances of getting found. And obviously, if you aren't found, you don't have a prospect to sell to.
2. Offer the Right Type of Content
Second, if a prospect comes to your website but can't find the information they're looking for or that catches their attention, they'll quickly leave and continue their research elsewhere.
The key is to deeply consider the thoughts, questions, emotions and concerns prospects go through as they start to realize they have a problem that needs to be addressed. Then create articles, ebooks, guides, how-to's, research & data, etc. that addresses those concerns. Developing well-defined buyer personas will help you get into the mind of your prospects.
3. Create a Positive Website User Experience
Third, if prospects do find you online, they're making split-second judgments about your capabilities based on their experience on your website. If your website is poorly designed, dated, unorganized, confusing, or cluttered, that reflects negatively on your company. Your online presence is a reflection of the quality and care you put into your offering and customer service.
Bottom line is that prospects are much more educated today prior to active sales engagement - and the company that is educating them and has the best website user experience has the advantage.