The best things in life take time. Keep that in mind, trusted advisor, because patience is needed for each of the three phases of the buyer journey: awareness, consideration, and decision. Your best practice as an organization is to understand these three phases and where your prospects are on the journey. Tracking this will help you move the buyer from "awareness" to "consideration" to "decision." Again, patience is the key word here: Stepping up a lead from awareness to consideration, for example, can take months, if not years. But often it’s time well spent, because, for one thing, if an urgent need arises for the prospect, you could be at the top of their list.
In the awareness phase, the prospect, or lead, knows they have a need that requires filling, and shops around for a product or service that works as a viable solution for what it is they lack.
Know that at this stage you may be invisible to the lead, particularly a cold, outbound lead. The field of sales is a crowded one, so you’re nobody till somebody comes along. And actually, that’s not even necessarily true, because not all inbound leads have a complete understanding of who you are and what you offer either. You don’t have to make a desperado of yourself by parachuting past the lead’s conference room windows in a bear costume to get noticed, you just need to be strategic about it. Once you’ve identified what phase of the buyer journey the lead is on, make yourself known through educational content or other forms of media, which could include case studies, white papers, blogs, analyst reports, ebooks, or videos.
Or perhaps you have another mode for educating your prospects. Whatever it is, it’s important to consider how you use it. It will provide the lead with the necessary clarity to see who you are and what you have to offer that will be a value add to their business. Often an organization does this through their marketing team—professionals in the art of wooing via things like targeted offers and email campaigns.
Your prospect is in the consideration phase when they express interest in your products and services. At this point, they start weighing their options and narrowing their choices, comparing vendors, etc. The world of choices get smaller for them. Be prepared: At this stage, too, they will likely want to schedule things like project demos and consultations.
Now’s the time to look at your history and examine what’s worked well and what’s flopped regarding previous communications with leads. Which types of messaging have your leads responded to positively? Also, help the lead hone in on their decision by presenting them with relevant content. If and when they request a meeting, encourage the prospect to invite everyone at the decision-making level at the company, including upper management. It will save you and the prospect time, money, and energy if you get as many stakeholders to the party at the same time.
Subsequent to meeting with you and hearing/seeing your presentation, the lead will typically take the time to mull over their options, and then do another round of narrowing the field. This is your opportunity to stand out by using social proof to make the case for your solution, and the time to demonstrate, without being a negative Nelly, the adverse impact on the prospect if they make a choice that doesn’t adequately fill their need. Things like testimonials, relevant examples and, yes, even references from your satisfied customers—especially those with a similar business model—could all earn you more checkmarks in the prospect’s yes column during the consideration phase.
Lastly, dear trusted advisor, you need to be the one to move the process along in the final stage—"decision." Once you're certain the prospect has all the information they require, point out the progress you've made during the sales discovery phase and attempt to get a commitment from the prospect. Be strategic about it, but definitely ask if they’re good with moving ahead with your solution. Don’t assume that the prospect will ask you if you want to move it along; most often, that ain’t gonna happen. They’re being courted, so they expect you to pop the question. Don’t rush it, of course, but when you’re confident that the prospect is hip to your expertise and satisfied with your presentation, get down on one knee and hold back your tears of joy. It’s time!
To repeat, a lead is not going to sit down at your table right from the start. In the test kitchen of business, the buyer journey is at times, a slow-cooked meal. Throughout it, make sure to stay engaged with the prospect and always be on hand to help along their process. Listen actively as they outline their problem. Gain their trust by fashioning a solution that perfectly fits their needs. In your planning, know their pain points and choose the right benefits to alleviate those. Asking and getting answers to the right open- and close-ended questions will help win over the prospect in the "decision" stage. Once you’re there and get the business, all that invested time will have been well worth the wait.