5 Stages of the New Sales Cycle

Generating and converting leads is mostly what marketing is about. Creating happy customers is mostly what generates long-term profit.

koocbor via Flickr

In this pursuit, marketers have long realized there is a definite cycle that must occur in most businesses in order to get a prospect’s interest and then turn that interest into dollars.

Many businesses have differing cycles depending upon the complexity or cost of the purchase being considered. Some have cycles that are triggered by events, such as the birth of a child or start of a business.

The sales cycle, like most every other aspect of marketing, has been impacted dramatically by the Internet, the content and information glut and a prospect’s ability to block uninvited messages.

Today’s sales cycle contains distinct segments and smart marketers understand they must build new touchpoints, content and processes to address the logical progression of prospect to raving fan in order to compete in today’s world.

Below are the 5 stages in the new sales cycle.

Listen – The very first stage of the sales cycle today involves intent listening. Prospects today serve up a buffet of information via social media and we can gain incredible access to their challenges, requests, chain of command and recent changes – basically a selling road map – if we only listen.

Sparkle – Nobody talks about boring businesses. To create awareness these days you must communicate a clear difference, create content people readily choose to share and actively participate in dozens of outposts frequented by your ideal prospects. Getting noticed these days is less about shouting and more about sparkling.

Educate – One awareness is created we must build trust for our products, services, solutions and expertise. Again, content – both in the form of written word and spoken teaching is what sells.

Convert – Lead conversion, or what most small businesses still refer to as selling, is a profoundly changed activity in this model. If the sales cycle has been followed to this point, there is very little selling that remains. The job here is to make sure the prospect can see how they can get the desired results with your solution. This is still an education and content play, but now it’s all about showing proof and forecasting results in your system or process.

Listen – The final stage of the sales process is a return to listening – but now we are listening to a customer. We are listening for what works, what doesn’t, how to get better results, how to measure results, how to engage them further and how to turn a thrilled customer into a highly active referral source.

A happy customer is the most powerful lead generation tool in the new marketer’s tool chest and creates the kind of business building momentum that makes this a pretty simple game.

The Elements of a Fully Alive Business

Businesses aren’t really that complex if you stop to think about it. In fact, life at its most elemental level isn’t really that complex.

Brandon Stafford via Flickr

Anyone that’s finished the first year of high school has likely been introduced to the fact that the whole of existence is some combination of just 118 known elements. Every tree, rock, animal and, to the same degree, business is made up of surprisingly few of these elements.

I don’t state this fact as a way to launch into a lesson on quantum physics, rather, I state this fact as a way to simplify the view of what a business really is and does. If we can break down these elements and understand how our every action either feeds them or dulls them, we can begin to understand how to grow and nurture a fully alive business with ever decision.

Perhaps at this point it would make sense to describe what a fully alive business looks and feels like. I could attempt to describe my favorite bistro, with the long hand hewn wooden community tables and slow, simple way the servers go about explaining the local ingredients that make up the meal. Or I could try to explain the anticipation in the eyes of a craftsman as he explains the process of unearthing the purpose of a slab of maple. I could even explain the simple joy I get when I go online and execute a transaction with flawless, yet simple grace and elegance.

The thing is, these would simply be my experiences of something fully alive. In fact, I don’t know that I even recognize these things as alive precisely as they occur, but later, just now, they make me smile to think about them – and as business owners that’s what we must try to recognize and unearth in our own experiences.

The patterns and relationship of elements, like culture and customer, are unique to each and every business. While all businesses originate of the same handful of elements, it’s these blendings, the things that either make us smile or don’t, that create an infinite number of combinations and lead to the fact that every business is unique in some fashion or another.

It is the relationship between these elements and the day-to-day patterns of repeated actions that make up the entirety of a business. Just as our day to day patterns eventually make up the whole of our life. Our getting up, eating, going to work, interacting with people, fixing dinner, and going to bed are the events our of aliveness.

In order to bring a business to life fully, we need concentrate attention on the quality of events in only three areas of a business: strategy, culture and customer.

Focus on creating patterns, events and actions that make people smile in these three areas, bring the people that engage with your business to life in these three areas and to that extent, your business will come alive.

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