Sales cycles have three primary elements: the product, the sales team and the customer. Two of these elements we have direct control over. The third element, the customer, we do not control. How we manage the the product and the sales team directly impacts how the customer sees the product as a solution to their issues and your company’s ability to help them address those issues.
A Forbes study suggests that 60 percent or more of the sales process is complete prior to the prospect engaging with a sales rep.
In this blog, we will take a look at how we manage the product to drive timely customer service, effective education of the customer in the use and benefits of the product and to instill customer confidence in the product and our ability to help them achieve success.
Managing the product in the context of the sales cycle starts with how the product is presented to the customer. The sales process frequently starts before the presence of the prospect is even known. A Forbes study suggests that 60 percent or more of the sales process is complete prior to the prospect engaging with a sales rep.
Reduce Time-to-Quote in the Sales Cycle
Online assets that offer educational information about the product must be positioned in a manner that makes them easy to find and quickly identifiable by prospects as potential solutions to their specific needs. Prospects will spend considerable time researching product alternatives and background information on how other businesses have successfully addressed the issues confronting them.
The ability to quickly position the product in the customer’s eyes as a solution is a critical first step in reducing time to quote in the sales cycle. While this may seem simplistic, it is not.
Customer Communication Builds Trust and Confidence
Complex products, those with the potential to serve multiple needs and to address multiple pains, may be marvelous in their flexibility, but they are challenging in terms of the presentation of a multitude of specific configurations that address individual specialized needs. Prospects are not able to simply intuit whatever power a product may possess in one configuration versus another.
Customers can only gain this knowledge through some level of interactive communication. This communication can occur either via an interactive prospect portal or via a sales rep interview.
In either case, the process must be driven by the logical progression of knowledge delivered as the prospect shares information regarding their specific needs and requirements. The result of this interaction is a clearer vision of the product offered in light of the clearer understanding of the needs and requirements of the prospect.
This requires an initial amount of customer trust and confidence. The interactive process should grow the trust and confidence between the customer and the vendor. Customers value resources reflecting authentic vendor concern, such as assets and personnel empowered with decision making or decision supporting capabilities.
They look for resources offering ease of access and demonstrating a willingness to solve problems for the customer. Corp! Magazine cites these three factors in a recent piece about how customer confidence can be built—the level of confidence required to share the information needed to move the sales process forward.
Buyers Use Digital Tools to do Product Research
The ability to achieve this informational exchange in an easy-to-use, low-risk environment is essential. For the customer or prospect, the preferable path to this understanding is through the use of digital tools that are accessible in an online environment. The customer is not so much unwilling to speak with a human sales rep, they are more comfortable doing so when they have a more fully formed idea about the product and its use as a solution to their own issues.
The customer wants to feel some level of confidence in their own understanding of the product and how it will address their needs. They will still have questions, including, “how much does it cost?” They will want to gain confirmation from direct interaction with the sales rep, but they do not want to rely on the sales rep in the early stage sales cycle as a primary educational resource.
Informed Buyers Shorten Sales Cycles
Using technology to help the customer through the early stage sales cycle by providing relevant, useful and accurate information about the product will instill confidence in the customer about the product and about the company offering the product. This positive buyer experience will speed the time-to-quote conversation by accelerating the acquisition of useful product knowledge.