How to Perfect the Customer-centric Sales Funnel
Today, companies struggle to gain and retain customers. In times of cut-throat competition, the importance of efficient sales funnels cannot be disputed. For the uninitiated, a sales funnel is the journey that your customers take towards buying your product or service. Funnels that are not designed with the customer at center will always fail to deliver. The funnel has to be just right. To do this, it is crucial to design a sales funnel that is buyer-centric (check out David Skok’s presentation on ForEntrepreneurs). To do that we first need to have a look at the various components of a buyer’s journey and understand them well.
A Buyer’s Journey: An Overview
The buyer’s journey can be broken down into four stages:
Knowing where a customer is in the journey is necessary to responding to customer needs. Sales teams often engage customers as if they are in the purchase stage, posing a problem for many companies.
Sizing up the Role of Sales in the Journey
The purchasing phase accounts for only 5% of website visitors. Whereas the awareness phase accounts for 85% and the consideration phase accounts for the remaining 10%. That means that 95% of the buyer’s journey needs to be driven without traditional sales tactics. Customers spend 85% of their time seeking information to better understand and identify the problem they are having and an additional 10% exploring product solutions. A customer-centric funnel must be built on beautiful and compelling content that helps customers understand the problem and solutions.
The Awareness Phase
In the awareness phase, customers are exploring and beginning to define their problem. Since most potential customers are in this phase, it is important to design content that creates more awareness of problems and the solutions that have been brought to bear on them, including the benefits of those solutions. In the awareness phase, it is unwise to mention your own products. It is a definite faux pas to attempt to sell at this stage; it says to your customers that you don’t care to understand them.
The Evaluation Phase
At this stage, potential customers understand their problem and potential solutions to start considering your product or service. This is where you can provide some information about the product, as well as offer a free demo. Including successful case studies and testimonials can also help direct them towards the purchase stage. Here is where your product should shine and show customers just what it can do for them.
The Purchase Phase
The third stage of the funnel is the purchase phase. This is the stage in which your sales team can start approaching the leads and pitch your product or service. Potential customers who have reached this stage not only have a better understanding of their concerns but also know how your product specifically can help them.
The Delight Phase
The delight phase is the final phase of the journey. The work doesn’t stop after a lead has been converted into a customer. This is the stage in which you need to demonstrate your commitment. Increased customer retention boosts profits and happy customers make your job easier when it comes to up-selling and cross-selling. In the delight stage, provide engaging content and nurture the human-to-human customer relationship to ensure customer success.
Beyond the Sales Journey to Each Customer’s Journey
We now know that a single conception of the buyer’s journey is insufficient for developing customer-centric sales funnels. In part, this is because modern consumers, both B2C and B2B, expect personalization. They do not want to sift through irrelevant information or engage with salespeople who don’t get them. This is due to AI powered personalized recommendation engines (think Amazon recommendations and Netflix’s curations). Personalization can now go beyond segmentation and will measure actual individual and firm behaviors to make recommendations. Personalization can help in every step of a buyer’s journey. Fine-grained approaches are necessary because each customer’s is different. To do so, you need to understand your buyers.
Understanding Your Buyers to Design a New Funnel
If you don’t understand your potential customers, your sales funnel cannot be designed around them, their problems or their needs. The following questions can help you better understand your customers.
● Who are they? (What are their identifying characteristics?)
● What do they want to do? (What are their business goals?)
● What is motivating their goals? (What problems are they responding to?)
● What will help them meet those goals? (What exactly do they need?)
● Are they already looking for solutions? (What are they searching for?)
● Do they like your products? (Have they spent time learning about your products?)
● Is there any way you help them make a decision? (What is their propensity to buy?)
Obviously, answering these questions by hand will take a skilled market analyst. Thanks to automated data analysis, this is no longer a concern. After you establish your metrics, they can be updated in real-time in an easy-to-use dashboard. Now that you understand who your customers are, you can map the different stages of the funnel with precision. You can optimize our funnel to better suit each individual decision-making journey.
Let’s look at an example.
You consult your dashboard to find high propensity buyers. Company A looks like they are nearing a purchasing decision based upon their searches and visits to your sight. You can also see that ROI is a main concern of those searchers. On top of providing a free demo of our product, we can build in an ROI calculator into the website. If they are wondering about security aspects, or whether you are a trustworthy vendor, you can include pointers on third-party security audits, customer testimonials and case studies. Your aim throughout design and re-design processes must be to help the potential customers reach their ‘Wow moment’.
The Wow Moment
The Wow moment is defined as the one when a potential customer comes across something good enough to continue browsing (termed ‘Mini’ Wow) or to make a purchase (termed ‘Full’ Wow). As a product/service provider, it becomes important to figure out how quickly the customer can be moved to their Wow moment.
The following measures are crucial:
● Number of steps before achieving the Wow moment
● Time to reach a Wow moment
● Friction before reaching the Wow moment
Minimizing each of these factors is important for your sales funnel to be effective and successful.
Flipping the Funnel
The Traditional Funnel
The traditional sales funnel focuses on acquiring as many customers as possible. Effort is invested in acquiring customers and existing customers fall by the wayside. The traditional sales funnel starts off wide, acquiring as many leads as possible with marketing campaigns and other wide-reaching. The aim, at this point, is to push leads toward a purchase decision. Thereafter, the funnel starts getting slimmer as many leads ultimately decide to not become customers. Because of these drop-outs, effort and resources are wasted when they could have been utilized somewhere else. That is, to ensure existing customer retention.
Serving Existing Customers Well
Competition is getting fiercer every day. With so many options and so much information available to customers, it is hard to maintain a competitive edge. Companies are likely to run out of new people to reach, so then it becomes important to focus on the existing customers. Flipping the funnel means less focus on acquiring new customers and more on serving existing ones. In focusing your efforts on existing customers, you are more likely to boost customer satisfaction and grow customers who will advocate for your products, which will ultimately bring new customers at a low cost. Tools like AI assistants and social media monitoring can help you serve existing customers by following up post-sale or when you are mentioned on social media and review sites.
How to Flip the Funnel
The traditional sales funnel has been used by companies for years now and to change direction seems like a daunting task. However, if you decide to take this journey, the following tips can help you take the first steps:
1. Leverage Data
Look at your current marketing data to determine your average cost of acquisition, retention and referral acquisition. This can help you analyze how much of your business depends on the first-time customers and how much depends on the repeat customers. This will give you a better idea of how much are you making through a customer against the costs to acquire them.
2. Update your Customer Service
The concept of customer service has changed with the advent of social media. Brand feedback is readily available and out in the open for the world to see. If you ignore customers and they post their frustrations, it causes irreparable harm to your brand’s image.
Companies need to have 24/7 customer support. A great way to accomplish this without breaking the bank is with AI assistants. They must also monitor social media for concerns their customers may have, which can be automated with AI tools as well. Updated customer service has a strong positive effect on customer experience, driving repeat orders and referrals.
3. Identify Influencers
Some consumers of your product or service have enough influence over the masses to either make or break your brand. It is important to identify such influencers from among your customers and treat them well. Don’t forget to also monitor social media references to identify mentions by individuals with large followings. You could as well collect information during customer service chats and calls, though this only affords insight into those who choose to contact you.
4. Reward Your Customers
Rewards programs help keep customers feeling important, which will ultimately drive high customer satisfaction. Rewards can include complimentary service upgrades, partner coupons, extra benefits and so much more. Remembering customer anniversaries and rewarding customers then can be helpful as well. On the anniversaries of their first purchase, give customers something special to thank them for their years of loyalty.
5. Get Management on Board
One of the most difficult parts of transitioning towards an entirely new way of customer service involves convincing senior management. However, retention vs. acquisition cost data, external expert validation and small-scale trial rollouts should help you prove your point and get the required approvals.
Customers have easy access to loads of information, various product options and the tools to immediately broadcast their pleasure or displeasure. This makes managing a business increasingly difficult. In addition to those difficulties, the pool of new customers is limited. New customers flowing into the funnel will always slow eventually, no matter how strong your brand is. Flipping the funnel ensures that you will have a competitive edge and will be able to maintain your customer base.
Learn More about the Customer-Centric Funnel and AI Solutions
In this blog, we have barely scratched the surface when it comes to intelligent automation for the sales funnel. To learn more about automation applications for sales, marketing and other use cases, check out our recent blogs and videos or visit our website.
Social27 is an AI powered Automation, Augmentation and Analytics platform. Social27 Playlists empower B2B marketers to deliver a personalized and ‘binge-worthy’ content experience in real-time. Our AI Assistant identifies buyer intent, qualifies leads, and schedules meetings; accelerating sales and revenue growth. Social27 Deal Room automates all the repetitive and time-consuming processes in the deal workflow, keeping all calls, contracts, and compliance in one place. And finally, the Partner Ecosystem Accelerator enables velocity across your ecosystem by enabling a #NoFriction customer journey.