Sales For Kind People - Designing The Complete Experience
This post follows on from Sales For Kind People: Core Philosophies
Your next 1,000 customers haven’t heard of you yet.
That might come as a relief or as a concern.
1,000 new conversations.
1,000 chances to make a good impression.
This might sound like a lot of different experiences, but in reality it’s the same experience repeated 1,000 times.
It’s an experience that’s worth getting right.
Not because we anticipate 1,000 sales, but because these next 1,000 customers will help us test and improve our systems and reputation.
We want to think about their entire experience with us, and plan ways of making their lives easier.
This post looks at the complete customer journey, and will give you some ideas on areas to develop within your own organisation.
There are lots of good sales book with particular acronyms for these systems, and while I got a lot out of them I can’t actually remember what they are, and that tells me something.
No acronyms today, just plain English.
Step 1 – Targeting the decision maker
In order to design a delightful experience, we need to have an understanding of who we’re talking to.
Someone will hear about your business, someone will do some homework, someone will make a decision, and someone will receive your product/service.
Are these all the same person, or different people?
For example, in December advertisers show children an incredible 30-second commercial for a new toy.
The kid is excited and passes the request on to their parent, who then does some homework on the toy.
Does this encourage good or bad ideas? Will this fit in our house? Is it safe for my child?
The parent makes a decision (possibly in conjunction with Santa), and the kid gets the product.
The toy has to talk to these two decision makers in completely different ways.
Or think of a couple choosing where to go on holiday.
Perhaps one of them hears about a destination from a friend, a movie or TV show, an online ad or a newspaper article.
They’ll then do some research on when to go, where to stay and what to do.
It only takes one person to do the research, but both parties need to agree.
That means one person might be pitching the idea to the other, so they’ll arm themselves with selling points that appeal to their partner.
Both of them go on the trip, both of them might love it, but the advertiser’s job was to initially entice one party and give them the ammunition to persuade the other.
Or think about the new software-as-a-service company trying to win over a medium sized business.
They need to get their foot in the door, perhaps with a frustrated team member, or the assistant manager who was asked to perform a tech review.
This ambassador then has to face the business manager, financial controller, and the poor people who have to sit down and learn how to use the new platform.
People hate change, so there needs to be a lot of enthusiasm to overcome inertia.
The role of the marketer is to intercept their future customers.
You’ve got to know where these decision makers naturally congregate, and squeeze your offer into a very short window.
Not a full pitch, just enough to make them entertain the idea and continue the conversation.
In a lot of cases, this is all contained in a single image and a headline.
Step 2 – Pitching a compelling Value Proposition
We’re now on the customer’s radar, and that’s bought us roughly one second of their attention.
We get to pitch a single idea to them, and it needs to be intriguing enough to make them keep the conversation alive.
This is called a Value Proposition, the underlying benefit of any product or service.
e.g. Red Bull don’t say “Would you like 250ml of carbonated water, sugar, caffeine, and Taurine for $4.50?” they shout “Red Bull Gives You Wings”.
They’re selling the idea of enhanced performance – a better version of yourself.
We’re not good at processing details, but we’re very good at understanding ideas that either improve our lives or relieve a pain point.
These include feeling romantically desirable, earning the respect of our peers, saving time in our daily routines, reducing anxiety, creating joyful moments with our friends/family, or increasing our social status.
Your business might sell a new product or service, but I bet it’s tapping into some ancient motivations within your customers’ minds.
That one second window is enough to introduce your Value Proposition, through a combination of words, sounds, smells and images.
If it strikes a chord, your customer will ask themselves a question about your offer.
Step 3 – Anticipating natural questions
When we don’t understand a pitch, our default position is to exit the conversation.
It feels too hard, so we mentally switch to something more interesting.
Therefore, we need to make our ideas as clear as possible, and answer our customer’s questions before they think to ask them.
“How come you’re cheaper than everyone else?”
“What makes this better than the competition?”
“Can I be bothered downloading an app?”
“How much will this cost all up?”
“What’s in it for me?”
“Is this easy to buy?”
“Is this actually better than what I have today?”
If your heading, subheading and imagery sold your Value Proposition, it’s the body of text/conversation that gets to pre-empt these questions.
Some brands phrase this like a conversation, while others even name the audience’s scepticism and address these points in a logical order.
Step 4 – Prompting an action
This is where a lot of well-intentioned advertisements hit the wall.
You captured the attention of the decision maker, and made a compelling offer.
Your offer cleared the first hurdle of “Is this worth my attention”, but the second hurdle is much higher: “Is this worth taking action?”
Actions include clicking a link, typing something into a search engine, going into a shop, making a phone call – and that’s just to get started.
People hate these.
People don’t like answering calls from businesses, let alone calling them up of their own volition.
People don’t like navigating new websites, let alone making an account and choosing a password.
People don’t like having lots of tabs open, let alone completing the check-out process.
Customers need to feel sufficiently motivated to take an action, and the friction of the sales process knocks out the least motivated people at every stage.
The more friction you can remove, the better.
Bonus Step 4.5 – Customers Do Their Homework
While you may not have full control over bonus step 4.5, it definitely happens.
The higher the ticket price, the more deliberating a customer is likely to do.
In that deliberation, they will look for external validation of your promises.
This might involve conversation with friends, going to review sites like TripAdvisor, GlassDoor, Google, Facebook, Yelp, Amazon or even an old Whirlpool forum.
Most of these are complete strangers and some of the people might not even exist, but it doesn’t matter.
What matters is that the customer has fact-checked your claims, to see what other people think of their upcoming decision.
If you’ve burned former customers, harassed your former prospects, or have overpromised in the past, people will gleefully tell the world.
This process might take anywhere between 60 seconds (like when I read reviews on Audible) or 30 days (like when property buyers hire an advocate).
You can’t control this stage, but you can learn how customers behave, and make efforts to improve your reputation in these visible arenas.
Step 5 – Checkout
If you’ve ever given up while waiting in line, abandoned an online shopping cart or told a shop assistant “I’ll think about it”, then you know how fragile this process can be.
The check-out process is lucrative in that customers have mentally agreed to buy something, so you have a good chance to add on a second product or service.
This can also be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, like when a salesperson creeps from “Friendly” to “Pushy”, when a company adds on extra fees and taxes, when you have to create an account, or when you suddenly realise that you’ll have to pay $9.95 in postage on your $100 order.
Customers want reassurance that they’re making the right decision, and need to feel like they’re having a win.
Distraction, doubt and inconvenience can ruin all of your hard work, and leave customers feeling dissatisfied with how they’ve spent their time.
For everyone’s benefit, you want to design a checkout process that helps confirm the purchase before life gets in the way.
Step 6 – Follow up and extension offers
Following up with customers is good for all involved – happy customers will confirm their enjoyment, and unhappy customers will let you know how their issues can be rectified.
Remember, the worst scenario is that your customers are grumpy and silent, because that anger seeps out subtly, without the chance of you solving the underlying problem.
If your product or service is good for people, they’ll tell with their words and their actions.
You might be surprised at which aspects people like the most, and can learn how people use your services in the real world.
You might also be surprised at the unexpected downsides of what you’re selling, and early warning gives you the chance to improve future versions.
Extension is the opportunity to offer people the next logical thing.
If they enjoyed your book, they might want to see you at an event or subscribe to your podcast.
They might enjoy your collaborations with others, or be keen to hear what you recommend they look at next.
Perhaps it’s a referral for their friends and family, knowing that you’ll treat them well.
Maybe they wish other businesses treated them with the respect that you did, and they let you know that they’d love to see you move earlier/later in the value chain (like a café selling bags of coffee beans or a clothing brand selling laptop cases.
Trust builds slowly
You don’t need to win a sale out of every customer in every interaction.
It might be that a person comes in and browses four times before making a purchase.
I went into a bookshop and looked at What I Know About Running Coffee Shops seven times before buying it, and I now recommend it to everybody.
I read over 1,500 Betoota Advocate articles before going to their live show.
I walked in and out of JB Hifi three times in one day when deciding to buy a Nintendo Switch.
All of the brands and creative people I like made me feel welcome.
They never pushed me, rushed me, shamed me or scammed me, and I now I won’t shut up about them.
Give each step the right amount of time
This sequence (target & entice, pitch, questions, action, homework, checkout, follow up) feels like the right set of steps, but there are no fixed timeframes.
Some customers might do loops between homework and questions, or between follow up and action.
I suggest you let them do so at their own pace, rushing them only increases the chance of them closing their browser or getting out of the store.
Beware of tricks that “Optimise Conversion Rates” through pressure.
Yes, they might increase your income today, but if they annoy the other 98% of your audience then it burns your future customer base.
If I walk away from a bad sales experience, my view of the brand diminishes, and that bleeds into my conversations.
If you know your friends hate a certain brand, it will significantly drop the likelihood of you becoming/remaining a customer.
Suddenly the way you treat your non-customers will affect your acquisition and retention rates.
Putting them all together
Designing a campaign means thinking about all of these steps, creating the right words, images and experiences to create something remarkable.
Just to let you know, a lot of your questions are answered with “It depends”.
Which platforms should we use?
How large should the photo be?
How long should the text be?
Who should we target?
What should we measure?
Be sceptical of someone who brings you answers before they understand your situation.
They’re pushing their solutions on you, without knowing who you’re trying to serve.
I have no idea if you should use Instagram.
I have no idea what sort of email open rate is good for your industry.
I have no idea what your pricing strategy should be.
But I do know this – the entrepreneur who pays attention and makes frequent adjustments will win in the end.
The person who isn’t hampered by their ego, who believes that if something works it isn’t stupid, who doesn’t abdicate responsibility to junior team members – that’s the person who will build effective sales campaigns.
What’s wonderful about this approach is how quickly you can learn each component once you name it.
By identifying the specific gap in today’s process, you can instantly begin to learn from people who do it well.
It might be improving your Instagram page, speeding up the checkout process, reframing your Value Proposition, changing how you explain your prices, or setting up a system for calling every customer 60 days after their purchase.
You have a philosophical decision to make at each step of the journey.
Do you want to make the process more pleasant for the next 1,000 customers?
Do you want to drain their enthusiasm and send them elsewhere?
Do you want to push the wrong products and services on them in order to hit your quota?
Are you willing to take a small financial hit today, in order to build an army of loyal customers?
Up next, we’re looking at ways of motivating customers to take the right action at the right time…