When a prospect is in the search phase of the buying process, they are looking for a solution to a problem or an enhancement to the way they run their business. Gone are the days when during this search phase they would immediately pick up the phone and start calling different vendors to shop around. Nowadays, the prospect will either ask someone for advice and then conduct an online search or just jump right into an online search.
In order for your sales process to accommodate this change in behaviour, you should treat the search phase as you would an inbound sales call i.e learn about the prospect and start building a relationship with them. As with any sales call, you’ll have to anticipate what questions they will ask and what information they are looking for, so you can provide them the answers they’re looking for – the only catch, is that you’ll be having this conversation with them via the content on your website. The prospect will be asking questions in the form of an online search (so, yes you need to be easily found) and you will be providing answers through your website content (when they find you, make sure you’re giving them the info they want).
Most sales people don’t consider what prospects are thinking about when they are in the search phase, so as sales people we need to put ourselves in their shoes, find out what questions and/or search terms they are using online, and then provide them with the content they want, when they want it.
“Being able to find your website is one thing, but being able to serve up content that resonates i.e. actually means something to the prospect, is even more important and is something that many companies fail to address.”
Digital content is what starts the sales dialogue, so if search isn’t already tied into your sales process, it should be. Otherwise you’re missing out on a lot prospective buyers.
So, how can I integrate search into my sales process?
Know thy best customer
It’s not enough to merely “Know thy customer”, what you actually need is to “Know thy best customer”. A great way to do this is to have your sales team analyze their Top 10 customers. Have them use a Customer Scorecard and rate each customer based on:
- Ease of delivery i.e. how much effort and time is/was required on your company’s part to deliver the product or service to this customer?
- Referability i.e. how many times has or how likely is this customer to refer you to other companies?
- Cost of sales
Once you have these scorecards in hand, you’ll be able to see who your high-scoring, all-star customers are. Take a long hard look at your best customers and really get to know them because you’re going to develop your buyer map based on the buyer process they went through. If you don’t already know how they found you, why they chose you instead of your competitor, and why they stay with you, ask them. You’ll want to keep these customers and bring more companies like them on board; easy to work with, profitable, will refer you to other great companies like them, and are easier to sell to than other prospects.
Walk a mile in their shoes
Talk to your best customers and get them to think back to how they found you, so that you can discover how they conducted their search and what they were looking for. Figure out what their buyer map looks like.
You need to find out:
- What were they looking for initially? A company they could trust, a company that understands them, the cheapest product, the most reliable product, etc.?
- Why were they looking? Problem with or outgrew their current solution?
- How did they conduct their search? Was it a combination of asking colleagues, peers, industry experts for recommendations, and searching on the internet?
- What questions did they ask?
- What search terms/keywords did they use?
- What kind of information were they looking for?
- What kind of language spoke to them? Technical, touchy-feely or a combination of both?
- What made them trust you?
- What made them decide to buy from you instead of from someone else?
- Why do they continue to do business with you?
Map out their journey
Create a buyer map to help your company:
- Earn their trust
- Provide them with clarity
- Take them down a guided path
Develop content to address your best customer’s buyer map
Present your content in a way that mirrors the buyer map. Serve up the right content at the right time. Don’t throw everything at them at once. Don’t tell them everything about your company and its products or services right out of the gate, i.e. on your home page. Take them down a guided path that leads right to your sales team’s doorstep, i.e. your call-to-actions (CTAs) or conversion points, whether that conversion point is filling out a demo request or a pricing form, or simply downloading a case study.
To sum things up, if search isn’t already a part of your sales process you’re missing out on prospective customers. In essence, you’re ignoring your ideal prospects. They’re trying to initiate the sales dialogue, but you’re missing their buying signals. Start the sales dialogue early on and make search a part of your sales process.