Thanks to the Internet, clients today are smarter, savvier and more sophisticated than ever before. When they come to you, ready to buy your speaking, training, coaching or consulting services, you can bet they didn’t suddenly think of you five minutes earlier. They might have asked around on Twitter or LinkedIn, watched some sample videos on YouTube, checked in with their Facebook friends, done some Google research, looked through their in-box for recent newsletters, and so on.
This is the biggest change in the sales process: You used to be the first port of call in their buying cycle (or if not you, at least a bureau or agent). But no longer.
As Barry Trailer and Jim Dickie said in a Harvard Business Review article in July 2006:
“Buyers have always had a buy cycle, starting at the point they perceive a need. Sellers have always had a sales cycle, starting at the point they spot a prospect. It used to be that these were in sync… [but] now, the buy cycle is often well under way before the seller is even aware there is a cycle.”
If you’re step 8, 9 or 10 in the buying process, and you used to be step 1, is it any wonder you’re losing business?
You might not want to agree with this, but you know it’s true, don’t you? Just think back to your own buying behaviour the last time you bought a house, a car, a tech gadget, furniture, or practically anything else. You didn’t call a salesperson first, did you? I didn’t think so.
So what can you do about it?
You need to get back to being with them early in the process, so you can influence them right from the beginning. This isn’t about hard sell; it’s about guiding them as an expert adviser, rather than being available later as just another supplier.
If you had a crystal ball and you could predict exactly when your client was going to start thinking about your services, you could jump in at that point – and send them a useful article, a quick e-mail or even a friendly phone call.
But of course you don’t have such a crystal ball (Do you?)
So the only other option is to be always in front of them, so that you can be there whenever they’re ready to buy.
The Internet makes this easier.
Are you sending an e-mail newsletter at least every two weeks? E-mail is still the most powerful on-line push marketing tool at your disposal.
Are you blogging at least once a week? Blog posts are short and sweet (my rule is “No more than 10 minutes per post”); and each blog post creates a new Web page, so you’re increasing your on-line footprint.
Are you engaging in a more meaningful way at least monthly? My choice is to run a no-cost public webinar as a promotional tool for my business.
Your mileage may vary, but do SOMETHING!
If you don’t do anything, you’ll be way behind your competitors. At best, you’ll simply be just another supplier in the client’s buying process, like one of the myriad brands of laundry powder on a supermarket shelf. At worst, you’ll be ignored altogether!