The hidden sales cycle has emerged over the past decade as the world has moved online, and in particular to social media networks. Before, the only way customers and prospects could get information about your products and services was by talking directly to brands and companies.
However, and thanks to social media networks, this interaction between brands and consumers has been set aside to the last position because consumers get information about products and services directly from people that shares their respective experiences and knowledge with other customers using platforms and communities within social media; people that often are more closer and friendly to other consumers than to brands and companies. Today, talking to brands is the last thing that consumers do. By the time they finally get in touch, most of them when will have made their decisions.
Therefore, sales teams must keep in mind that to the “traditional” sales cycle they must add a new component linked to the decision making processes that carry out far away from the brand´s direct interaction, processes that so often remain hidden from the look of organizations and that carry out in social media networks. All this processes so often are a detailed, qualified and, definitely, an efficient information sources for consumers than the “objective” benefits that brands communicate about the products and services that commercializes.
Leading brands and companies track where prospective customers are looking online to predict their buying behaviour. With the right methodology and tools, analysing and measuring this is quite easy. You can find out where each prospect has been online – what content they’ve read on your blog, for example, or which of your emails and webpages they’ve opened.
The hidden sales cycle analysis, bring us the opportunity to understand in a better way the customers and prospective customers expectations, allowing us to measure in an efficient way if what we´re going to offer them is going to satisfy their needs. All of this, even before interact with them, providing to our sales team with a response capability and the necessary flexibility to guarantee the achievement of business objectives that are more linked to the market reality.
With the purpose of identify the hidden sales cycle, MarketinLife has divided the process in four phases:
- Know who your target are. If you’re going to provide the information that lets customers know you are the provider for them, you need to know exactly what your target audience is, what is their job role, what business pains do they need to solve, what do they want to achieve by investing in your products or services.
- Know where they´re looking for information. What social media networks do they use to have conversations, which groups do they belong to, which forums do they visit and participate, etc.
- Publish content that will attract their attention. Develop educational and engaging content that shows your prospects how they can become more effective and efficient, without ever telling them they need your products and services to do so.
- Start thinking real-time. Once you’ve established your strategy by interacting with people and developing your reputation for being a thought leader in your industry, you can start pointing people to your blog or website content while you’re having conversations with them online.
Customer behaviors require professional marketers to communicate with prospects and customers in new ways, by delivering content that is personalized to their needs, role, level of interest, and stage of problem solving. This has made marketing automation a mission-critical system for B2B marketers, but too many marketing leaders head down the automation path without fully realizing what they are getting into.