Having a process to get in front of a prospective customer without manual intervention and then genuinely helping them reach logical decisions via a diagnostic process is one of the critical assets in a small business’s arsenal and predictable sales.
Would you like to increase your business revenue? I haven’t heard a “no” from anyone ever. But when I ask, “Do you have a process to generate revenue consistently?” then I get a range of answers.
For most startups and small businesses, I speak with, I hear one common frustration. For them, it is super frustrating not being able to reliably forecast the topline. But without a process, this rollercoaster ride will continue.
Predictable sales are the key to predictable topline and hence the growth. It also makes your valuation easier to defend or arrive at. Having this process is one of the biggest assets you can have.
What’s the Typical Process?
For most people, networking and advertising seem to be obvious answers. This is why we all have seen people jumping to sell each other at networking events, including conferences, or other meetups. Unfortunately, it is not only tacky but also ineffective.
How many of us pay attention to advertisements or do not skip them? It is obvious that people don’t like watching ads unless forced to do so.
So, if networking doesn’t work, ads don’t work either. Then, what works? How do you make sales work, let alone make it predictable?
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The First Step to Making Sales Predictable
Customers don’t just go to a shop or an online store and buy things. In most cases, there is a lot that goes on before that step occurs. And to understand that we have to understand the customers’ journey as a whole.
Ask yourself, how do customers reach the decision to buy the product you’re selling? How do they make the decision to buy from you? How does that process work for them?
Once we understand the process a customer goes through, all we have to do is to facilitate that decision-making for them, preferably in our favor. I don’t mean in our favor for the sake of it, but because we believe that our product or service is better than the competition.
The first step to predictable sales is not to jump and begin with a sales pitch but to follow the three-step, proven, and meaningful process.
1. Understanding ZMoT
ZMoT is the term coined by Google. It means the Zeroth Moment of Truth. They use it to describe the moment when a customer decides to research a product or service before making a purchase. It occurs before the traditional “First Moment of Truth” when a customer encounters a product in a store.
Obviously, ZMoT is the result of the growing influence of the internet and how customers have been making decisions using it. As a first step, customers almost always turn to online resources to gather information about a product or service. These resources could be search engines, social media, review sites, or your website in many cases.
The information they gather from all these sources eventually influences their decisions. It can shape their perception of a brand and the product. That makes it crucial for businesses to have a strong online presence and provide valuable information to potential customers during this critical stage of the buying process.
Most companies I worked with often misunderstand the “provide valuable information” aspect. While they ensure their presence everywhere in the online world, they often clutter it with sales and marketing collateral. So, when a prospective customer is trying to assess the product or service, all they get is a sales pitch, again!
Instead, ZMoT suggests creating content that is helpful, informative, and relevant to the customer’s needs. Because when we do that, it becomes easier to establish trust. That often, if not always, increases the likelihood of converting potential customers into loyal ones.
2. Combining ZMoT with Diagnostic Resources
Understanding ZMoT is essential but how do we turn it in our favour? The key is in understanding why people buy. What actually happens when people buy? What triggers them? Is that an advertisement one saw? Certainly not.
What makes people buy, including you and me, is the difference between our current reality and the expected or ideal reality. If I want to look a certain way, and if I don’t at present, then there is a gap. And any product or service that can help me look the way I envisage or want to, may be purchased by me.
That means, understanding this gap as a business is important. But more important is to make it visible to the customer. I have seen that the business which makes this gap visible often becomes the first choice for many customers. Therefore, combining the knowledge of ZMoT with diagnostic resources is critical.
In my previous company, Knewron Technologies, we often used to conduct a diagnostic assessments. In some cases it was free and in other cases, it wasn’t.
One of the commonly used tools, which was also designed by us, was the diagnostic quiz—an online self-assessment that could spit out the outcomes based on the answers given by the prospective customers. Customers, when researching online would come across our tool, they would access the quiz and get the results instantly. With those results, two things happened.
First, it helped customers to instantly find and articulate gaps. It helped them clarify their problem a bit further. And this process brought them one step closer to us.
Second, it gave us basic insights into their problems. That is why building such diagnostic quizzes or checklists is critically important.
3. Converting Diagnostic Results to a Conversation
As the results of our diagnostic quiz were recorded, we knew areas of improvement early on; well before our prospective customers engaged with us. Many times, we initiated that conversation, and other times, they contacted us after seeing the results. But in both cases, the conversation we had wasn’t cold.
It wasn’t a cold lead we were trying to convince. The conversation we had was of better quality and meaningful for both, our business and the customers. Instead of having a typical sales pitch or sales conversation, it was more of a facilitation to solve their problem with our services and tools.
There have been instances when prospects chose to go with our competitor instead of buying from us, but that decision was beneficial for both of us. We were certain (and so were the customers) that a gap existed, and a problem existed. So, it wasn’t whether to buy the product. It was more about whether to buy it from us or not. And that came down to typical logical and emotional factors.
Pricing, delivery, terms, etc are some of those logical factors. If they don’t match customer expectations, the sale won’t happen, and we won’t regret it. But as far as the emotional factor is concerned, we had always won in that department, because we facilitated a meaningful conversation instead of being salesy.
Once someone decides to buy from you, the next steps are clear to all of us. Almost every business knows how to supply the product, service it, maintain it, and so on.
Back to ZMoT
One of the things important for ZMoT is how people warm up to you, your product, and your company. It surely doesn’t happen with one so-called whitepaper or a bunch of case studies. It happens on several different platforms, over several days, for them to reach the level of trust.
Think about it. If you don’t know anything about the person and you meet the person for the first time and make an offer, why do you think that person would buy from you? If nobody knows you enough, and if there’s no trust established, how and why will that happen?
On the contrary, when we work with a person for a few days or a few years, we start to understand their value system, their principles, and several nuances. Then it gets easier.
According to ZMoT, it typically takes seven touchpoints that a customer interacts with on average before making a purchase. The average number of sources that a customer consults during this step is eleven. And quite often they ask at least four questions. These questions are focused on gathering information about the product or service and can include questions about features, pricing, quality, and other aspects.
Do This Today
Having a process to get in front of a prospective customer without manual intervention and then genuinely helping them reach logical decisions via a diagnostic process is one of the critical assets in predictable sales. All this begins with understanding your customer’s journey.
At Knewron, every time we had a conversation with our prospects, we rarely had rejection. The deal almost always went through. Maybe that’s the reason I never thought of this as a separate process.
What I am suggesting is that you do this on purpose and have this process set and documented. Once the process is set, any salesperson will feel more comfortable and will be able to make a home run.
Anand Tamboli is a serial entrepreneur, speaker, award-winning author, and an emerging technology thought leader