The Consumer Decision Journey
At a company meeting at the beginning of the year, I shared some thoughts the role of evangelism, which included a few of my thoughts on the sales process – and what differentiates SharePoint from the traditional software sales model. Of course, this is from the perspective of a non-salesperson, and I am not one to disrupt a working model. However, I do believe that a successful sales model, like any muscle within the corporate body, needs to experience some degree of “muscle confusion” if it is to grow and scale and improve.
The ‘Consumer Decision Journey’ is not so much a sales cycle as it is an evolving approach to sales and marketing that looks beyond the initial transaction at the ongoing relationship with the customer, and can be divided into three categories: Consider & Buy, Evaluate and Advocate, and Trust.
Consider & Buy follows the traditional consumer sales model, where a customer is engaged, makes a purchase, and experiences touch points with sales, marketing, and support. Much of the traditional model looks at this category as the only role of sales – the solution is in the hands of the customer, money has changed hands, and it is the responsibility of support to maintain this relationship (until its time for licensing renewal or a new product/upgrade).
Evaluate & Advocate is less about presenting the brand, and more about about demonstrating experience and expertise, providing content so that customers can review a product or service against competitive solutions, and help the customer understand what it is that they purchased and why it was the right decision. It is within this category of the sales cycle that we begin to see companies acting out of good will for the benefit of the customer, whether or not it leads to a direct sale. By helping the customer to understand the options available and how to get up and running (customer enablement), presenting content to help illustrate the business value of a solution, the customer will (hopefully) become an advocate for the solution. This will lead to new opportunities, which may include expanded sales, new product sales, or referrals.
Trust is that much sought after, but usually poorly defined goal of every company. Most companies focus on the transaction instead of on the more difficult customer trust, which can be hard to quantify, measure, and develop strategies around. But a sales model focused on building trust will inevitably develop strong transactional processes – but in context to the greater goal.
It’s easy to talk about these broad concepts without offering any tactical steps for how to go out and achieve them. But how these ideas translate into your business is not something I can do in a short blog post. I don’t know your company culture, your products and services, your unique value, and your ability to execute. But hopefully it gives you something to focus on as you attempt to improve your sales processes.