In our last post, we talked about what your prospects need to move from the "Contemplating" to the "Planning" stage. The prospect now has more than a general interest in the solution your company offers — they are actively exploring their options, and intend to make a final purchase decision in the near future. The next conversion point in the cognitive marketing framework is the move from "Planning" to "Action".
Note that we're not talking about the final action of buying your service or product; rather, this is the point at which the customer begins to actively seek information from your company about your solution. It's the difference between "Oh, that's interesting" and "I'm interested; please tell me more".
The 4 processes we mentioned in our previous posts are still in effect at this stage of the decision journey:
- Raising consciousness
- Offering social liberation
- Arousing emotions
- Encouraging rational re-evaluation
However, to bridge the gap between "Planning" and "Action" you now have to bring two additional processes into the mix: commitment (private and public) and helping relationships.
Commitment: Your Primary Goal for the 3rd Conversion Point
Your number #1 objective at this stage is to help your prospect make a commitment to your company. For B2B sales this is typically a private commitment first. For example, one of your sales reps may make contact with an interested prospect and take down the prospect's info to create a projection for the customer. There's very little (or zero) cash involved in this interaction; it's just a "private" commitment between the prospect and the sales rep.
Of course, you want your prospect to move from a private commitment to a public one. This is when your prospect agrees to take the projection from your sales rep and present it to the other decision-makers at their company. As you can imagine, the private commitment comes first because your prospect doesn't want to "jump the gun" and risk embarrassment in front of other key stakeholders if your company turns out to not have the solution they need.
There are some key components you need to have in place to encourage the customer to make these commitments. For instance, think about your website: Are you reassuring safety (and even confidentiality for) prospects that reach out to you? Do you make it clear that your sales team will provide a preliminary report without pressuring a deeper commitment?
The Power of Helping Relationships in Cognitive Marketing
The second process you need to leverage for this conversion point is the incorporation of helping relationships — aka "consultative selling". The basic concept behind consultative selling is that your role is to help and guide the prospect toward positive change without trying to manipulate the outcome. That means your prospect should be in charge of this process, not your sales team or marketing department.
Consultative selling can be tricky. You have to maintain a fine balance when it comes to offering guidance to the client. For one thing, you want to demonstrate your expertise without pushing them toward your service/product. At the same time, you don't want to give your prospect too much, too soon.
A lot of sales reps fall into this trap at the "Contemplating" stage in cognitive marketing we discussed in a previous post. They may offer to compile a report for them right away, or go overboard when discussing potential solutions. Hey, it's understandable. When a prospect shows a glimmer of interest, it can be tempting to "throw the kitchen sink at them", right?
The thing is, the prospect isn't ready for consultative selling at that stage. But now, in the transition from "Planning" to "Action", the customer wants a taste of your expertise. They want to know what's in it for them. You don't have to solve the problem at this point, but you can teach the prospect a helpful principle without delving into its application.
Expectations + Performance = Satisfaction
This conversion point provides a vital opportunity to set expectations for the relationship between you and your prospect. If you want to end up with a satisfied, loyal customer, then you have to clearly define what you can do for them — and then measure up to those expectations with your performance.
Of course, you're not at the performance stage quite yet. However, you can give the prospect a "sneak peek" of their ROI by sharing case studies, testimonials, and other content that highlights your performance for other clients.
Most importantly, your sales reps have to be good listeners at this stage of the decision journey in cognitive marketing. If the expectations you set are not aligned with the reality of the client's needs, then you're going to end up with an unhappy customer — and a short-lived relationship.
Here's a simple example: a web design agency promises to deliver a 50% increase in organic traffic for a local business's website. The business owner thinks that the extra traffic will mean a 50% increase in sales. If that misconception isn't cleared up quickly, then it's not going to be pretty!
The point is, you want to deal with any major issues and concerns now, at this stage, before any money changes hands. It's much better to dig into (and hopefully forestall) any potential problems early on, rather than force a deal and discover them after you're already committed.
With that in mind, consider developing a playbook of questions for your sales reps to ask at this stage. For instance: "Is there any reason you see that we shouldn't do this deal? Do you feel like our service/product will meet the needs and goals of your business? Is there anything that has you concerned about moving forward?"
Learn More About Cognitive Marketing
By encouraging your prospect to make a commitment when they're ready, acting as a helpful guide rather than a pushy salesperson, and listening to understand, you'll be able to successfully convert the customer from the "Planning" to the "Action" stage — and set them up for success in the next stage.
Be sure to read our next post in this series, about the conversion from "Action" to "Sold & Serving":