In our previous post in this series, we discussed how to help a prospect move from the "Planning" stage to the "Action" stage. We explained that the "Action" stage in cognitive marketing is not when the prospect signs on the dotted line. Instead, it's when the prospect takes action to explore their potential relationship with your company, specifically.
At the next conversion point of the cognitive marketing framework, it's time to help your prospect transition from the "Action" stage to finally making that commitment. In other words, the prospect's next step is to move into the "Sold & Serving" stage of the relationship.
As with previous conversion points, you'll need to use marketing processes that you've already started and add new ones. In particular, you should continue using the same techniques that informed your processes to promote commitment and achieve helping relationships, as well as 3 additional processes: positive substitution (or "countering"), environmental control, and rewards for positive behavior.
Your role as a consultative seller is primarily to guide the prospect towards a positive change in cognitive marketing. However, that doesn't mean you should let the prospect go down a wrong path without providing a better option.
For instance, a prospect that you consider to be in or near the "Sold & Serving" stage might say to you: "Let's do an RFP before hitting the launch button on our partnership, and we'll reevaluate five firms to decide if we want to work with yours or not." Not only does this mean that your stage 5 prospect is actually somewhere between stages 2 and 4; it's also a really bad idea! Instead of just going along with this plan, now is the time to counter with a workable alternative.
This actually happened to our principal, Sean. After we received an RFP, Sean called the prospect's CEO to thank him for the offer while also informing him that FitzMartin doesn't respond to requests for proposals. Sean then offered him an alternative solution. Instead of our team spending over $10,000 in resources to fill out an RFP that may not answer the questions the CEO had, why not allocate those resources toward the first step of FitzMartin's new client onboarding process? The CEO would get valuable insights from our initial findings that could be used, whether executed internally, with another vendor, or with us. Thus, getting ahead of the curve in the process! The CEO saw the reasoning behind Sean's counter and promptly agreed to go that route instead.
The point is, you don't always have to go down the path prescribed by the prospect. One element that will really help you "stick to your guns" when the prospect wants you to go down the wrong road is marketing power. Marketing power occurs when your marketing and sales efforts are aligned to focus on your UVP. If you know what sets your company apart from the competition, and you can explain those differentiators, you'll have more leverage.
Environmental Control in Cognitive Marketing
Environmental control is all about restructuring the environment to highlight the value that you deliver.
Of course, the best way to leverage environmental control is to invite the prospect to step into your environment. For example, if you run a manufacturing firm you can invite the prospect to take a tour of your plant. The prospect will see your expertise and workflow firsthand, and meet people they'd potentially be relying on. It's a great opportunity for the prospect to envision the relationship with your company, and see your team in action.
Granted, there are also situations where you can't get the prospect to come to you (for whatever reason). However, if you have to present at the prospect's office, shift the environment to highlight your value. For instance, show the prospect your ideas by displaying a variety of visual aids. And playing a video for the prospect can be huge.
Simply put, environmental control gives your prospect a window into your company — what your culture is like, what your people are like, and what your operation is like. Seeing those things up close and personal may be just the nudge the prospect needs to close the deal.
Rewards for Positive Behavior
This process is rooted in basic human nature. It's really not complicated: people enjoy commendation and rewards. The context may change, but it's the same for adults as it is for young children. If you incorporate "positive reinforcement" into your interactions with the prospect, then they'll be that much more likely to buy from you.
Encouraging change through reward doesn't have to involve grand gestures, or a lot of spending. For instance, if a prospect asks for a preliminary results report, send them a note thanking them for considering your company. If the prospect closes the deal, you can send them a welcome gift.
Of course, the reward should be proportional to the action taken by the prospect. As you deliver small rewards for the prospect's incremental steps towards their goal (not yours, but theirs), you'll encourage them to make that public commitment to your company (and hopefully continue with you for a long time thereafter).
Learn More About Cognitive Marketing
If you implement these processes in conversion #4, then your prospect will not only be willing to seal the deal with your company, but they'll feel much more comfortable doing so. And that's key to a long-term relationship.
In our final post in this series, we'll dive into the conversion point from "Sold & Serving" to "Advocacy" and what it takes to turn a won customer into a life-long advocate of your company: