How do you view sales? Is it a science, an art, or a mixture of both?
In the world of sales and marketing, there's no such thing as a "one size fits all" approach — at least, not one that's effective. Every business is unique. Every customer is unique. Every interaction between a business and a customer is unique. So it only makes sense that the best approach to sales and marketing includes mindfulness around the needs, interests, and motivations of your target customer, and intentionality towards aligning with those elements.
That's where cognitive marketing comes into the picture.
Cognitive marketing combines a systematic, scientific perspective on sales with an understanding that only certain marketing tools and techniques are effective at guiding a prospect from one stage to the next in their decision journey. While there are countless "best practices" and innovative technologies to explore, the engine behind those tools is what drives conversions: the human psychology.
Ultimately, sales is all about behavior change. If you can encourage behavior change within a prospect, from the inside out, then you've scored a big win — a win that will, incidentally, lead to a new client.
Renowned scientists have thoroughly researched the process of behavior change, and we've applied those key principles to the world of sales and marketing. In our Cognitive Marketing Framework, there are 6 major stages that a prospect inhabits on their way to making a positive change:
- Sold & Serving
The job of your salesforce and marketing team is to help the prospect move from one stage to the next in a gradual, progressive manner. In other words, your sales and marketing team will need to work closely throughout the 5 separate conversion points in order to win a loyal customer. If you've worked with an ad or marketing agency before, you're likely very familiar with the first conversion point: "Unaware."
The Two Meanings of "Unaware"
Before we talk about the conversion point itself, it's important to understand what we mean by the term "unaware."
Obviously, the most basic meaning of the term is that the prospect doesn't know you offer a certain service or product. In fact, the prospect may not realize that your company even exists! That is a lack of awareness on the most fundamental level.
However, there is another, more challenging meaning associated with the "Unaware" stage. To illustrate what this second meaning is all about, imagine that you are a regular Microsoft Excel user. You like Excel, you are familiar with most of its functions, and you've used it for many years.
Now, one day you hear about this new spreadsheet program called Google Sheets. You become aware of its existence. You may even see some of your friends or colleagues use it for their own projects. However, you continue to use Excel like you've always done, and hardly give Google Sheets a passing thought. After all, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," right?
What's the point? Simply this: you became aware of the product's existence, but remained unaware of any benefits a cloud-based alternative could bring to you.
That's the first hurdle that marketers and sales reps have to overcome in order to drive positive behavioral change. Awareness is not just knowledge that something exists — it's the understanding of how a particular service or product can solve a prospect's problem — or create an opportunity to facilitate growth.
The bottom line is that awareness involves two key components:
- Your prospect knows who you are
- Your prospect knows why you matter to them
Raising Consciousness and Offering Social Liberation
Now that we have a clear understanding of what driving awareness really means, the next question is: What can your sales and marketing teams do to help an unaware prospect become aware of their problem, then contemplate a change? If you immediately think of ads or websites, I challenge you to consider a different point of view. Instead of thinking of tools, shift your focus to the ideas behind those tools:
- Raise consciousness
- Offer social liberation
Let's break these two processes down:
1. Raise Consciousness
It's important to accept the fact that you can't force any prospect to change their behavior. That change has to come from within. However, what you can do is provide the right information at the right time to impact the likelihood of your prospect making an intelligent choice.
Spreading knowledge is key when it comes to raising consciousness. Think about our Google Sheets example. If you are trying to raise consciousness around that product, what are some key points that your marketing message should focus on? Perhaps you'd focus on how easy it is to collaborate on Google Sheets; how the program allows you to scale your work up and down in a simple, user-friendly way; or how well it integrates into the entire Google suite of applications.
If your prospects become aware of the unique features of your product or service, then they'll be more likely to consider buying from you when a new problem arises. Which is a nice segue into:
2. Offer Social Liberation
What we mean by "social liberation" is freedom from an external environment that either enables negative behavior (e.g., you're giving the buyer a reason to want to change) or imposes arbitrary limitations that competitors may not have (e.g., you're helping the buyer understand that he/she must change).
Going back to our Google Sheets example, imagine that you're part of a team that uses Microsoft Excel as a collaboration tool for an important project. However, your team is finding that collaboration within Microsoft's product is not always user-friendly or intuitive. Sometimes it can even be clunky and frustrating.
Then you remember that one of Google Sheets' big selling points is ease of collaboration. You start thinking to yourself: What if it's easier to collaborate via Google Sheets instead of Excel? How much time could we save as a team? How much more efficient could we be? Within the space of just a minute or two, you've transitioned from the "Unaware" stage to the "Contemplating" stage — all because the messaging around Google Sheets has offered you an opportunity for "social liberation."
In our next blog post, we'll talk about the conversion from "Contemplating" to "Planning." Be sure to check that out; and if you'd like to learn more about how you can start implementing cognitive marketing techniques in your business, reach out to our team, or book a meeting today.