THE SALES LIFE-CYCLE: DEFINITION
The sales life-cycle is the way in which marketers describe potential customers’ interaction with your business, from the moment they think they want your service or product, to the time they are sitting in their home or officer enjoying it.
The decision to buy – and then buy again – is not random. By thinking about how it operates you will significantly improve the way your business operates.
The sales life-cycle is divided into four headings:
THE SALES LIFE-CYCLE: INTRODUCTION
I once worked in a sales team with one of the most mercurial salesmen I have ever met. He was utterly charming but infuriating in every way, quite apart from his charm, good looks, solid 6 foot frame and deep blue eyes, he had usually wrapped up his sales targets by Wednesday afternoon of the first week and spent the rest of the month playing golf. In spite of the sales manger’s best efforts to stack the game against him, he always won the monthly sales incentives as well.
However, when he started his own business, in spite of initial gains driven by his own energy and unstoppable sales performance, the business was never a success. A team of centre-forwards (offense, for my American cousins!) will never win matches. Somebody somewhere has to do some thinking. What businesses need is long-term and sustainable growth. In short customers not sales and the first step towards achieving this is to take a long hard look at just what happens between a potential customers first contact, their decision to buy, the purchase itself and, most importantly, what happens after they have bought. This is called the Sales Life Cycle.
TAKE A LOOK AT YOUR BUSINESS UNDER THE FOLLOWING HEADINGS:
The first thing you need to know is that people buy things, not because they need them but , because they want them. (OK there are some exceptions – but work with me! see why people buy). The ultimate over-heard conversation for some whose marketed their product well might run something like this:
‘Hi Sam, nice Jacket. How much?’
‘No idea – I just HAD to have it.’
The purpose of generating this kind of level of desire is the purpose behind all marketing – to drive price down the decision making ladder to a point where it disappears completely.
So – the first step in the sales life-cycle is to look at everything you’re doing pre-sale to generate this desire. Stress the benefits of your product or service and explain how it will solve problems. Whether your in the real or virtual world, create an environment where people are relaxed and comfortable. Remember, as they approach you they are doing so with their hard earned money, woo them and make them feel special; it might be the only time in their day when this happens.
Once a customer has decided to buy, the biggest mistake made by some many businesses, large and small, is that its so often not easy to actually make the purchase. The buying decision is often a marginal one, perhaps there is only a few pence in it between you and the competition – don’t jeopardise that decision by putting up barriers to sales. The internet is especially bad for this. I have a client who has a internet business who told me that his enquiry to conversion rate was about 1 in 60 and that the ratio of ‘baskets generated’ to actual sales was about 1 in 15. This would be the equivalent of 15 people taking a basket to the counter in a shop and then 14 of them walking away! We looked at the site and found 12 different reasons why buying was just too darn complicated. Make buying easy and offer as many ways as possible to do it.
Your attitude to your customer after the till has rung can determine whether they will ever come back. Everything from the packaging to the assembly or usage instructions is a crucial part of the post-sale.
How well we all know the infuriation to have to wait in all day to receive goods from a company with whom we have just spent a good deal of money. Treating customers in this way can really take the shine off a new relationship. As with everything – make your business run for your customers and not the other way round.
Psychologists know so much about after-sales that they even have a physcologist’s phrase for it: cognitive dissonance. This describes the anxiety that most of us feel after we have made a decision – especially a buying decision. The anxiety rises proportional to the amount we have spent.
This is the moment to reassure. A contact made with a customer ‘after-sale’ can be one of the most important contacts you make.
I am always amazed at how few businesses have an institutionalised after-sales policy. Never underestimate the power of a post-sale phone call. Ask how your customer got on. Did the product or service come up to their expectations? Are they happy? Can you help with anything else.
We all know the stories about how fast bad news travels but its a proven fact that the happiest customer is the one who was experiencing a problem only to have it solved. If you do not have an after-sales policy you will never know how your product works in the market and there’s little prospect of improving it.
HERE’S A LIST OF SOME OF THE THINGS
TO CONSIDER WITH AFTER-SALES:
1. Summarize the product’s benefits after the purchase.
2. Repeat why the product is better than the alternatives.
3. Emphasize how satisfied the customer will be.
4. Provide toll free telephone numbers to encourage communication.
5. Offer liberalized return and refund policies.
6. Engage in staff training to handle complaints.
7. Implement a follow-up program.