Understanding the “real” customer journey

I’ve been in many a room with many a company hearing them tell me what their sales process is like, what stages there are, what steps happen after which. Sadly, they are all wrong. But not for the reasons you think.

The modern customer journey, what is not taught in any sales course or training doesn’t gel well with sales at all. I can only assume this is the case because no one wants to admit that the role of a sales person is diminishing. (It’s common for companies especially in technology to scale engineers and sales teams far before the rest.)

Allow me to break down the “real” customer journey that is taking place today.

Step 1: Awareness

Someone must be aware of the existence of something before they can contemplate purchasing or using it. How good is your SEO? In today’s world the first thing that someone does when they have a question is to hit up Google, usually on their phone (remember this part for Step 2).

Once the do a search, they need to find at least one answer to their question in the results, if they don’t, it means they need to redo their search with better terms or more applicable ones.

So you’re aware that you have a problem and that somewhere out there a program or product might be able to help, you search and you get a few results. What’s next?

Step 2: High-Level Browsing (Credibility Check)

The next step is what I like to call “High-Level Browsing” or a Credibility Check.

High-Level Browsing is when someone clicks on a link to your website, note from above, a lot of this happens on mobile these days. Does your website look credible?

Ask yourself the following:

Is my website mobile compatible?

With the majority of traffic coming from mobile and searches happening at more random times when people have a thought, most of the time they aren’t near their computer, but rather, their mobile phone. In today’s world, your site should be optimized for mobile first.

Do I have a simplified version for mobile to minimize scrolling?

Your desktop version can have all the bells and whistles, people will bookmark the mobile urlĀ for later so they can see it on desktop, no one wants to read a novel on a phone, keep it short and sweet, yet compelling with a clear value proposition.

Is the layout easy to follow, are things easy for me to find?

Are the basics evident, users today hate having to search for things on complicated websites, they hate long lists of features and they despise the fact that if they are comparing you to another company, they are going to have to make a spreadsheet. If you’re going to list your features, also put them in an easy to download .csv (not that this is being done, but it should be by everyone). This last part dovetails into something that companies suck at, making all the important information easy to access, download, or compile. It’s there for the customer to get a sense of who you are and research your product, make it easy.

Is the company faceless or can I see who comprises it?

People like to connect with other people. Show some personality. Digital agencies tend to do this best being unique and memorable, your people should match the image of your company. If you do have sales people, they should be the ones writing your blog, not your company product update blog, your business blog about your industry. (Most early companies, don’t even consider doing one of these, but it’s a huge mistake not to.)

So you’ve passed the test of being credible, what’s next?

Step 3: Research

If you’re credible, you’ve made a list. The next step for people is to look up reviews of your product, preferably from 3rd parties not related to your company. If you’ve done a case study, don’t have that person do the review. Most people are smart enough to know that only case studies with successful results are published. Many fall on the editing room table.

So what do you do if you can’t get enough information about your shortlisted companies and your spreadsheet has some holes in it? Ask your network.

Step 4: Social Proof

Many companies try to accomplish this by posting big companies they work with to bring about credibility, but depending on who your market is, sometimes this just won’t resonate or resonate incorrectly.

What people are really looking for is social proof. Someone in their network, virtual or personal, that can vouch for, show, or suggest the program or product directly to you. People in social situations are very honest when it comes to suggesting or recommending something. They are a far more valuable source than a 3rd party review, a testimonial, or any company logo.

If you pass social proof, the next step is Trial/Purchase…

Step 5: Trial/Purchase

Assuming a customer followed all these steps, they will now take the time and effort to test out the products that they think would be the best fit. Everything is a trial. Most sales people don’t fully grasp this, but any contract is a trial, the sale is the easy part, the repeat business is the “real” modern sale. (Sounds a bit like customer service doesn’t it?)

If your marketing was on point, your web design and content easy to navigate, your customer service great (think social proof here), and the reviews checked out validating the opinions in your social network to confirm something beyond any possible agenda, you’ll realize that the customer would have sold themselves on your product before you even talk to them.

Bonus Step 6: Referral

The best way to build a business is through stellar word of mouth. Referrals are gold (see social proof above). Nothing will help you close someone quicker than when their network is already doing it for you. Evangelize your network, don’t think of your needs but rather theirs, how can you help them. If you can succeed in helping them, they will feel the strong need and desire to be reciprocal.

 

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