Engaging Empowered Customers

Mikita Mikado, CEO, PandaDoc

Today there is a phenomenon known as the “Google” effect. That is – technology advances are producing a society where people expect all their technology interactions to be as accurate, fast and reliable as Google. At the same time, consumers are more empowered than ever before, with the ability to research product reviews in milliseconds and competitors just a click away.

For brands, closing the sale often comes down to capturing the customer at just the right moment with content that is compelling and tailored specifically to them. This article explores four keys to closing sales in an era where demands for service and convenience are at an all-time high, and target audiences’ attention spans are at an all-time low.

Delivering compelling, personalized content throughout the sales process
In sales, a one-size-fits-all approach no longer works.

In an interview with Harvard Business Review, James Farley, vice president of marketing, sales, and service at Ford Motor Company, reflected on how sales has evolved in recent decades. “Today I see the best salespeople as a cross between problem solvers and concierges.” Farley adds, “In the past the auto industry had its share of highly skilled salespeople who could sell mediocre cars. They served to prop up weak brands. That doesn’t happen today, because customers have better information.” The empowered consumer is a tough target to sway, so to win over-educated customers, brands need quality content.

To craft the kind of content that inspires action, salespeople need to first understand common concerns clients have. Those may include: product quality, price, reputation or a company’s stance on user privacy. Businesses, then, must develop blog posts, email drafts, in-app messaging, pitch decks and talking points that address buyers’ biggest reservations. Often, these can be shared through drip campaigns, live chat and sales calls.

No two buyers follow the same decision-making process. Content helps to reinforce your value proposition and alleviate customer concerns throughout each step of the sales cycle, from start to finish.

Getting inside the customer’s thought process
Brands that consistently close sales are two steps ahead of their customers. That is because businesses that want to grow make it a point to understand users’ ever-changing needs – and they accomplish that through customer surveys and user analytics. Whenever possible, let your buyers and their actions speak for themselves.

The more companies know about what clients want, the better they become at building products people will pay for, crafting copy that sells and delivering information in a timely manner.

Surveys help businesses prioritize what’s next in the development pipeline. User analytics and data power drip marketing campaigns where emails or in-app messaging are set to trigger based on specific user actions. For example, potential buyers who spend a lot of time viewing your pricing page are price-sensitive and may be more receptive to discounts and special offers. Prospects who take the time to learn about your product’s advantages and benefits may be more interested in a free trial to see how well they can apply your tools to their business. Also, knowing how receptive leads are to formal sales documents and proposals allows you to proactively address their viability, as well as their unique concerns. Today, sales content automation solutions can actually let organizations see when leads are opening contracts for viewing, as well as the contract sections and parts that prospects are stopping and zeroing in on.

By asking customers questions and using data, firms develop actionable insights about how to best interact with potential buyers in order to effectively convert them into paying customers.

Avoiding unnecessary lag time in closing sales
For more than just cash-flow purposes, businesses desperately want to shorten the sales cycle. To do that, companies must leverage marketing and sales automation to deliver information, proposals and finalized contracts at the exactly the right time – when customers are most willing and able to advance through the sales process. In the past, salespeople used to have meetings where they would meet a potential client face-to-face and, afterwards, return to their desk to process notes and produce a formal proposal. Between those steps, buyers may develop cold feet. To streamline the sales process and capture opportunity while it is still “hot,” sales teams need to be able to access valuable marketing content and build tailored proposals when they are prospect-facing and on-the-road.

Content marketing also helps close sales sooner, but does so in a more subtle way. Through articles, whitepapers and other thought leadership pieces, brands earn the trust of potential clients when they educate buyers about their industry and share information that helps customers work smarter. Content marketing builds valuable brand awareness and loyalty. As noted above, salespeople should have direct access to these materials so they can leverage them to address unique prospect concerns.

Finally, to improve the sales process, venture capitalist Mark Suster advises sales teams to focus their outreach efforts on engaging with company leaders and decision-makers. By “calling high,” salespeople circumvent time-consuming gatekeepers who might otherwise reject a proposal without giving it much thought and quickly weed out bad leads.

Self-service platforms
At times, salespeople become their own bottleneck. To prevent this from happening, companies ought to build self-service platforms with painless payment portals. When customers are ready to buy, they do so unhindered with a quick and easy credit card transaction.

Also, because most business deals are closed with a signature, companies should make it easy for buyers to execute contracts without the need to tediously print or scan anything. With professionals spending a majority of their time on-the-go and on smartphones, commercial agreements and proposals should be viewable and signable on mobile devices. This empowers the buyer to close the deal for you, in an efficient and painless manner.

When customers can Google reviews of your brand and product or can choose between multiple vendors, how will you evolve your approach to close more sales?

Mikita Mikado is a software engineer, entrepreneur and co-founder and CEO of PandaDoc, makers of all-in-one software that enables easier, faster delivery of high-quality, personalized sales proposals.