Leading new customers to that “a-ha” moment
There’s a moment in a customer’s typical buying cycle that has long been under-valued, if not completely ignored, by the average sales professional. It’s what has become known as “The Epiphany Phase.” It’s the moment when an individual or company is right on the cusp of realizing that they have a problem that requires a solution. They may not fully understand this problem—in fact, they may have misdiagnosed it completely, but they recognize that trouble is afoot. And this is where you, the business professional, must step in.
Helping prospects realize that they have a business need, ultimately, is far more valuable than simply solving that need. You have the opportunity to create a deeper, more profound relationship with customers and to influence their path of ascent before competitors have even arrived at their door—elevating you to status of trusted, valued advisor as opposed to simply a “friendly salesman.”
Capturing new prospects at the epiphany phase is where the true value of your content marketing initiatives kicks in. Marketing and Sales must truly be aligned at this juncture. The new visitor to your website is obviously feeling some initial pain or sensing that their business has some, as yet, unidentified need. These individuals are not yet leads. They are professionals in their realms doing research.
Demand Generation. The epiphany phase is the first opportunity to move the prospect through the sales funnel by establishing yourself as a valuable resource. This is the point where Marketing needs to seed these epiphanies with information, industry research and thought leadership that helps reveal business issues that customers didn’t even know they had. Long before they begin thinking about buying anything, customers are trying to determine the next issue or problem that their business will face. They are conducting research that will help guide their next move.
Symptoms vs. Problems. At this point in the sales cycle, marketers must become educators and salespeople—facilitators, helping customers articulate their needs or issues. Very often a prospect will misidentify symptomatic issues of problems as the problem itself. A businessman may cite flat sales, low-growth rate or some other standard malady as the issue that’s dogging their enterprise when, in reality, those are the results of their problem.
The real underlying issue may be ineffective marketing tools, poor IT infrastructure, substandard operational logistics or a thousand other reasons. It’s your job to accurately diagnose the cause, not the effect. Not until the buyer has acknowledged their true problem and recognizes the need to make a purchase or seek a solution can marketing move into lead generation mode.
But this is about more than closing individual deals. Successfully managing the epiphany phase –not only providing your customers with the solutions to their problems, but educating them as to the true nature of their problems—will confirm your reputation as a market leader. Achieving this recognition will allow you to establish long-term client relationships, eclipse your competition, and command premium compensation for your professional services.
Three valuable tips, courtesy of Chris Koch of ITSMA.com for successfully managing the customer’s Epiphany Phase:
1. Thought leadership should be focused on revealing future trends and articulating the business challenges and opportunities that will likely result from those trends. It’s up to Marketing to create resources that illustrate the business challenges that customers and prospects are researching at this stage.
2. Align Sales & Marketing with the customer’s buying process. Forego the sales pitch. Meetings during the epiphany phase should be consultative and collaborative. The gap in time between when a prospect recognizes a business need and when sales typically engages them represents a tremendous opportunity to gain an advantage over competitors. It shifts the relationship with the customer from reacting to their requests to helping them discover and respond to the most important business issues they face.
3. Change sales’ emphasis from pitching to advising. The goal for salespeople shifts from making the sale to building trust. Customers invest their trust in the relationship when they see that a provider is willing and able to provide knowledge and experience that rivals and exceeds their own—in other words, to put the needs of the customer first.