In This Article
– How to Move Prospects Along Your Sales Cycle: Introduction
– The Stages of the Sales Cycle
– Lead Generation
– Moving Onto the ‘Contact’ Stage of the Sales Cycle
– Moving Onto the ‘Prospect Scoring’ Stage of the Sales Cycle
– Prospect Scoring
– Moving Onto the ‘Nurture’ Stage of the Sales Cycle
– Moving Onto the ‘Closing the Sale’ Stage of the Sales Cycle
– Closing the Sale
– Moving Onto the ‘Customer Retention’ Stage of the Sales Cycle
– Next Steps (Customer Retention)
– How to Move Prospects Along Your Sales Cycle: Conclusion
How to Move Your Prospect Along Your Sales Cycle: Introduction
Knowing how the stages of the sales cycle correspond to your prospect’s behaviours will improve your confidence in marketing to your prospects, as you’ll be able to spot when they’re ready to be progressed to the next step. In order to this, you’ll need to take advantage of the tools you should have at your disposal in order to make these transitions between the stages happen. In this article, we’ll shed light on the three tools that help you best: sales pipelines, prospect scoring, and automation, so you can understand how they help you progress your prospect through the sales cycle.
The Stages of the Sales Cycle
A business can’t function without customers, but before they become customers, they are leads that found your business. These are contacts who are engaging with your for the first time; they’ve identified that they have a problem and your business has become one of their initial options for the solution. They’re still researching; however they’re not seriously considering a purchase yet. Despite this, it’s still important to keep an eye on what they’re looking at.
Moving Onto the ‘Contact’ Stage of the Sales Cycle
Having a CRM to store all your leads will set you up for the rest of the sales cycle. First of all, it’s an acknowledgement that this lead may turn into a real opportunity for your business. Secondly, storing all your information about the lead will help you to build up a picture of who they are as a person, what their interests are, what their pain point is and how best you can fix this. There is also the added benefit that if the contact stops engaging, you can still remember them if they come back to you at a later date.
This stage of the sales cycle acknowledges when you have significant contact with your lead. Whether this is through a phone call, email or messages from social media, it highlights that interests in your brand has been identified.
Moving Onto the ‘Prospect Scoring’ Stage of the Sales Cycle
This can come into play either through the contact themselves wanting to reach out, or by you deciding when the time is right. One of the most effective ways to do this is for you to use sales pipeline alongside. Sales pipelines allow you to visualise the stages of the sales cycle that you can undertake before a customer buys from you. These are columns that you can put a contact in, and when the contact behaves a certain way, you can replicate their journey by placing said contact into the corresponding column.
These columns should represent what actions you need to take in order to get your contact into the next stage of the pipeline. What these are called (for example “Call 1” to denote making your first sales call to them) is up to you; they need to reflect how you set up your sales process to push your contacts through the sales cycle. After all, you are the business, there will be strategies that work for you. What’s important is that you have it visualised, so you have even more confidence that your contact as following the steps you need them to take.
With your CRM, you should have collected information about your prospect, enough to detect if they would be happy to you. The outcome of this conversation should tell you how interested they are. If they’re not, or want to come back after some tie, you can place them in a pipeline column that says ‘Lost’. (Remember, contacts that are lost can also be found again!) If this is successful you should place them within the next column, ready for the next stage of the sales cycle.
Monitoring your prospects will allow you to get a good estimation of how interested they are in your company, something that becomes increasingly important as time goes on. In order to do this, you need to be able to record and establish their behaviours—again, something that can be achieved in your CRM.
By tracking when and where they interact with your business and your marketing, you can gauge whether a prospect is close to buying or not. For example, a prospect that is only interacting with you by opening an email every now and then, and only visits your social media profiles every once in a while, is in a very different part of their buying cycle to a prospect that consistently clicks on your links in emails and actively engages with your brand by reaching out on social media, asking questions and seeking guidance.
Moving Onto the ‘Nurture’ Stage of the Sales Cycle
Using a tool like popcorn’s prospect scoring allows you to rank these prospects based on this behaviour. This is something that can be adjusted depending on what suits your company’s strategy. It provides a helpful, automatic insight into who’s likely to need progressing to the next step of the sales pipeline—and who needs more time.
The process of bringing a prospect to a sale can be a lengthy one, as they may need time as well as any lingering doubts answered. This is the stage where you’ll be nurturing them by sending them targeted messaging—such as including them in email campaigns that suit their interests or situation. With your CRM in tow, you can monitor these and prevent the risk of leaving them behind, especially if they continue to engage with your marketing, e.g. in email marketing campaigns. The key here is to keep an eye on where they’re interacting with you and understanding what it shows about their intentions.
Moving Onto the ‘Nurture’ Stage of the Sales Cycle
All of this information is stored in your CRM, so during this stage of the sales cycle, it’s essential to keep track of who’s engaging and where. Then, when a prospect passes the threshold for being close to a sale, you’ll be able to understand when this is happening and drag them along your sales pipeline appropriately.
You can make this stage easier by using automation: setting up rules in your CRM that are triggered by behaviours from your prospects. This is especially helpful for continuing to score your prospects, as after enough nurturing from your marketing they will become ‘warm’ or ‘hot’ prospects. You can use automation to move them automatically along your sales pipeline to instigate the next part of the sales cycle; this usually beckons a sales call.
Closing the Sale
In the final stages of the sales cycle, your efforts need to capitalise on the familiarity you’ve built between your business and the prospect—especially because this is the time you need to overcome any last questions or obstacles that may be in the way of your prospect being sure in buying from you.
Moving Onto the ‘Customer Retention’ Stage of the Sales Cycle
The picture you’ve built up of who the prospect is will come into play here—that is to say, the information stored in your CRM is what will let you progress into the next stage of the sales cycle. Make the most of what you know about their pain point, what they’re interested in—to convince them that you’re the business that your prospect needs. You know their behaviours, you know how to close the sale; it’s a case of reaching out at the right time.
Again, this is something that your automation could help with, especially if you’re operating an e-commerce business, for example. If the sale doesn’t involve a sales call or face-to-face conversation, your automation could be used to instigate the next immediate moves—for example, the confirmation and thank you emails, and the move from the sales pipeline column of ‘Hot Prospect’ to ‘Purchased’ column.
The Next Steps (Customer Retention)
Once you’ve secured the sale, there are multiple directions you can take next, all of which will feed into your next goal: continuing the cycle by customer retention. You can read about this in more detail here. These again should be recorded in your CRM through your sales pipelines, so you don’t leave behind any customers even and especially when they’ve just bought from you. With your customer retention, the sales cycle starts again—so ensure you’re keeping up with your customers as you prepare to market to them again.
Moving a Prospect Along Your Sales Cycle: Conclusion
Moving your prospects along the sales cycle is helped significantly by the tools you use to store, monitor and categorise your prospects. By using a CRM to store all your prospects’ information, prospect scoring to qualify whether they’ll buy from you, a sales pipeline to visualise their place in your sales process, and automation to ensure the progression happens smoothly, you can see the bigger picture of how and why your prospects need to be progressed—and when that should be done. This way, you’ll have more confidence that your selling to these prospects will be successful for your business, and help you see your sales take off.