Understanding the Sales Cycle: Your Client is Ready to Buy, but Are You Ready to Sell?

John Tabita

In a previous article, I talked about the consumer’s natural buying cycle and that, regardless of how much we’d like to believe the web has changed everything, basic human nature and the underlying motives that drive behavior remain the same. The acronym AIDA was coined by American advertising and sales pioneer E. St. Elmo Lewis in 1898 to describe the consumer’s buying process. It remains as relevant today as it was during the Industrial age when Lewis developed it.

A – Attention: A product or service gets the consumer’s attention.

I – Interest: The consumer becomes interested and begins gathering information to support a purchase decision.

D – Desire: The consumer gradually becomes more and more convinced that he wants and needs the product or service, at the price it’s being offered.

A – Action: He buys.

I also talked about the importance of having a clearly-defined sales process to keep you on track and help you maintain control of the sales call. The buying cycle and the sales cycle collide when the two parties meet and discuss doing business together. That can be as simple as walking into the Verizon store and walking out 20 minutes later with a new cell phone; or as complex as an enterprise software solution that requires an initial meeting with the CTO, a 90-minute PowerPoint presentation in front of the Board, a technical meeting with the IT staff, a detailed proposal submitted to the CFO, and six months of follow-up as they compare vendors. Yet, when you break it down to its lowest denominator, sales has been and always will be as simple as this:

Some people have stuff. Other people need stuff. Occasionally they get together and agree to trade their stuff.

In ancient times, “stuff” was items like grain or eggs, and people traded what they had for items they needed. Eventually, we came up with the concept of currency and we started trading our “stuff” for money. People soon figured out that they ought to let others know what “stuff” they had for sale, and the advertising industry was born. Copperplate-printed advertisements emerged in China during the 10th Century A.D. Egyptians used papyrus to make sales messages and wall posters, and commercial messages have been discovered in the ruins of Pompeii and ancient Arabia. The first classified ads that appeared in the Boston News-Letter in 1704 were so successful that they spawned an entirely new way of advertising, eventually giving birth to Yellow Pages and PPC.

Today’s Stuff is Just Different than Yesterday’s Stuff

Today, the “stuff” you have is information. Knowing things like HTML, CSS, and SEO allows you to create “stuff” others want—like websites, online advertising campaigns, and top search engine ranking. Instead of carving your message in a rock wall alongside an ancient highway, your prospect finds your PPC ad on the SERP and IMs you. Once that happens, you need a sales cycle.

There’s a logical progression that occurs in every sale, whether it’s a 20-minute cell phone sale or an IT consulting gig that takes 10 months to close. It only makes sense to document that process and use it to your advantage. Every sales organization I’ve worked for had some type of “Steps to the Sale” as part of their training. Even Google.

I’ve never worked at Google, but I did watch a series of videos for Google Engage. In a nutshell, the Engage program offers training and tools to help SEO professionals offer AdWords services to their clients. One of the videos outlines the steps necessary to sell such a program:

  1. Preparation
  2. Fact Find
  3. Pitch
  4. Overcome Objections
  5. Close

Those five steps are nearly identical to the ones we use to sell Yellow Pages. That’s because selling stand-alone PPC advertising to clients with an existing website is remarkably similar to selling Yellow Pages, or any other advertising for that matter. In my next article, I’m going to present a slightly modified version that incorporates some of the steps in our sales process. I’ll also take you through the first step in the process and show you what to do—and what not to do—when preparing for that next big meeting.

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This is the third installment of the series “Understanding the Sales Cycle,” which consists of:

What’s a Buying Cycle and Why Should I Care?
What’s a Sales Cycle and Why Do I Need One?
Your Client is Ready to Buy, but Are You Ready to Sell?
Step 1, How to Prepare
Making a Good First Impression

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