Customer Journey: Research Phase

It would be amazing if customers just called you and immediately wanted to buy your product or service. Unfortunately, that isn’t how things work. Before someone is willing to buy, they go through a customer journey. As the customer progresses through this journey, they have different needs and are asking different questions. Wise marketers target customers at the stage they are in. Generally, there are three stages a customer moves through: problem awareness, solution research, and decision evaluation.

Today, let’s dive into the research phase.

The Lead

In the research phase, the potential customer has given you contact information. They have now become a lead. Your job is to follow up with value add resources to help them identify potential solutions to their problem. Notice that we are focusing on helping the customer with solutions, not just our solution. You are educating not selling. You want your customer to be able to articulate their various options. If they don’t know their options, you need to help give them solution ideas.

I know this sounds crazy to be helping them understand solutions that might not be something you provide, but trust me this is important so that you are positioned in a place of trust. Your knowledge of the industry and the customer’s problem is very important in this stage. You are helping the customer think out of the box by giving them creative ways to solve their problem. These solutions also give the customer more clarity on what their problem really is.

Trust Building Sequence

When someone becomes a lead, we recommend kicking off a marketing automation that contains both manual follow up tasks combined with a sequence of auto emails. Manual tasks are thoughtful emails based on information you are seeing on the customer’s situation. You are either asking a clarifying question or providing a recommendation that will help them in their solution evaluation process. These manually created emails are combined with auto emails that provide more general thoughts you have about the industry, problem, potential solutions. We also add customer success stories in this email sequence to provide some vision of what is possible.

Each step is meant to add value that builds their trust. When done right, a lead won’t know the difference between auto-generated emails and manual emails. Each of the communications is set up to add value within itself, but also there is a call to action to schedule a Disco Call. Your marketing automation should have visibility into if the Disco Call was scheduled. If scheduled, there is sometimes a need to stop or modify the trust-building sequence. If nothing else, you need to remove the call to action section because the discovery call has already been set.

Disco Call

The next step is to get a discovery call scheduled. This is a 15-minute call to qualify the lead by discovering what their problem is, where they are at in their decision-making process, and make sure there is a fit within the services your organization can provide. Some sales teams utilize their Sales Development Representative (SDR) to handle this call. If you don’t have an SDR, you can have the Account Executive handle the disco.

Here are the questions that you need to get answered in this call:

  1. What problem are you trying to solve?
  2. What’s the source of that problem?
  3. What would a successful outcome look like to solve this problem?
  4. If you didn’t choose a solution, do you have a plan in place to address this problem?
  5. What’s your timeline and do you have a budget set for implementation?
  6. Who else will be involved in this decision-making process?

If there is a potential fit based on this initial discovery call, the next step is to schedule the needs analysis meeting. This is a 30-60 minute call to understand in greater detail what the customer’s needs are. Note that there are times where the initial discovery call can blend right into a needs analysis. If the customer has time and you’ve established a fit, then no need to schedule another call. However, many times the customer needs to get other decision-makers involved or they don’t have time to continue to the call. If you have to schedule the needs analysis meeting, the key is to get the time set while you are on the disco call.

Needs Analysis

When you have moved onto the needs analysis, you are asking a deeper set of questions to discern how much understanding they have of their problem and where they are at in evaluating potential solutions.

You start the call out by clarifying the answers that were given in the Disco call. Next, you need to have the following questions answered:

  1. Help me understand where you’d like to be at the end of this process.
  2. What concerns do you have in this process? What do you think will be a major obstacle?
  3. What solutions are you evaluating that will help you in this process?
  4. Have you engaged in any of these solutions before? How did you feel about that solution?
  5. What role do you play in the decision-making process? Who are the people who have the final say in making a decision?
  6. What is your timeline for a final decision?
  7. Do you have any evaluation criteria that you will use to make a decision (ie budget, capacity, experience)?

As you are understanding the customer’s needs, remember that you are building trust by showing character and competence. A part of competence is challenging their assumptions. You are using your industry expertise to guide their thinking. You have a responsibility to help your potential customer think about their problem from an outside perspective and show them what solutions will actually help them solve it. If they are thinking incorrectly at any point in this process, you need to respectfully point that out. For some, this feels uncomfortable to challenge like this, but it is a critical aspect of adding value.

Overview of the Research Phase

Need: They are starting to understand potential solutions.
Belief: The ideal customer has started to identify solutions and they are believing that if they invest in a solution, they will overcome their problem.
Provide: Educate the customer further on their problem and help them get a full picture of potential solutions and how to evaluate them.
Action: Setup a disco call.
Follow up: Initiate your trust-building automated sequence to try to set up a disco call.
Analytics: Track email opens, track email clicks, track disco call setup.
Tools: Sales automation, Marketing automation

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