Parker Software: Juicing the sales funnel goodness

BLOG: First coined in 1898, the sales funnel has been around for over a hundred years. Despite the drastic changes the world has seen since then, it is still relevant in our digital world. Here, Howard Williams, marketing director at Parker Software, looks at how businesses can use digital automation to get better leads, make more conversions and nurture happier customers.

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How many times have you walked into a shop and been greeted by an over enthusiastic shop assistant who wants to know everything about the purpose of your visit? Are you looking for anything in particular, can they can help with anything at all, and to let them know if you need to try a different size?

Although it seems like a friendly gesture – and is only occasionally annoying – for the business it’s also a crucial way of gauging your position on the sales funnel. Essentially boiling down to three tiers, the sales funnel starts at the outset with tier-one, leads and prospects. At this point, the customer might have just become aware of your brand and begun to familiarise themselves with who you are and what you offer.

Trying to sell overtly to a tier-one lead is asking for trouble. As well as coming across as annoying, pushing too hard at this stage means you will most likely lose a potential customer.

When encountering a tier-one customer in the digital world, a useful tool to use at this stage is reverse IP lookup. By identifying the location and business the user is accessing your website from, as well as their location and visit-history, you can instantly assign a lead score. With this score, you can then track the user’s journey from a lead to a customer, allowing you to prompt them in various subtle ways.

Moving on, we have tier-two. Here the customer will begin to identify a need and look to see whether your company can help them. They might add products to a shopping cart, download a brochure, sign up for a newsletter or simply visit the contact-us page. By using an automation tool on your website, you can track customer behaviour and use triggers to automate certain actions.

Automation actions can be as simple as adding an email address to a database and prompting the sales team to integrate this into an email marketing list, or as powerful as automatically launching a live chat window and connecting a sales person to the user in real-time.

In the same way that you might look for a shop assistant when you’re ready to try something on in the shop, a live chat tool built into the website can be useful to directly answer a customer query. This cuts out customer service or sales emails that might take days to generate a response – days that give the customer a chance to check out what competitors have on offer.

By carefully matching a user’s lead score with the level of interaction and communication your business engages in, you can create the perfect storm and gently nudge them to tier-three of the sales funnel, converting the lead into a customer.

So that’s it, we can now sit back and wait for the customers to flood in? Not quite. Now that you have a customer, it’s important to build loyalty and create a delighted customer. The same automation tools we use in the sales funnel can now be applied to provide a more integrated service.

Let’s say a customer visits the site and navigates to the support page on your website. A pre-programmed series of triggers later, automation software begins to cross-reference the customer relationship management (CRM) database and identify that this particular customer isn’t currently subscribed to a support package. The automation software then automatically calls a sales representative and connects the line to the customer.

As the system does this automatically, the time a sales person might spend assessing a customer’s needs before contacting them is greatly reduced. This boost in efficiency is a great way to gain long-term return on investment.

A human touch as simple as this provides a targeted approach to selling and customer service that brings together the best of both physical and digital worlds. This doesn’t mean that you can simply fit and forget. Gathering data and automating processes is only as valuable as the quality of human interactions it facilitates.

So remember, the next time you’re in a shop and the shop assistant sparks up a conversation, take the time to engage with them. After all, they’re only working to delight you!