To understand the impact Social Media has on sales we first must understand the Sales Cycle. The traditional measures the time it takes to more a customer from the initial contact until the close of the sale. The sales cycles identify where in the process a consumer may be in efforts to help sales move the customer along to the next phase of the process. Social Media make the sales cycles more dynamic. The social media sales goes beyond more customer to a transaction but includes the actual use of the product or service.
The phases in the Sales Cycle are:
- and Use
Lets discuss what is involved in each of these phases:
Discovery is the point that a consumer gains and builds awareness of your product or service. Today consumers gain awareness of organizations and their offerings in 3 primary ways. Those ways are:
- Word of Mouth
- Advertisement and Product Placement
A consumer could discover your product or service through a search. The yellow pages have become irrelevant people today search for products or services using search Engines such as Google, Bing or other Social Search Services.
Word of Mouth
Consumers could discover your product through word of mouth. Through a shared experience from someone within their personal network, a person could gain awareness of your product or service. Through social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus, a consumer may gain exposure to your organization
Consumers also discover product through advertisement and product placement. Online advertising and product placement allows organizations the ability to collect leads and move prospects into the next phase of the sales cycle. Ads on Facebook or place in content through Google are an effective way to increase exposure as part of the discovery phase.
After a consumer has had sufficient exposure to your product and service to arose interest, they next move the selection phase.
Consumers have access to an abundance of products and services options to choose from. During the selection process, consumers weed out the products and service that do not meet their personal preferences and come to a decision of which product or service that they want to purchase.
After consumers have narrowed their option down to the item that they intend to purchase move into the validation process. This is the most extensive phase of the Sales Cycle. Consumers validate products and service in 3 ways:
- Network Approval
- Third Party Reviews
In the validation phase consumer educate themselves about the product and service that they are validating and how they intend to use it. One way that they educate themselves is through view videos on YouTube of other Social Video Sharing Platforms. The use of online video posted on the site such as YouTube is an effective tool to educate consumers and help move them through the validation phase.
Consumers want the validation of those whom they associate with. Whether they are buying a pair of jean, an automobile or home the seek validation from the family and peers. You can help consumers gain network approval by make information about your offering easy to share on social networks. By incorporating a catchall social sharing widget into your website, you allow a consumer to get validation from the network in a manner that works best for the consumer.
Third Party Reviews
Through rating and review sites such as Yelp According consumer gain further validation of a product or service that they are interested in. 55 percent of U.S. consumers trust a local business more after reading positive online reviews, and 67 percent of respondents say they trust online reviews as much as word-of-mouth recommendations. One approach is to make is easy for a consumer to unfiltered find reviews of your organization. Consumer realize that no company will have 100% glowing reviews therefore it is more important that consumers see how you addressed the negative review instead of attempting to cover it up.
After consumer have validated your product and service, they are ready to more to the purchasing phase.
When a consumer is ready to purchase your products or service, you need to make it easy for them. If your products or services cannot be purchased online, then you can use GeoTargeting service to help the consumer find the best location for them to buy. Also, you can use insight gain through social media monitoring for cross selling. One caution regarding cross-selling is that items that you are cross selling may also need to go through the sales cycle, and potential loss or delay of sales can occur.
After the consumer has purchased your product or service the experience that they have with the purchased item paves the way for future sales. Therefore, it is crucial that you have good product and customer support mechanisms in place. This can be done through Wikis and Forums. Also your want to make it easy for consumers to share their experience to aid other through the sales cycle.