Before the advent of the internet, the sales cycle – the process that goes from securing a prospect to concluding a sale – and the buying cycle took place at the same time, and had a similar duration. The different stages of the sales cycle, seen entirely from the perspective of the company, are often summarised by the acronym AIDA:
- Attention: attract the attention of the user to your product or service, as opposed to that of the competition.
- Interest: raise the interest of your prospect by demonstrating that your offering will satisfy their needs or solve their particular problem.
- Decision/Desire: this is where your sales team works to convince the consumer they want your product.
- Action: when the prospect is almost convinced, lead them to take action and buy.
The buying cycle, on the other hand, means putting yourself in the position of the consumer. Nowadays, by the time a potential client contacts you they are already 100% informed about what they need, and what you can offer them. Your sales team therefore has less time to convince them – leading to a vastly reduced sales cycle. In less than a decade the information age has revolutionised our buying habits. When we want something, we search an array of websites for the brands that can provide it. We check opinions in social networks, with companies ready to personalise their offering to stand out from all the other options on the market.
On top of that we have the advantage of mobility: we can stand in a store comparing competitors’ prices on our smartphone (‘showrooming’), and receive instant alerts about new products, discounts or loyalty rewards. All of these factors have had an impact on the sales cycle, altering the rate at which the four steps outlined above (AIDA) take place.
The whole process is accelerated, with the consumer realising they have a need, and finding out how and where they can fulfil that need sometimes in a matter of minutes. The sales department has less time to close a sale if they want to avoid a high rate of lost leads. But help is at hand. There are some simple, web-based measures you can take to avoid losing potential customers. After all, it’s one thing to have the best solution on the market, a sales dream team and a brilliant digital marketing strategy… but if you don’t take care of the user experience on your website, you can forget about those conversions.
Here are some tips for optimising your web visitor experience:
- Never underestimate the format.Convey confidence with an elegant design and a simple site menu, and be consistent with your other corporate communications in terms of colours, messages and writing style. Your customer should be able to find what they are looking for in 3 clicks or under. Check your website and see if it’s true.
- Prioritise ideas and be down-to-earth. This is true for both written and visual content. You have just a few seconds to capture the attention of your web visitor, present your company and explain why your solution is unique. Avoid redundancy, take out visual elements that distract from your messages, and get rid of gobbledygook (words that fill out sentences without adding meaning, e.g. leading-edge, state-of-the-art, innovative).
- Check carefully for possible technical errors. Does your website load in any browser or mobile device? Does it successfully record leads? Can it process a high volume of traffic? Make sure the load time is optimum, and that your web visitor can read the most important information without having to scroll down. Carry out tests and see how your site fares.
- Make navigation easier by using links. Connect related internal sections of your site using links of the same format and colour. Add external links to quality content if it’s useful to visitors to your website.
- Use calls to action in the right way. If you want to direct visitors to a landing page, use a call to action that stands out visually with a not-to-be-missed offer.
- Be transparent.Your website should inspire trust and convey friendliness. Include interesting material with clear, simple and concise descriptions. Be clear, too, about the total price, any guarantees and privacy clauses. And include various ways of contacting you (social media links, forms and email).