Marketing & Sales: The Secret of the Steps

This is the first article in a 3-part series on marketing and sales form a change perspective. If you’re in the early stages of building a business, chances are you have some marketing and/or sales challenges. Even if you’re employed by someone else, I bet you are still involved in marketing or sales in some ways.

Full disclosure: I am not a marketing or sales professional. And you won’t hear what I’m about to share with you from most marketing or sales professionals. Not because they don’t know it, but because they haven’t thought about it in the same way.

I don’t think about marketing or sales like a marketer or salesperson. I think about it as a change specialist. And that makes a lot of difference. Let me explain.

Marketing and sales are two distinct disciplines. They are areas of expertise practised by subject-matter specialists. But they are also a means to an end. A business doesn’t really want a great marketing campaign or a top gun salesperson. What they want is more customers, more clients.

So, if we want more clients, we must recognise what that means. First, it means we need to find good prospects. What’s a good prospect? It’s someone who has a need that your product or service will satisfy. And second, it means getting that person to change from what has been normal – not being your client – to what is new, becoming your client.

And it’s that change journey that interests me.

In this article, I want to help you understand how to lead a prospect along that change journey by knowing the goal of each step. In the second article in this series, I want to show you how to move a prospect along the change journey through targeted communications. And in the third article, I want to show you how to lead a prospect along the change journey by overcoming obstacles that can get them stuck.

The Change Process

You need to understand that the change process has 5 steps. We are only interested in the first two steps – those are the two that are most relevant to marketing and sales. Before we consider the different goals of the first two steps, we need to think about what is possible for a prospect on each of these steps. There are three possible outcomes for each step.

  • The prospect can complete a step and then move forward to the next one
  • The prospect can get stuck on a step, unable to make any progress
  • The prospect can find a step too challenging, give up, and go backwards

In the broadest sense, your job is to help the prospect achieve the first of these three possible outcomes.

The Goals

Let’s think about the goals you should have for the prospect in the first two steps of the change process. The goal of the first step is to lead the prospect towards awareness. The goal of the second step is to move the prospect towards commitment. These should be your goals because these are what the first two steps of the change process are all about.

Towards Awareness – the prospect needs a growing awareness of their need. It could be that something is no longer working for them and they are increasingly out of step with their lived reality. This might cause them pain – either physical pain or psychological pain. They might have a sense that something’s wrong, or things aren’t quite right.

The prospect needs to become aware that there’s a better reality out there, waiting for them. This better reality may be expressed as something they want, something that will put them back in sync with their lived experience. Something that will remove that unnerving feeling that something is wrong.

Without an awareness of need, the prospect can’t make any further progress with change. Your job is to help them become aware of their need with as much clarity and emotion as you can get from them. Get them talking about what’s wrong and how it impacts their life. Ask them to think about life without this problem – how would it be better, what would they be able to do, how would they feel, etc. Help them get in contact with these two realities – the unsatisfactory nature of their current reality and the wonderful reality that will unfold once the problem has been solved.

I think it is fair to say that creating awareness of problems and solutions is largely a marketing task. You put out messages designed to relate to the needs and desires of your target market. Good prospects are people who relate to those messages – “Yes, that applies to me. That is exactly how I feel, and I want those things you describe.” And because they relate to those messages, they are naturally inclined towards what you have to say.

Towards Commitment – this is the Step 2 goal and I believe it is largely a sales goal. To be effective, it’s important to understand what people do in Step 2. Here are some of the things they do:

  • Weigh whether the solution is worth the effort 
  • Consider whether the solution offered is the right one for them
  • Consider the pros and cons of the offered solution
  • Decide whether they have the capacity to make it happen
  • Deal with feelings of uncertainty and insecurity
  • Talk to someone who realistically understand their anxieties and will help them come to a decision
  • Assess who they can trust to guide them
  • Get excited about a future where their problem is solved

This is what people do in Step 2 – they think through the offered solution and decide what to do about it. Some can do this well, and others struggle with it. But, at the end of Step 2, the prospect will decide (make a commitment). They will decide either to accept your solution, or to reject it.

An Example

John began his coaching business 6 months ago and is yet to attract his first fee paying client. He is aware of his marketing problem and he is very worried about it. He worries he won’t be able to pay his bills and his business will fail. But he can also imagine himself as a successful coach. He can picture a waiting list of clients, being busy every day and feeling he is really making a difference. He can imagine having the lifestyle that goes with success – taking holidays to exotic locations, driving a nice car, providing good things for his family.

John is lucky because he knows what’s wrong. Some people haven’t identified that yet. Either way, your job is to help them get connected – emotionally and rationally – with their present reality and the reality they long for.

Let’s say in this example that you operate a marketing business helping coaches get more clients. You create a piece of content and John sees it. This content speaks directly to John’s problem. You sound like you might have a solution that could help him. The result is that he emails you.

The fact that John has emailed you means he has moved from Step 1 into Step 2. He has moved from simply being aware of his reality to wanting to think through the solution you offer. Never underestimate the magnitude of that step.

Now that John is in Step 2, your job is to help him move towards becoming your client. But to do that, he needs to trust you and to know you understand him. He needs to be sure your solution will work, and you need to help him overcome his concerns and answer his questions. If you can do all those things, he is likely to become your client. Step 2 is largely a sales role.

How can you help John along this process? Ask questions, explore, dig. Ask ‘why’. And keep asking. And when you think the prospect is fully aware of and in touch with their problem or opportunity, move them through Step 2.

In Step 2 you move the prospect towards commitment. Commitment towards solving their problem and grasping the opportunity. And commitment to letting you help them do that. At the end of Step 2 you want them to make the decision to become you client.

Review

In this article, we have considered the first things you need to understand about marketing and sales. For your prospect, they mean engaging in the first two steps of the change process.  The better you understand exactly what that means for the prospect, the more likely you are to convert them into a client. If you need help exploring what your prospects need to do and how you can help them do it, reach out to me and I will help.

In the next article in this series, we consider how you can use effective communications to move the prospect through awareness and into commitment.

Written By Steve Barlow

Steve is a change fitness coach and change readiness trainer and consultant. If you would like some help with any of the ideas presented in this blog, please book a free consultation with Steve.

steve@thechangegym.com