In an earlier blog I wrote about the woman behind so many of the signs that we see everyday on our roads and railways – Margaret Calvert. I discussed how the important thing to be sure that signs provide is just the right information at just the right time. Information on the road that answers the questions that drivers need, a confirmation that they are on the right road, going in the right direction. At the right moment you get the additional information that is needed to turn off, and the closer you get to the destination, the more local the detail that is needed: the town, then the district, then the road, then the house.
In business too, our prospects need to understand where, and when, they are being asked to turn off the road they have been on and to turn on to ours.
When we’re going to turn off the road, we need to be clear of our intentions to do so. That’s why we signal using our indicators to alert those around us of the decision we’re about to take. That allows others on the road to be ready. In business too, we need to be alert to the signals that those in our markets are giving us. If we make the opportunities clear, then we can expect to see some prospective clients signalling their interest. It won’t be a flashing light, but if you are alert you’ll be able to identify what those signals are. It could be downloading a white paper, or booking an appointment.
Are they indicating that they are about to buy our product or are they simply indicating a glance as they pass us by?
In my opinion, we should get the information to people at the right time and in the right way to meet their (informational) needs, and allow them the space and time to consider the information. When we do that well, we will be able to see whether they signal their intention to turn. Yet just like on the roads, if the signs are too early, or too late, it’s easy for people to miss the turning. We should give them the right warnings that they are coming to a decision quite soon. Timing is important in all our communications.
What happens if they miss your turning?
Yet we all know that on occasions we misread a sign, or perhaps miss it altogether. Perhaps because something else is happening that demands our attention. If we missed the turning, our signpost needs to also tell people that they have still got an opportunity to take a different route. Just like any satellite navigation system when we miss a turning, or turn to the wrong road, they will seamlessly recalculate the route to bring us back on track. We should treat our prospects in the same way. Too often I’ve seen businesses conclude when a prospect doesn’t take the turning that they have decided, forever, not to buy from us. It’s simply not the case. It’s possible our sign was not clear, or they saw it at the wrong time for them; in essence, they may well just be slightly lost. What we can do is reach out and help them. Show them the route back to where we would like them to travel and give them the choice again.
How do I make sure my sales are on course?
When Margaret Calvert was working on the road signs for the M1 she wasn’t just deciding what to put on the signs, but where to put them, how far away from the decision point, and so on. She used experiments, and trail and error, and that continued after the motorway was opened. Even today the signage on the M1 is updated based on experience. Your sales process too should be constantly evaluated. Are your prospects getting the information they need, when they need it? Is it in a form they can easily use?
One of the things that I’ve learned when working with clients is to have clarity around where they are on this journey. I classify potential clients by thinking of them as travelling towards my business. How far out are they? What level of information and data does a client that far away from you need? Probably not much more than the direction an idea that your product exists, that your marketing for those people should focus on keeping them informed of where you are and what direction is best to approach you. For others who are much closer to a decision, you may need to provide much greater information, more frequently and in more detail.
When do you stop giving directions?
On the road, the signposts stop when you reach your destination, but in business I’m not sure anyone ever stops travelling. We always have to communicate about what we are delivering, about what we could deliver, and continue to build the relationships that are needed for business to thrive.