“Observe due measure, for right timing is in all things the most important factor.” —Hesiod

Sales and marketing efforts are more effective if they follow a particular sequence to build trust and relationships that lead to purchases.

Why?

  1. Humans form relationships in a well-defined sequence of behaviors, as studied and documented by Desmond Morris.
  2. One of the fundamental goals of marketing and sales is to build trust and relationships because that leads to repeat purchases, loyalty, and referrals.

We literally transgress when we do things out of sequence. Some transgressions just make for a little awkwardness. Like when someone you don’t know puts their hand on your shoulder – that skips a step or two in the relationship-building sequence and causes some or considerable discomfort depending on the circumstance. In marketing that may look like asking for someone’s address and phone number before talking to them when they contact you the first time. Or sending ads that follow them online when all they’ve done is take a look at the website.

Skipping more than just a couple steps can feel like either harassment or assault. This happens when someone forces themselves on another. In marketing it looks like spamming people constantly or asking for the order over and over and over again after someone visits a business once. We’re in the age of marketing assault right now when businesses are driven by whatever new shiny marketing object can track down and get them in front of as many people as possible regardless of permission or even alignment.

The sequence for business relationships differs a bit from intimate relationships – not only the goal, but the actual actions – and there are fewer steps.

Here’s the thing: you already know the steps and the sequence because it’s a human characteristic, not a formula or some made up list. This knowledge lives inside you.

The problem arises when we’re trying to make a sale: the prospect of money creates a reality distortion field and we lose perspective. We toss out our innate knowledge and substitute a fabricated process to get us from A to B as quickly as possible: how can I close the sale asap? And that sets us up to transgress: we’ve traded a long term, profitable relationship for a quick transaction.

Here’s what the sequence generally needs to look like for sales and marketing:

  1. Create awareness that your business exists and solves a problem.
  2. Provide an opportunity, with no strings attached, to get to know you: free advice, insights on video or an article or a podcast or a checklist.
  3. Give them a chance to become an insider by signing up for deeper experience or knowledge (for free, but with their contact info as payment): a special workshop, info on one aspect of how to be an expert at what you do, some small piece of insider info that gives them value.
  4. Offer an initial very small purchase so they can get to know you and your business better. A coupon to clean one couch at a super low price, a road trip car checkup, a short workshop. They may pay in time or money; either way they are investing in assessing your business.
  5. At the point someone spends time or money checking your business out, you have an opportunity to make a great impression so they want to come back for more. How you impact the customer at this point makes all the difference in how the relationship goes forward. The ideal is to completely delight the customer.
  6. Now is the time to make your core offer. If you’ve delighted them in the previous step, then they will want more.
  7. Once they purchased one or more of your main offers, and they’ve had a great experience, here’s the time to ask them to refer you.
  8. And finally, they’re a repeat customer, they now have a relationship with you and your business – they’re invested. So, they’re going to start spreading the word about you and your business and how great it is – the best marketing you could ever have.

People can go through these stages quickly or slowly, in hours or years – that’s dependent on them. Rushing them through the process can very likely backfire. People don’t like high pressured sales because it breaks the sequence.

If you’re having trouble understanding this and the 8 steps above feel like a recipe or formula, imagine them in the context of a personal relationship: there’s noticing each other, having coffee, going to dinner, spending the weekend together, etc. Each of these steps might be repeated many times, or maybe not.

All business transactions are human to human, whether selling to a business or a consumer. You can provide the stepping stones so people to move through this process in your business at their own pace; some will go quickly, some slowly, some in-between. Creating that path for people that need your offer delivers a win for your customers and an ongoing win for you.

“Don’t try to rush things that need time to grow.” —Anonymous

“No one proposes on the first date.” —Anonymous