If you've attended enough seminars, read enough business books, received business coaching or attended a business college you certainly will be familiar with the concept of a Sales Funnel.
We did a quick Google search to try and lock down the exact definition of it, but between Wikipedia and thousands of other authors, reporters, and bloggers it seems there isn't a single easy-to-understand definition that explains it.
In essence, the large opening of the funnel represents your broad marketing strategy. This is your newspapers, billboards, radio, TV, Twitter and Facebook. This is where you get your message out there so the world has the chance to hear you, i.e. you are making them aware of you.
With traditional marketing, you have to rely on the consistency of delivering your message before you pour the prospect further down into the sales funnel. Traditional marketing needs to rely on a branding strategy. On the other hand, within social media, someone simply needs to click the Share, Tweet, Retweet or Like button and they are instantly moved further into the sales funnel to the consideration stage.
At this point things get a little tricky. Prospects could move in and out of your sales funnel as fast as they can do a Google search, so how can you hold on to them?
An interesting thing about us humans is that no matter how smart we might be, no matter how much we experience, or know, when we have a sudden demand (whether emergency or expected) we tend to forget a solution we already know in favor of what is quickly found in front of us.
In other words, if Jane Smith's center diamond falls out of her ring, she may not remember the accolades her dearest friend always mentions about the best jeweler in town. Instead, she might panic and search Google for "jewelry stores." On the other hand, she might be searching for "plumbers" if the diamond went down the drain.
When the demand for your product or service arises, it's the previous interaction you've established that will bring you the sale. So how can you establish that?
Social interaction is a must. Not just you, but your entire staff. But before you get to that level, you need to develop your online infrastructure.
Your online infrastructure consists of maintaining your website, a blog and providing continual educational information about your product and services. Failing any of these 3 items would hinder the rest of what we're about to describe.
The website is where you have the most control of what you want to say, or display, online. The Blog is where you can provide ongoing opinion and educational information. Whenever you make changes to your website or blog, you should be posting it socially somewhere.
The next step is to establish a social networking policy with your commission-based employees that allows them to use their cell phones while on the sales floor. Now, we're not talking about text messaging or making phone calls, but rather business-related tweeting and status updates on Facebook.
Commission-based employees should see this as an opportunity to make more money. As long as they also realize that text messaging and phone calls should be at a minimum. Encourage them to post photos of jewelry, new stock, when they are proud of how happy they made a customer... things like that.
When a hair stylist moves from one salon to another, they always bring their "book" of clients. Many times, a stylist cannot get a job at a hair salon unless they already have an established book. Your savvy sales person will understand the offered opportunity to interact with their online friends and customers.
Ground rules: They should make at least 1 photo post per day that covers a different service or product you carry, and should share at least one jewelry industry related article from your website, blog or the news. Employees are not allowed to say anything negative about the owner, other employees or customers. They also should not post anything that could create a security risk. For example, "This lady in front of me just bought a $65,000 ring and she will be walking out of the store in 5 minutes." Otherwise, allow them to use common sense to not post anything that will incriminate the jewelry store, or otherwise negatively impact the store's reputation. Get this in writing with a dismissal clause if it is disobeyed.
Did you know that the US Military allows all their personnel to interact socially in just this way? Of course, they don't simply dismiss their employees, they court marshal them. They've gotten over their fears of social media usage and see it as a customer service tool, so now it's your turn.
Getting back to the Sales Funnel analogy we started with. The more your allow your employees to interact socially, the more of a chance that someone will remember your jewelry store when that diamond falls out, or they need to buy a locket for Grandparent's Day.
Social media is a vehicle that creates "Top of Mind Awareness," and that's what you need to move a prospect from general awareness to conscious awareness that you can solve their immediate demand. As a result, you make a sale.
If you get the feeling that the traditional sales funnel approach might be dead, you're not alone. There are several online sources that explain that the internet has destroyed it. But we couldn't find anyone explaining a new strategy... thus this long Daily Golden Nugget was born.