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As the Flywheel Turns — A Guide to Frictionless Selling

More than 200 years ago, James Watt changed the world when he invented the flywheel, the gizmo that powered the steam engine and, in turn, the Industrial Revolution. The flywheel is again a disruptor, as companies ditch the outmoded sales funnel and replace it with this new tool for the digital age.

The Old-Fashioned Funnel

Anyone who is a veteran of sales has likely been instructed in the dogma of the sales funnel. This model, held sacred by sales managers everywhere, teaches us that the successful flow of sales conversion occurs through a funnel, with a large group of actions we call “marketing” at the top, another set of activities we call “sales” in the middle, and a comparatively small output called “customers” at the bottom.

In its more sophisticated form, the funnel’s marketing activities are broken down into descending subgroups: leads, sales calls, follow-up and conversion. Like good acolytes, we’ve all accepted that we have to take a whole lot of actions, often less-than-strategic ones, to create the desired result, more customers.

But there are many things about the funnel model that have gone the way of the dodo. For instance, the funnel model says you only get output by continuously pouring input into the top. Yet in our modern experience, we find that actions we take in the digital space can continue to generate results passively for months or even years.

The model also assumes that the bottom of the funnel has no affect on the top. Again, the digital environment renders this assumption false, since we know that our customers often influence the behavior of people at the top — for good or bad — when they leave online reviews about their customer experience.

The funnel is a rigid, antiquated and clunky tool, something akin to the caveman’s club. It limits innovation and denies the energetic qualities of online marketing, which yields such wonders as backlinks to your site, enduring content and social media fans.

From Funnel to Flywheel

Let us ponder the noble flywheel. The flywheel is simple in construction, but it is dynamic in nature. In the new sales paradigm, your customers live at the flywheel’s hub, with marketing, sales and service turning in perpetual motion around them.

The flywheel’s power lies in two features: force and friction.

May the Force Be With You

If the Star Wars franchise taught us nothing else, it taught us that the “Force” is in all of us. That’s good for sales, because the more force we apply, the faster the flywheel spins.

What are some ways to apply force to your sales flywheel? You can opt for some of the basics, like hiring more salespeople, increasing sales calls and setting higher sales targets.

But Brian Halligan, Cofounder and CEO of HubSpot, says that his organization has shifted focus to ‘delighting existing customers’ and away from trying to close as many customers as possible. Satisfied customers will automatically replicate themselves by becoming your fan force and telling others about your brand.

Halligan also says his organization is committed to improving the quality of its leads. Rather than focusing on volume, his team measures the success of its marketing based upon the “volume of those most-likely-to-succeed leads.”

Due to the reliability of physics, we know that when force is applied, our flywheel will keep right on spinning, provided that friction doesn’t slow it down.

Pulp Friction

In the new sales paradigm, keeping our flywheel spinning means limiting or eliminating friction. And that means making the buying experience “frictionless” for our customers.

All of the current marketing data tells us that consumers want these things: a transparent, haggle-free buying experience; seamless online purchasing and checkout; quick (and preferably free) shipping; and a simple return process — all for a competitive price.

In Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction,” Fabienne had a great insight: “Any time of the day is a good time for pie.”

Even back in 1994, Fabienne knew that consumers also want things around the clock. In our case, that means providing 24/7 customer support.

The companies that are succeeding today are the ones that take the friction out of buying. They are putting fewer steps between people and the things they want, using technology to make the process simpler and pain-free.

Halligan suggests investing in technologies that makes your customers more efficient, giving them a “lighter experience” with less human interaction.

Here are some things your company can do to achieve frictionless selling:

1. Increase SEO, or “Selling Engagement Optimization”

  • Evaluate your current sales processes to see where you can insert technology to increase efficiencies, like data reporting tools, sales enablement programs and time tracking apps.
  • Focus on generating qualified leads.
  • Find ways to “delight existing customers,” and make them part of your sales force.

2. Be Transparent. Trust = Sales.

  • Tell customers exactly what they’re buying and how much it will cost.
  • Give buyers multiple payment options. Consider adding a financing partner or payment plans.
  • Make cancelations and returns easy.

3. Improve the Way You Sell

  • Set up live chat so customers can get pie at any time of the day.
  • Cross-train employees to handle customer issues and minimize the number of handoffs.
  • Listen to customer feedback and align your service delivery with their demands.

The odds are that you have already set down your funnel and set your flywheel spinning. But you may need some help with eliminating friction and optimizing your flywheel’s capabilities.

Big Chief Creative Media is a full-service digital marketing agency with the strategic bandwidth to manage your complete marketing process from creative concept to production and results tracking.

And repurpose the funnel. It will make a great party hat.