The “ladder” we talk about most with work is the career ladder. That’s no doubt important, but that ladder has become less and less relevant in recent years as people job-hop more to get better salaries, startups are founded all the time, etc. Now the “ladder” you want to focus on is within sales. A ladder for your buyers. Let’s explain.
How high-ticket is your offer?
There are different definitions of “high-ticket” in terms of end product or service, but for purposes of this article, let’s say over $200,000 U.S. That can be consulting, membership (like Gartner’s “Magic Quadrant” concepts get over six figures, although not quite 200K), or total cost of doing business. For a $5B company, $200,000 is not a lot of money. Most companies aren’t $5B companies, though, and as a result, $200,000 is a lot of money to spend for 95% of the companies you’ll do business with. A high-ticket offer like that is almost assuredly going to the CEO, if not multiple lieutenants of the CEO.
What happens on high-ticket offers, then, is that you extend your sales cycle (lots of analysis paralysis around cost vs. value), you have to wine and dine multiple stakeholders, and after all that, you’ve still got a good chance of losing the deal. Especially if you don’t have the possibility to pitch to all relevant stakeholders. High-ticket selling is complete boom or bust, with way more “bust” for most sales principals, honestly.
How does the “ladder” come in?
You need to start with early, cost-effective and low barrier (=impulse buy) offers that allow you to build the relationship towards the bigger offer.
Here’s an easy example: let’s say you ultimately want to sell a $500,000 re-branding and consulting package. (People spend that kind of money, and more, on such packages.) That’s your end goal product/service. Well, what if you started with letting someone from a target company talk to one of your subject matter experts for 90 minutes for $200,00.? That’s an entry point offer that is valuable itself and you still get a small commitment ($200,00). You begin to build a relationship and show expertise. Don’t do this consultation for free because you don’t get any commitment and therefore you don’t build a relationship.
That’s the first rung of the ladder.
In SaaS, the entry offers usually revolve around free trials, chances to demo new features, chances to meet with the builders of the software, etc. Often these models are called “freemium,” and while it’s been successful for a host of companies, there are some arguments that approach to the sales ladder may be dying out. Why? Because of the lack of commitment of the customers. You sign up for free but actually don’t commit to use it for some time.
What you want to achieve with that ladder is to get some commitments early on. Either little money, or a lot of their time or ideally both.
Think of this all in the context of lead generation
What do people need more than anything else when trying to grow their business?
Expertise. Product-market fit knowledge. Vertical knowledge and context. Geographical insight.
People are clamoring for real, usable knowledge.
Now, when a lot of companies do lead generation, they define “knowledge” as “Here’s a white paper that we outsourced to a young person we found on a platform.” Then they gate it, collect emails/numbers, and the SDRs/BDRs go about beating the bushes. That’s often the main way companies do “lead generation.”
But if what potential clients/customers really need is expertise … it’s time to shift that focus.
Don’t waste the time of your subject matter experts, no. But make them available early in the process. Let them talk to prospects and train them to “tease” the meeting where they give just so much information or expertise … and then need to go. Now you have an entry offer that leaves them wanting more. It makes the prospect want to climb the ladder, instead of you having to push their buttocks up the ladder. The difference is huge.
If you build a ladder with a mix of expertise and quick “impulse buy”-type items, you’ll move prospects to the high-ticket value items much more efficiently.