Illustration Depicting a catalyst breaking apart a Molecule

The Power of Catalysts to Increase Conversions

By Tuesday November 6th, 2018

Instead of overwhelming yourself by fixating on a lofty goal, break the sales process into smaller stages, then identify the catalysts that increase your chances of success.

What we will cover in this article…

  • What is a marketing or sales catalyst?
  • What are some examples of catalysts?
  • How can using catalysts help to optimize a sales funnel?
  • How can a business go about identifying its catalysts?

Have you ever found yourself focusing on a final destination that seems overwhelming and out of reach? If this daunting goal has to do with acquiring new customers or hitting an aggressive revenue target, it usually comes down to two variables: lead volume and conversion rate. In this article, I’ll be focused on the latter– sales funnel optimizations to convert more leads into customers. In the past, we’ve looked at topics like lead quality over quantity and more technical conversion rate optimization. When I think of catalysts, they are major motivators that can be added to your sales process, not granular changes that can be made to what’s already there.

The larger and more challenging the goal, the more we tend to procrastinate and start doubting our chances of reaching it. Your eyes start to glaze over and it’s hard to imagine getting there.

At this moment, the worst thing you can do is start reaching and acting out of desperation. The key is staying focused. I recommend breaking the lofty sales goal into smaller, more manageable steps. Realize that all of your sales won’t come in one big wave, but require a focused effort and a repeatable sales process that will get you there, one successful step at a time.

Sales Funnel Optimization, Starting With A Catalyst

Now let’s take this idea a step further. Commit to the idea that some of the smaller steps on your way to your lofty goal are much more important than others. I call them catalysts… they are critical moments in the sales funnel or customer journey, that when leveraged appropriately, can expedite the sales process and greatly increase your chances of closing a deal.

Catalyst. n. critical moments in the sales funnel or customer journey, that when leveraged appropriately, can expedite a process and greatly increase your chances of closing a deal.

The productivity guru James Clear talks about how large improvements start with small behaviors that need to change first. In his 1% Better Everyday Presentation (starts at around 5 min mark), James talks about how he focuses on pulling himself out of bed to hail a cab in the early morning, because he realizes that his chances of getting a good workout in skyrocket, simply by making sure he hails that cab. He knows that if he hits the snooze button and doesn’t hail the cab, there goes that day’s workout and all momentum for the week. Each time James successfully hails the cab, the positive habit takes hold and momentum builds. What James has done is identified the very simple catalyst that increases his chances of performing the bigger task.

I started doing something similar in 2016. I would break down the sales process into smaller steps, and based on many years of trial and error, I was able to identify catalysts that would greatly improve my chances of acquiring new customers for Brolik. I continued to hone in on the catalysts and test my theories to see what would have the greatest positive impact on the sales funnel.

My theories became more than theories. I started showing that I could impact the close rate of a new client if I repeated the most critical tasks during the sales process. I was testing, tweaking, but keeping it all pretty informal. But it seemed to be working. Eventually, I would turn this into a formal sales process for anyone on my team doing business development.

Then, some things changed. I was stretched between managing Brolik’s sales efforts, supporting a move into a new office, recruiting new team members, and helping our team push through a busy period with more work than we’d ever had before. I was forced to start formalizing and fortifying the catalysts as routine, simply out of necessity. This also meant cutting out all the unnecessary sales activities that didn’t provide enough value, and focus all of my effort on the 3-4 catalysts that drove new business through the sales funnel.

So What Exactly Is A Catalyst in A Marketing or Sales Funnel?

Illustrated Graph depicting success based on catalysts

Remember that a catalyst can be any action or event that can substantially improve your chances of reaching your goal. It could be a product demonstration, testing the product in person, a gleaming testimonial, or an in-person meeting.

This Catalyst pushes things forward or accelerates a decision by the customer. A lead might go from cool to warm, and your close rate may jump from 30% to 70%. A catalyst can spur a customer through your sales funnel. The catalyst can also significantly improve your mindset, which in turn improves the performance. In other words, the catalyst doesn’t have to directly motivate the customer, it could be something that motivates you and therefore improves your results.

Let me give you some examples, starting with a baseball reference (because I love sports analogies so much).

Run Expectancy in Baseball As A Catalyst

There is a stat in Major League Baseball called RE or Run Expectancy. All good managers these days are looking at RE during in game situations to make split-second decisions. A known catalyst for offenses scoring a run in an inning of play is getting a runner on first with no outs, whether that’s through a walk, base hit, hit by pitch, etc. A team that gets the lead runner on with no outs sees average run expectancy almost double from .461 to .831 in that particular inning. Knowing this, a statistically oriented manager might switch his lineup, consider bunting more, or favor a hitter who can spray the ball to both sides of the field.

A struggling, narrow-minded manager might yell at his club to, “get your heads in the game and start swinging the bats,” when he is feeling like he can’t buy a run. A practical manager who understands that a lead runner aboard with no outs is a clear catalyst for success may approach every inning on that simple principle and may focus on achieving the catalyst first as a smaller step towards the goal of scoring more runs. One baserunner builds momentum… one baserunner turns into a run… the momentum builds and it gives your club a chance to score 2-3 runs in the inning. It’s not just a statistic– achieving the catalyst improves the mindset of the team and leads to greater success.

A Test Ride As A Catalyst in the Marketing Funnel

Riding a Junto e-bike

Sometimes the catalyst is right in front of you, but the rat race of building a product, managing a sales team or growing an early startup makes it difficult to realize and focus on.

This was the case for a client of ours, Junto Electric Bikes. The company has an exceptional product that was durability-tested on the rough pothole-filled streets of Philadelphia, making it a rugged, dependable eBike for pretty much any weather or road conditions.

[Listen to a recent podcast with Junto founder Brian Powell]

When we started working with Junto, the focus was on their brand messaging, finding the right audience, figuring out what would resonate, and fixing any website / UX problems that were holding back ecommerce sales. There was nothing wrong with our approach, but we were missing something obvious. After joining the Junto team at a few events, where they were interacting with people and talking about the product, something started to become apparent. But it didn’t become crystal clear until a few weeks later when we looked at the data. Out of all of the test rides people were taking on the Junto bike at these events, 40% were turning into purchases. 4 out of 10 people that ride the bike ended up purchasing!! Amazing.

We had found our catalyst– all marketing and advertising would be focused on getting as many asses on seats as we could. This was the catalyst that would propel interested parties through the sales funnel through to purchase.

[By the way, you should test ride a Junto, it’s an awesome ride]

How Do I Identify Catalysts at Different Stages of the Sales or Marketing Funnel?

The first step in finding a catalyst is breaking a process into smaller parts. Think about the potential catalysts that can propel you to the end goal.

If your goal is sales funnel optimization and closing more deals, what are the big motivators for past customers who bought from you? When do they have the ‘eureka!’ moment, where the light bulb goes off and they suddenly seem to cross over and buy into what you offer?

If you are still having difficulty finding your catalysts, here are a few questions that have helped me along.

Why do your customers buy?

To answer this you will need to analyze your customers and non-customers using whatever data you can collect – past customer reviews, empirical research, surveys, etc. Find the common reasons your customer decided to buy.

Why don’t your customers buy?

It can be difficult to gather customer information, especially from people who decided NOT to buy from you, but it’s extremely important.

Try focusing on the opposite of the catalyst, using a defensive strategy, instead of your offense. Ask yourself, what are the major things that have held a customer back from making a purchase?

When do potential customer show doubt or uncertainty during the sales process?

During these moments, find a better way to demonstrate the value through social proof – utilizing the experiences of other people who have experienced your product.

For Brolik, as an example, I recognized that a prospect having a conversation with a past or current customer was a common trait of prospects that turned into customers. It was up to me to make this happen more often and create a more repeatable process for making the introductions.

Does your customer have confusion about your process or what you do?

Find a way to show your process in a way that will resonate with your potential customer. Your goal is to take any possible mystery out of it to make it feel real, tangible and safe.

Using Brolik as an example again, I recognized that when I laid out our funnel framework for multi-channel marketing, it impressed and convinced our potential clients, showing them that there was a method to the madness that is digital marketing. We had a thorough and practical approach that they could see and touch. This built trust and security, knowing that we weren’t just throwing out crazy ideas and hoping they would stick. I now make this a part of almost every follow-up sales meeting, once I’ve vetted the prospect.

Is your potential customer confident in your ability to deliver?

I realized that with the pool of prospects that turned into clients, I was not the only one giving a perspective on Brolik and the value we provide. When I brought a strategist from my team into a meeting with the potential client, it gave a more well-rounded and convincing view into what we are capable of. It showed that I wasn’t just spitting game… we had talented people who could back it up.

These are just a few examples of how I would go about identifying what holds a customer back, and attacking the cause of this hesitation, and turning this into a positive catalyst for success.

Make Catalysts A Part of Your Sales Strategy

The whole point of this concept is to improve the way we manage our time, energy and budgets, based on what makes us successful. We all want to optimize the sales funnel, increasing the conversion rate of opportunities to sales, from window shoppers to loyal customers, and win more often. The catalyst is a great way to focus on what matters and improve your rate of success.

The catalyst is a great way to focus on what matters and improve your rate of success.

I’m not sure about you, but I get excited about new ideas, new ventures, uncharted paths. Using this concept of a catalyst has helped me to shed the distractions and focus on what provides the most impact and creates the most positive momentum with everything I choose to carry out. Good luck finding your catalysts, I hope it helps you to focus and increase your success in whatever you do.

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About the Author

Jason is co-founder and CEO of Brolik, a digital agency in Philadelphia. As an entrepreneur, Jason is passionate about helping other business owners navigate the complicated journey of owning a business and developing marketing strategies to grow their brand.
Follow @jaybrew on Twitter or connect with Jason on LinkedIn or Google+