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How Marketers Propel Sales with Baby Steps

The biggest challenge marketers face with their marketing is how to get more high quality leads and how to convert those opportunities into sales. There is a strategy that achieves both goals at once. I call it “baby steps.”

Author: Jeremy Harrison

March 3, 2021

A Proven Strategy to Convert Sales and Get Better Leads


The biggest challenge marketers face is how to get more high quality leads and how to convert those opportunities into sales without being too pushy. There is a strategy that achieves both goals at once. I call it “baby steps.”

It’s a simple name, but the baby steps strategy is more sophisticated than it appears. It has deep and powerful roots in behavioral psychology, and the most savvy marketers have used it for almost 40 years. Let me explain it with a personal story… 

Baby Steps to Flight School

Before my mom died from cancer in 2017, I shared a goal with her which I hadn’t shared with many people before. I told her I had been thinking about learning to fly… I wanted to get my private pilot’s license. She was very encouraging, and made me promise I’d go after it.  

After mom’s death, I set a goal that I would start the process within a year.  But for the first six months, I did nothing to pursue my goal. Finally, one day, I stopped by the local airport to investigate what it takes to become a pilot.

The person behind the counter handed me three sheets of paper and an FAA training book that was 1,150 pages long.

flight book, dream, flying, overwhelmed, baby steps

I left the airport feeling a little overwhelmed and intimidated. Not only was it going to cost upwards of $10,000 to realize my dream, it was also going to take hundreds of hours of work, attending class, learning this book, practicing with an instructor…  I made a checklist of all that it would take, asking myself the question, “Can I really do this?”:

discovery flight, private pilot, aviation, marketing, commitment

The answer felt like a big fat no. But then, hidden in the fine print of that estimated cost sheet was this sentence: “As an introduction to aviation, we do offer a Discovery Flight, for $80, if you would like to give it a try.”

The Discovery Flight was the Baby Step I needed to take my first small step toward realizing my dream of becoming a private pilot.

I did my discovery flight in June 2018, and I was immediately HOOKED.  I was committed to do what I needed to do to earn my private pilot license, which I achieved in 2019.

Why Baby Steps Work: The Commitment and Consistency Principle

I might have given up, if it hadn’t been for that fine print about the Discovery Flight. 

That’s in keeping with the way humans work.

In 1984, Dr. Robert Cialdini wrote about the Commitment and Consistency Principle, which is the human tendency to behave in a manner that matches our past decisions or behaviors.

In 2018, me not flying was my past decisions and behaviors. However, as soon as I did the $80 Discovery Flight, my behaviors and decisions now propelled me toward becoming a private pilot.

In fact, NOT doing the next step after the Discovery Flight would have made me feel guilty about being flaky, irrational, and inconsistent. “Why would I spend $80 on a Discovery Flight,” I might ask myself, “if I wasn’t going to do the next steps to become a pilot?”

Overcoming The Tension Between Buyers & Sellers

There’s a push and pull between buyers and sellers. It can make sellers feel pushy, and it makes buyers guarded.

The buyer is “just looking.” They are certain they aren’t buying today, but they may be visiting a store or a website or a car lot to gather information. Meanwhile, the seller’s greatest fear is that if the buyer doesn’t buy right now, they will leave and buy from someone else instead.

Baby steps work because most of your future buyers aren’t buying today. When they say “I’m just looking,” they usually mean it. They don’t want to get “sold.” Oftentimes, the decision to buy is so big, it’s intimidating and even paralyzing. 

But Baby steps give give the seller a much-needed first step. They can now offer the buyer something they can do today. Once they do it, they are far more likely to continue into the next step that’s consistent with the one before it.

How to Use Baby Steps in Your Marketing

For decades, the Baby steps strategy have made sales and marketing more effective. It can work for your business, too. Here’s how:

1. Identify Your End Goal

This one is probably the easiest: what are you selling, exactly? Define what it is you want your prospect to ultimately do or buy from you.

2. Think about Your Prospect and Their Needs

What problems, needs, or desires might your prospect have that your end goal satisfies? I had a goal to become a private pilot. The flight school is the only one who can help me realize those dreams. Connect the needs of your customer with your product or service.

3. Map Out Manageable Baby Steps

Working backward from your end product, what baby steps can you offer that would be easy for your prospect to take so that they get a taste of the experience? What’s your free sample in the grocery store that entices your customer to buy the frozen rolls? What’s your $80 Discovery Flight that puts your customer behind the controls of an airplane? What’s your 30-day in-home trial of a high-end mattress?

Can you make the initial purchase smaller so there’s less at stake for your prospect? This is a hot lead we often refer to as a foot-in-the-door sale, but your first baby step might also be an offer that invites them to learn more (lead magnet), which is still a warm lead.

4. Create a Sales Process that Guides People through a Series of Small Decisions (Additional Baby Steps)

Once you have the first step and the end product in mind, all that’s left to do is map out baby steps along the way that will help your prospect arrive at their final destination.  

When I finally got my pilot’s license, I created this for my local airport to give future visitors who inquire about becoming a pilot.  It maps out simple steps, and clearly invites them to schedule a discovery flight. 

learn, experience, customer, marketing, prospect, leads, opportunities, sales

Baby steps are proven to work. If you get stuck, reach out to Spire. My team and I can help you find baby steps that transform the buying experience for your customer. 

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