When was the last time you made an important purchase without looking up Google first?
Chances are it was a long time ago. Back in the day you had to take people for their word. Information asymmetry was inherent to the buying process. Consumers had little power in the negotiation, whether it was for a home TV or a corporate software license.
But things are different now. Welcome to the Buyer’s Journey: all B2B clients and an increasing number of B2C buyers take it when deciding a major purchase.
Its complexity depends on your industry, your service and the number of people negotiating. It can take days, weeks, or even months, has tree stages and goes like this:
- Awareness stage: A challenge arises that prompts you to look up answers and providers
- Consideration stage: You weigh the pros and cons of each provider’s solution
- Decision stage: You hire whoever best fits your needs
The term Buyer’s Journey is replacing concepts like “sales cycle” and “marketing funnel” for good reason.
In the digital age, you don’t close clients. Clients close you.
The funnel/cycle is not dead, but it has definitely changed. Buyers control the sales dynamic now. They access your corporate and product information on their terms.
B2B buyers conduct a thorough analysis of your solution before requesting a meet-up. They will come in with a very clear picture and very specific questions.
And when 20 people meet in the background to pick apart your service, many say no and only a few say yes. How do you turn the former into internal advocates for your solution?
This is why putting clients first is crucial. The Buyer’s Journey is about helping clients close you.
Marketing needs to provide valuable, relevant information to attract qualified leads and get them to contact you. Sales must add value to the information your prospects can find online by themselves.
As you will see in the HBR graph below, paid ads aren’t nearly as effective as interacting directly with a provider.
Chances are these ads are brand-centered instead of client-centered. The game has changed. It’s not about your product, service or brand anymore. Stop tooting your horn.
Having a clear understanding of your clients journey is what gets you alone time with them. But it is not linear a path. It’s meandering and can lead to dead-ends.
Looking up info on the Internet is the start of the Journey. Things can be hazy at first. They clear up as we find information, discover providers, and interact with Sales by email or on the phone. Then we are ready to make a confident buy.
The final destination is high satisfaction and measurable ROI for the client. According to Forrester, the buyer’s journey actually looks something like this:
The other thing about the buyer’s journey is that it happens online and in the real world.
SiriusDecisions research shows 67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally. The remaining 33% happens in meetings, events, etc. There are many digital and human touchpoints along the way.The big catch is your ideal client can discover you at any point in their personal buyer’s journey. It can very well happen they are almost ready to sign with X provider and then you come along.
This means you have very little time to take your client on a Buyer's Journey about your company. There are no shortcuts, and pushing your product instead of listening will cost you that deal.
Now, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk about your product. It means you do it when your clients are ready. It also means you center your pitch on them, not your brand or product.
This can be tough for leaders and executives who invest their ego in their brand. But now people want answers and solutions. They only care about what they care about.
So study your prospects’ buyer’s journey. Get to know the people who can say yes and no. And when the time comes, be sure to add value to the info that’s already available in the Internet. Give clients a reason to interact with your sales rep.
Forget “always be closing”. Your new motto should be “Always be helping”. The game has changed and your clients have the ball. So play for them. Help them close you.