In their book Sales 2.0, Anneke Seley and Brent Holloway explore the implications for deploying sales resources to maximize the new paradigm and avoid a disconnect between the buying and selling processes. Their insight raises the question: How do web resources support the customer’s buying process?
Mapping the selling process to the buying process should include an analysis of the impact of your web resources on your buyer’s process. Functions that were formerly performed by the sales force are now completed by the buyer on-line. Are you providing redundant resources in sales that are no longer needed? Does your lead management system capture information about buyer’s interest? Has your sales training changed to educate your sales force on new buying behaviors with new resources?
Customer’s Buying Process:
Let’s look of how web resources impact each of the five stages of the customer’s buying process using a supply chain management service as an example.
1. Recognize Needs – The buyer realizes that there is a business problem (or opportunity). Once this recognition occurs, the buyer then considers the consequences of ignoring it, and concludes that it must be fixed.
Example: Customers are complaining about late deliveries and the inability to track shipments. The buyer’s company currently uses a fleet of delivery vehicles and freight services. The volume of business is beginning to overwhelm them.
Web Resources: The buyer has seen some banner advertising about truck rentals or leasing. The current freight carrier has offered a webinar on logistics services.
2. Evaluate Options – The buyer begins to actively look for solutions to the problem. Since there are usually several ways to solve any problem, the buyer considers the alternatives.
Example: To improve delivery time and tracking, the buyer could lease more delivery vehicles and hire more drivers with more administrative staff to improve tracking, or outsource delivery to a third party.
Web Resources: The buyer uses Google or Bing to search the web for information about “truck leasing” and finds options for rental, leasing, and supply chain management. The latter choice seems interesting so the buyer expands the search to read white papers and blogs, and starts to gather information about competitive offerings. Within a few days, the buyer has attended a webinar where a spreadsheet for evaluating supply chain services was demonstrated.
These interactions with the website have enabled the seller’s lead management system to score and grade the lead. Until the level of interest reaches a predetermined level, the lead nurturing process provides appropriate content to fulfill the buyer’s need for information. Once the lead satisfies the threshold criteria it is passed to a sales person, initiating a new sales cycle.
3. Select Solution Options – The buyer seeks to reduce risk and maximize the probability of solving the problem. If the problem is complex and solutions are costly, more questions are asked and answered.
Example: The buyer selects three supply chain service providers and validates the online research. Details about the services are confirmed. The evaluation criteria are applied to the offerings. Proposals are submitted, revised and compared.
Web Resources: The sales person provides links to specifications, competitive face-offs, and a variety of online tools that enable the buyer to understand the value of the offering. An online video demonstration validates that the solution meets the requirements.
4. Purchase – The evaluation is completed and the decision is finalized.
Example: The buyer selects a supply chain service provider and negotiates a multi-year contract.
Web Resources: Potential purchasers look for stability and credibility such as customer testimonials, awards, and success stories. Before the transaction is finalized, the buyer investigates other similar experiences to eliminate unknowns. Finally, the buyer completes a credit application and electronically authorizes an order agreement on the website.
5. Implement and Evaluate the Solution – The buyer begins to use the logistics services and forms an opinion about them relative to expectations.
Web Resources: The buyer learns how to use the seller’s scheduling & tracking system, signs up for a customized web portal and completes a customer experience survey. Adoption and usage of these online tools are excellent leading indicators of customer satisfaction and loyalty. The sales representative leverages information about how the buyer is using the web resources to retain and grow the relationship. Finally, the buyer writes a blog about the experience and posts a review on an industry website where it influences future buyers.
Call to Action: In this brief example we have seen that the web has made major changes to the buying process that continue to unfold. World-class sales organizations stay ahead of the curve and regularly re-map the selling process and web resources to match the way their customers buy. An incomplete or poorly mapped process wastes sales resources by engaging too soon and misses opportunities by connecting with the decision maker too late. The seller’s analysis and proactive management of web interactions can support and accelerate the buyer’s process. Faster sales cycles and more frequent wins are the result.
Take time in 2012 to evaluate how your sales process maps to the evolving customer buying process. It has probably changed in the past year in response to the way that you and your competitors have enabled the buying process with more potent web resources. I am interested to hear how your web resources have changed the behavior of your buyers, and what you have done to stay ahead of it. Feel free to comment below.
For more information about this topic, click on the download link below for the Sales Cycle Assessment. This is a powerful first step in making your sales process more effective.