“Our offering is complex,” he’d said.  “We have to educate customers so they understand our value prop.  I need aggressive reps who aren’t afraid to control the conversation.”

 

Buyer%27s Journey

Fair enough, I thought to myself.  Aggressive can be good.  “So how do your customers typically make a buying decision?” I asked.

 

“Most people don’t really know what they need.  We can help them by steering them in the right direction.  We try to give our presentation last when it’s a competitive deal.  That way we can influence the next steps.”

 

I tried again.  “So, how do they actually make a buying decision?”

 

I sensed irritation.  “We educate them that we are the least-risk supplier” he said briskly.  Really?  I half expected him to start telling me that I needed the special clear-coat underbody rust-proofing protectant. 

 

If I asked you how your Buyers decide to buy your product, would you automatically tell me how you sell it to them instead? Think about it.  If you’re honest, you might say yes.  A shockingly high number of sales leaders confuse how they sell to customers with how customers make decisions.  Firmly entrenched within the safety of the sales process they know so well, they have no idea if it matches the journey their Buyers are on.  This article is about their Journey – NOT your sales process.  Click here to learn more about how World-Class companies research the Buyer’s Journey.

 

It’s easy to understand this process-centric point of view.  After all, as the senior sales executive, you’re probably deeply invested in the company’s sales process.  Maybe you helped build it.  Maybe you made the decision to buy it off the shelf.  Maybe you used to use it, and it made you a lot of money.  However, with only eleven weeks left in this fiscal year, maybe your perspective is limiting your team’s effectiveness. 

 

The recent popularity of The Challenger Sale has further complicated this issue.  As a sales rep recently told me, “My boss loved this book.  He’s constantly asking us if we’ve ‘Challenged’ our customers today.”

 

This further validates my belief that sometimes people like to look smart by talking about popular books they haven’t actually read.  Essentially, some people may read the title and think they know what the book is about.  The “constructive tension” that the authors discuss does not come from imposing your will (or your sales process) on your Buyer.  Instead, the authors emphasize that “Challenger” reps tailor their message, are easy to buy from, and have a deep understanding of their customer.  Mapping your customers’ Buying Journey can be a crucial piece of accomplishing this level of insight.

 

Here’s what it can look like:

 

buying process

 

At first glance, many people mistake this for a sales process map.  It is not.  Again, this article is not about your sales process.  It is a map showing your team the “Key Buyer Actions” that your buyer undertakes when they enter the market for your products or services.  Then, it identifies the “Exit Criteria” your team must observe to confirm that the sale is advancing.  Your map will have different phases and actions, which you’ll determine by doing Buyer Research.

 

Let’s briefly touch on what basic research in this area should look like.  You can learn more on your own by Googling “Buying Persona Development Methodology.”  Or read blog posts by the buyer persona development expert Tony Zambito.

 

    1. Conduct Buyer Interviews
      • Devise questions that get beyond the spoken word and into the mental model – how your buyers think.
    2. Analyze Insights
      • Sales AND Marketing put the customer “in the middle of the table,” figuratively speaking, and dig into insights the interviews have provided.
    3. Build Buyer Personas
      • These are fictional representations of your Ideal Customers, down to the individual level.
    4. Map your Sales Process to Buyer Goals and Processes
      • Done thoughtfully, you can now deliver the right message to the right Buyer at the right time.

 

Only after this process is completed will you have the information you need to build a customized sales process that matches the Buyer’s Journey.  The explanation above is intended to scratch the surface and get you thinking – there is a lot more detail to work through.  E-mail me or comment below if you’d like to get into more specifics.

 

Why Bother?

Buyers now have more resources than ever to educate themselves with.  And they come fully informed to the meeting with your company.  Are you meeting them there with a tired sales process that resembles your competitor’s because you both bought it from the same place? It’s time to differentiate yourself from the pack by what you don’t do. 

 

Don’t put Buyers in a headlock and try to sell them anything.  Instead, use a customized sales process that anticipates the Key Buyer Actions from their Buyer’s Journey Map.  You’ll teach them that it is easy to buy from you, even though they won’t know why.  You’ll distinguish your company.  Consider this: which sales rep are you personally more likely to buy from? 

 

  • The one who understands how you’re likely to make a decision and adds value where you need it, or…
  • The one who comes at you with virtually the same process as every other sales rep for last two decades?

 

The difference lies in mapping your customer’s Buying Journey.