For many, the path a customer takes from initial interest through a purchasing decision into successful adoption can seem both circuitous and unpredictable. However, though it may appear to diverge for no rhyme or reason, our fifteen years of research show that a specific market’s Buying Journey actually has many common elements.
Regardless of the industry, buyers within a specific market share common goals and motivations when acquiring a particular offering. On the flip side, these customers also worry about the same things. And the same key players, or personas, will come in and out of the Buying Journey, bringing with them these similar agendas and concerns. As the deal progresses, these decision makers and influencers become more educated, and what they seek might change in turn. Consequentially, what they need and how they decide to buy will shift in a congruent way.
Despite appearing confusing on the surface, the key elements that dictate if, when, what, and how your customers will purchase have a striking resemblance. We call these patterns the Buying Journey DNA.
Although they share the same genetic code, buyers can still take a less than optimal route. They may loop back in their journey upon discovering something new, taking time to re-examine their needs. For example, your customer might suddenly recognize the importance of a requirement that they had not previously considered, such as the need for end-user training when buying a software application. Perhaps they will become hesitant given the change management required for adoption and decide they want to explore other options.
Whatever the case, this realization causes them to rethink the effort, backtracking to secure additional funding, extend the timeline, or change the scope of the project entirely. At times like these, if we imagined our customers as travelers, they might appear completely directionless.
Meandering is unfortunately normal during a customer’s first time acquiring and adopting a particular kind of offering. Buyers who are new to a market don’t know what they don’t know. Therefore, as they progress through their Buying Journey, they are simultaneously on a voyage of discovery.
So how do we redirect these wandering customers?
As we have said many times before, the new role for sales and marketing is to positively manage the Customer Buying Journey. Salespeople can no longer expect to pull a prospect through the stages of some internal sales process, because that is not how customers buy anymore. Since the advent of the internet, buyers have not been dependent upon salespeople to learn about a company and its offerings. Our research highlights customers are typically well over 50% of the way through their Buying Journey before they even connect with a salesperson.
The irony – and the opportunity – comes from the fact most salespeople have already seen their customers traverse their Buying Journeys. They should know what their prospects get hung up on. They should know what is around each corner. They should know where the “surprises” are.
Where most salespeople fail is not making the crucial transition from educating prospects on the offering’s value to helping the customer buy. A salesperson should act as the harbor pilot boarding a large vessel when it navigates a foreign port; these veteran sailors have the maritime experience, know the local tides, and can maneuver the ship safely into a dock. In the same way, the salesperson needs to be the guide for their prospect, steering them through their Buying Journey.
The successful salesperson develops a level of trust with their client and sets the course from the first idea of solving a problem, through acquiring the offering, and onwards to being a satisfied customer.