If you haven’t already mapped your customer’s buying journey, take a moment to write down what you think happens on the other side of the equation when you, or your sales team, are selling. Start with the triggers you believe initiate the journey, then outline and order all the major activities you feel the different key players must complete until they have successfully bought and successfully started using your offering.
As you go along, you will hopefully discover a few untapped insights into how your specific market buys. However, regardless of your offering or industry, there are five key takeaways from this exercise I always want sellers to leave with:
1. Buyers are not focused on buying, but rather on how they will adopt or use your offering.
2. Many people can influence the buying journey and its outcome.
3. Numerous players are largely involved with the alignment and influencing of stakeholders and end users.
4. Everyone involved in the process has a laundry list of other things to do.
5. Each of them is overwhelmed with the number of potential alternatives and approaches, including the possibility of doing nothing.
You might also realize how many of these activities the key players, stakeholders, and end users must finish while you, or the sales team, are not involved.
Now, take your sales process, or whatever you have uploaded into your CRM and line it up against your draft of the buying journey. If you have done the exercise from your customer’s perspective, you may notice the two are not a good fit. That is because starting with what your buyer is actually doing is very different than taking a cookie-cutter sales process and backfilling what you assume (or hope) the buyer is doing while you are selling. This is also the very distinction between what we call an Outside-In™ approach, staring with the buying journey, and the inside-out approach, starting with an internal sales process.
The inside-out, steam-aged approach to selling comes from a simpler time, one when customers were not nearly as informed, networked, busy, and overwhelmed with great offers. This was also when there was some truth to the notion you could gain interest simply off a good return on investment. This underlying philosophy, that “only a fool wouldn’t buy,” is flat out inaccurate in today’s business environment. Even a great ROI only gets you into the ballpark – not even to first base.
In many ways, modern buying journeys are comparable to learning journeys: buyers are navigating what they need, the alternatives they could pursue, what it will take to be successful using each offering, what the implications are for them and the organization if they move forward, and last but not least, who all of the people are that must be involved and aligned to reach a purchase decision.
There is good news in all of this. We have been researching and mapping buying journeys for the last 20 years across countless industries around the globe. Among our findings is that buyers, within a specific market, when acquiring a particular offering, will buy in remarkably similar ways. The same roles and personas get involved, bringing with them the same agendas. They have the same concerns, same values, and look for the same things. These behaviors are so consistent in fact, we now define a market in this manner; that is, a market is comprised of buyers that buy in a similar way.
Putting this definition into practice, consider that not all people who buy coffee in the morning represent a singular market. There are those who value a certain brand so much that they will always go out of their way to either stand in a line or download an app specifically for that store. On the other hand, there are those who will stop at any convenient fast-food chain or deli to get a cup of joe. These two groups are not meaningfully linked by their coffee consumption and demonstrate why a behavioral definition of a market is extremely powerful. This is doubly true when it comes to formulating a strategy and selling approach. If buyers buy in similar ways, then it is possible to decode and map the buying journey to sell in repeatable ways, predicting and even managing that buying journey.
For me, this is the new role for sales – managing and positively influencing the buying journey. Your sellers should be able to provide a LiveSend with the knowledge and tools buyers need before they even think to ask for it. But this all starts though with decoding what really happened across your market’s buying journey. While the exercise above is a decent start to find out what you might already know, there only way to reveal the entire end-to-end buying journey; that is of course, talk to your customers.