Adapting Your Sales Process to Align with the Buyer's Journey
Most companies have a sales process that the sales team is tasked to adhere by. But, guess, what? I'm here to break the news to you that most of the sales processes that are in place today are flawed and outdated. If your company's sales process goes a little something like this (which I know most of yours do), you are tackling today's business with yesterday's methods:
Step 1: Identify a Potential Customer
Step 2: Qualify the Opportunity
Step 3: Present the Product or Service
Step 4: Propose a Solution
Step 5: Negotiate & Close
Step 6: Deliver & Service.
Here's the problem - sales processes like this were designed by the vendor and not the customer. Do you really think customer's give a rats ass what your sales process is? They care about their process which I like to refer to as the "buyer's journey." Remember, sales is about the customer, not you. Managers should be asking their reps, "Where is the customer at in terms of the buying process?" and move away from, "Where are you at in the sales process?" Think of a deals you are managing right now. I would put money that where you think you are in the sales process doesn't align with where the customer is in the buying process 9 times out of 10. Here's why:
The Way We Buy & Sell Has Changed
I wrote about this topic specifically in my article, The Way We Buy and Sell Has Changed: 5 Reasons Why You Must Be Prepared which talks about the dramatic shift that has happened over the last decade in terms of how we purchase products. In the past, buyers leveraged sales people to gain information about their products and services. Today, buyers are already well-equipped with the majority of the information we as sales people are responsible of conveying. They already know what your product does, who your competition is, about how much it costs, and what your reputation is. All of this information is at their fingertips so you need to be more prepared than ever before when you manage your opportunities. Your first step in preparing effectively is to educate yourself about what the buying journey is and what it means to the customer.
The Buying Journey
As I said, the way we buy has completely changed over the years with the explosion of information at our fingertips and the influence it brings to our purchasing decisions. A study by BigCommerce showed that 81% of consumers say posts from friends directly influences their buying decision and statistics from Invespcro state that 90% read online reviews before making a purchase. In a traditional "sales process" we could dictate what information the prospect sees and hears but in today's world, the customer already knows just about everything about your company before even talking to you. Forrester Research indicates that today’s B2B consumer will find three pieces of content about a vendor for every one piece that is published or delivered by marketing or sales. This is why it is vital that your company has a wide variety of positive customer testimonials and case studies that are easily accessible to the consumer researcher. So what might a typical B2B buying journey look like? Here is what you could expect:
Step 1: The customer discovers a problem or opportunity
Step 2: The customer quantifies the financial impact of the problem or opportunity
Step 3: The customer estimates costs for the solution and commits funding for the project
Step 4: The customer gathers all the requirements needed for a successful outcome
Step 5: The customer evaluates several viable solutions in the marketplace
Step 6: The customer decides on a solution (or does nothing)
Re-Aligning Your Sales Process to Meet Customer Needs
Let's say a potential customer contacts you through your website and asks for more information about your analytics software. It's safe to assume the customer has discovered that they have a challenge or need they want to overcome (you can also assume that this prospect has or will be doing the same thing with your competitor). Your job from here forward is to align your sales process to meet the needs of their buying journey. At this point, you should be helping the customer quantify the economic consequences of staying "business as usual" vs. investing in a solution. Your questions for the prospect should lead down a path of finding as much of the metrics as possible:
"What are they using today?" How much is it costing them? What ROI do they expect? What are the financial implications if they don't do anything? Etc.
If you have an existing customer that was in a similar situation as your prospect, this would be a good time to tell their story and share the positive business outcomes and metrics they benefited from by implementing your solution (your marketing team should have this data in the form of case studies, testimonials, customer journey blogs, etc). Here are a few examples of business outcomes you should convey:
Total cost savings
$ of net new revenue obtained
# of new customers they acquired
After the conversation, send them a few case studies of other similar companies that were in the same situation and what economic results they received to drive home the value of your solution.
The key point here is to ensure that you are adapting your sales process to align with where the prospect is in the buying journey. If the prospect hasn't secured funding, it's probably a waste of time to start demonstrating your product or service. If they don't know their requirements, don't go down a path of comparing your solution with your competitors' offering just yet. Keep pace with the buyer during their journey and focus on providing the most value possible at each step in order to give yourself the best opportunity to win.