Aligning the sales process with the buyer's journey 1

Written by Ian James, Feb 1, 2017

A video, first of a series of four, about getting the alignment between the buyer's journey and the sales process right to improve sales process efficiency.

Video the introducing concept of the buyers journey part 1 of 4

Lots of organizations talk about their sales process. Far fewer talk about the buyer’s journey. That’s the process the buyer goes through to obtain goods and services. If you want an effective sales process, it’s pretty important to understand what it is.

One of my most frequent engagements is to look at an under-performing B2B sales process. And when I do, I typically find that there is a mismatch between the sales process and the buyer’s journey. So, why does that matter? Well, if your sales force is doing something that does not directly assist the buyer to move through their purchasing process, they are probably wasting their time. Or, if you ignore some stage that buyer will go through and just leave them to their own devices, you are missing a chance to accelerate them towards a sale.

The impact of misalignment on sales

When you get this alignment wrong, it will have a pretty devastating impact on sales. At the very least, your cost of acquiring a customer is going to be higher than it could be. And, you may well be missing out to a better-organized competitor.

The buyer’s journey starts much earlier than the sales process

If you think about it, the buyer’s journey starts much earlier than the sales process ever can. The reason for that is that it takes someone to identify a need in the buyer’s organization. That need might be as simple someone to fix the photocopier. Or, it can be as significant as replacing the entire IT system. The trigger to set the buyer on their journey is going to be the same: Someone somewhere in the buying organization recognizes that there is a problem that there is no current solution.

Awareness plus acknowledgment is not enough

On its own, “Awareness,” as the jargon has it, is not enough to guarantee a purchase. A decision maker with authority to make the purchase has to acknowledge the need. Now, this might seem like a minor distinction, but as we will see in the next video, it is one that is crucial to any sales process.

Awareness represented by apple falling from tree and acknowledgement as boss hears story of apple falling

But even awareness plus acknowledgment is not enough. For the buyer to get started on the next stage, there has to be some degree of urgency. There are all kinds of competing needs in organizations. For the buyer to devote the resources of time and money, the need has to rise to the top of the agenda. And that won’t happen without urgency.

Education and research

The next stage is education or research. I find it helpful to divide this into two distinct phases. The first is general background stuff. The kinds of things buyers are looking for at this point are what solutions will meet their need. What will these solutions cost? How will the buyer implement them?

If I am a buyer, I’m trying to understand, before I even approach a vendor, what my options are and what questions I should be asking. Also, as I do so, I’ll be eliminating some obviously unsuitable vendors to get down to a shortlist.

Getting vendor specific

But to make a choice between the contenders, I have to get vendor-specific information. I will need pricing, technical specs, etc. In other words, the information I need to be able to make an informed comparison.

Urgency represented by piles of apples on CEO's desk and workers complaining of headaches

By now, I am down to a few vendors and their solutions. Now I can negotiate on price, terms and conditions, and ultimately make a decision.

Closing the loop

You might be thinking that is the end of the sales process. But an effective sales process continues on post sales. It closes the loop and positions the vendor to be ready to provide the solution for the buyer’s next purchase.

So that’s a long process. You can imagine that in an ideal world the sales process would be designed to match the buyer’s journey. But for many companies, this is not the case. There are some typical places where it can go wrong. So, in the next couple of videos, we’ll talk about that and what you can do about it.

Up Next

So, in the next couple of videos, we’ll talk about that and what you can do about it.

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