April 13, 2018

Who’s Going Where? A Guide to the Buyer’s Journey

Written by
Erica Karnes

Concerning the buyer’s journey, the needs and goals of buyers and sellers are very different. Buyers approach the journey focused on the necessities and benefits they want to attain. Sellers, on the other hand, often think about their revenue goals and consistent customer satisfaction.

Own the journey

Sure — the buyer’s journey is changing. It’s becoming more streamlined, the buyers themselves are more motivated, and larger portions of it fall within the buyer’s control. That said, nothing about the journey is random or unpredictable. In fact, assuming so places unnecessary pressure on sellers, expecting them to react to buyers, rather than guide or lead them to the solution they seek.

Modern sales enablement solutions enable reps to integrate their sales processes into the buyer’s journey, regaining control and leaving the reactionary mindset behind. Keeping sales content and training materials organized and easily findable ensures reps land the right message at the right time, and engage the right audience.

What’s the journey?

Simply put, the buyer’s journey is the process buyers go through to identify, evaluate, and purchase a new service or product. Whether someone is buying a new car, a new pair of shoes, or enterprise software, the journey is consistent. There’s a five-stage breakdown involved:

  1. Awareness of need
  2. Investigate options
  3. Committing to change
  4. Solution selection
  5. Validate choice
  6. Purchase

While some buyers occasionally skip over stages or spark circular patterns–if a buyer reaches the validation stage, discovers a new solution, and restarts the investigation stage–the journey itself doesn’t change.

The question facing today’s sales and marketing teams, then, is how to best adapt the sales process to the buyer’s journey. For sales managers vying to enhance the effectiveness of sales reps and increase consistency via leveraged sales content, sales process revisions are the way to go. In addition to inspiring marketers and sellers to better consider their target audience’s needs, revising and modernizing the sales process enables businesses to challenge, support, and consult buyers every step of the way.

Forging a stronger connection between your sales processes and the buyer’s journey is possible via these five steps:

Alignment step by step

It all starts with aligning each step of the process. Create a table with your buyer’s journey across the top, and several rows down add your sales process. In the second row, make note of what the buyer is trying to accomplish at each stage. The next row down, list what you’re attempting to accomplish at each sales stage. Do your sales process and your audience’s journey align? If not, try reframing stage definitions and goals. This iterative process can help sellers reconcile buyer preferences with their own intuition and ultimately leads to better conversations.
Consider the following:

  • Can buyers communicate the need they’re trying to solve for?
  • Is it possible to assist buyers as they refine their problem’s scope?
  • Is your buyer’s problem something that your company can solve?
  • Is your buyer dedicated to changing? What are the pros and cons of making that change?

While answering these questions is a great starting point, consider including a sales enablement platform that will meet any content needs and expectations, as well as offer any necessary customer engagement analytics.

What’s valuable?

Think outside mere product capabilities and evaluate the entire process. Consider how to best address the buying team, which may include multiple perspectives across your buyer’s organization. An easy trick to try: reframe “What do I need from my buyers?” to “How can I enable the buyer to get what they need?”

Tools of the trade

In short, become a go-to resource for buyers. Pinpoint product specs, expert advice, and industry materials that buyers need — and align each along the buyer journey at the point where it would have maximum impact. Invest in analyst reports and/or case studies that identify any necessary directional shifts. In addition, use customer references and proof-of-value trials to mitigate buyers’ potential concerns.

Put it to the test

Select a few top sales reps who are naturally customer-first thinkers and ask them to lead the way for your sales processes changes. Ensure they’re able to provide feedback and recommendations and alter your processes accordingly. Additionally, train a subset of your sales team on the pros of aligning their processes with the buyer’s journey. Work together to map actionable steps and gather any relevant data along the way.

Training time

Shifting an entire sales organization to a new framework isn’t always easy. But training — and investing in training upfront — ensures reps are all the more equipped to tackle new processes. A digital playbook offers an easily accessible means of granting reps the initial tools they need.

Every fine-tuned sales content strategy starts here — with an aligned sales process and buyer’s journey. Fortunately, mapping out this strategy is easier than ever, thanks to advancing technology and available sales enablement platforms.

Erica Karnes is a content specialist for Highspot, the sales enablement industry’s leading platform for content management, customer engagement, and analytics.