When buying a product or service, a consumer embarks on a journey. Potential buyers discover, research, and educate themselves on their options long before reaching out to the sales person for more information. Consumers loathe feeling like they are "being sold to." They see a sales pitch as an obstacle to making an educated decision. As a sales person, your goal is to make the buyer's journey an educational experience.
Supporting the Buyer's Journey
The buyer's journey must be aligned with both marketing and sales processes. If marketing is committed to educating the customer through eBooks, case studies, checklists, and quizzes but your sales team still relies on the age-old sales pitch and persuasive sales techniques, you're sure to create a world of disappointment in buyers who thought you'd be different because of the impression they had drawn about your company thus far.
The key is to build a sales process that supports the buyer's journey. In the decision stage of the buyer's journey, the buyer is likely engaged and speaking with a sales person. Unlike the olden days where marketing played a smaller role than sales, today's buyer spends a lot more time researching and consuming information before speaking with a sales person, limiting their impact.
How the Buyer's Journey Affects the Sales Process
Typically, a sales process has four main elements: discovery, a presentation, a follow-up relationship, and closing (progressing) to next steps. Let's take a look at how the buyer's journey affects all four of these elements of the sales process.
Discovery: Keep in mind that most buyers have been doing research prior to speaking with you and may have already been on your website. They already know some things about you or the products or services companies like yours provide. Start the conversation using a series of questions to understand what prompted their search, what they found helpful in the research they have done, and how they have used the information they have found. Your buyer needs to feel like they are in the driver's seat, and that starts with you genuinely being interested in what steps they have taken that have brought them to the point of speaking with you.
Follow-up: By creating valuable content, you company has positioned itself as a resource and trusted advisor. Your follow-up has to be relevant, purposeful, and resourceful as well — or you run the risk of damaging the relationship that started being built before they even started speaking with you. Identifying common questions and coupling that with relevant email communications and content that can support your sales process all rely on having a solid understanding of the buyer's journey.
Presentation: Potential customers want customized solutions. They want to know that you have a thorough understanding of their goals and motivations and are taking that into consideration when showing them potential solutions. The journey your buyer went through that brought them to today should drive what information you share.
Closing: Even though they have done research prior to contacting you, buyers expect you to be the expert. Once you have established rapport and trust with them, advise them with logical potential next steps that will support their decision-making process. Remember, it's their journey, not yours. If they at all feel like the recommended next step is self-serving and not in their best interest, be prepared to start climbing an uphill battle.
Building a sales process can be intimidating. Getting sales reps to use it? Even more challenging.