Most people think the best sales reps are selfish, that they only think about closing a deal from THEIR side, not the buyer’s. They’re focused on the sales funnel, not the buying process.
But it turns out the most successful reps put 90% of their energy into understanding WHY buyers make a purchase. They focus on what’s known as the buyer’s journey. Because doing so makes nurturing a deal and closing 10X easier.
And guess what, you can do the same too.
What Is the Buyer’s Journey?
Basically, the buyer’s journey is how your buyers go from being unaware of their problem to deciding to purchase your solution.
Most sales professionals break the journey down into five stages:
1. No Awareness
No Awareness where the buyer doesn’t even understand they have a problem.
Awareness where they’ve acknowledged the problem exists and are seeking more information about it.
3. Exploring Solutions
Exploring Solutions where the buyer is trying to find the right product to solve their problem.
4. Comparing Vendors
Comparing Vendors where they are weighing the pros and cons of different solutions.
5. Purchase Decision
And Purchase Decision where, you guessed it… they decide to purchase a particular solution.
Now, as they move through these five stages, they’ll interact with touch points that push them forward to the next stage. Touch points could be content like articles, case studies, and testimonials, but they’ll also be initial conversations with sales reps, demos, and sales calls.
How Has the Buyer’s Journey Changed?
How the buyer’s journey has changed recently.
Here’s what the old buyer’s journey looked like:
About 40% of the journey was covered by content the buyer would consume on their own. After that, sales would get involved and help guide the buyer through the remaining 60%.
But these days, the buyer’s journey looks more like this:
Nowadays sales reps are typically only involved in the final 20% of the journey—a huge change from the model of the past. This model has only gotten even more hands-off since the rise of COVID.
In fact, a study from McKinsey found that 70-80% of B2B decisionmakers now prefer remote or digital self-service models vs. traditional models.
This shift spells out three distinct changes for sales professionals like you:
1. The Sales Cycle Is Longer Than Ever
The sales cycle is longer than ever, which means more in-depth sales cadences and customer lifetime value are incredibly important.
2. Content Needs to Be More Strategic
Two, content needs to be more strategic. B2B buyers now consume at least 13 pieces of content before making a buying decision. As a result, your content needs to be specifically tailored for the buyer’s journey stage they’re currently in (more on that in just a bit).
3. “Education First, Salesmanship Second”
And finally, you need to adopt an “education first, salesmanship second” mindset to be successful in this new world of sales. Longer relationships, a complicated journey, and fewer sales rep touch points mean buyers will focus more on the value you provide, not the charm you exude.
Mapping Your Buyer’s Journey
Now, the question is how can you change up your buyer’s journey to create a sales cycle tailored to this new reality?
This is where the Buyer’s Journey Framework from the Selling Made Simple Academy comes in.
The first step is to understand how your own customers are actually moving through the buyer’s journey. And that takes plotting out five factors.
1. Which Step Do You Meet Them?
Which step do you meet them?
If it’s earlier in the cycle, you may want to consider shifting your personal touch points to later in the journey. Rather than having a sales conversation with prospects in the No Awareness stage, better to leave things to a well-crafted piece of educational content.
Now it’s worth mentioning that every industry will be different. So don’t be afraid to experiment with different methods in yours. But the key is to not rely on old models where you may close a deal during your first conversation.
Instead, know when to step back and let the buyer take the lead.
2. Where Have They Been?
Factor number two is knowing where the prospect has been.
Which stages have they been through already? What kind of content are they consuming on a regular basis? Where are you seeing the most engagement?
A robust CRM is golden here so be sure to equip yourself with tools like HubSpot as soon as possible.
3. What Pain Are They In?
Next up, what pain are they in?
There are usually specific pain points for each stage of the buyer’s journey. Knowing which pain points match up with which is essential for delivering the right messaging.
Here are some examples of possible pain points for each stage.
- I know my business can be run more efficiently, but I don’t know how.
- There is a gap in our processes that I need to understand better.
- We don’t know which solution types will solve our problem.
- Which product offers the features we need to make this a successful solution?
- I’m concerned this isn’t the right decision and needs reinforcement.
4. What Is Their Next Step?
The fourth factor you need to consider is what is the buyer’s next step?
In the best-case scenario, the next step is going to be the next step in the buyer’s journey, like moving from No Awareness to Awareness.
With that next step in mind, you can then move on to…
5. How Do You Get Them to the Next Stage?
How do you get buyers to the next stage?
For most stages, it’s going to be valuable content that does the trick. Use the individual pain points you picked out when deciding what pain the prospect was in during step number three. From there, generate educational content that addresses those pain points.
Now in general you’ll want to keep content for earlier stages more simple. Blogs, social media posts, that kind of thing. And for later stages you can get more in the weeds with product spec guides, whitepapers, and case studies.
What’s important here is that you’re meeting prospects where they are and ushering them to the next stage. Skip the salesmanship. And focus on education instead.
Not taking the buyer-focused approach isn’t just wrong in principle (after all, your job is to be a problem solver, not a shyster). But it also makes qualifying, nurturing, and closing prospects 10X easier.