Here’s a bold statement—more has changed in sales over the last 20 years than has changed in the 1000 years before it. Crazy right? But it’s true! And it’s especially true when you look at the buyer’s journey.
So what’s the big deal? What’s so different today than just a few decades—heck, even a few years—ago? And what are the 3 takeaways you need to build into your sales process if you even hope to survive the shifting buyer’s journey?
How the Buyer’s Journey Has Changed
Let’s look at how the buyer’s journey has changed. Now, as any sales rep worth their salt knows, understanding your unique buyer’s journey is key to selling successfully.
As Wistia’s VP of Sales & Customer Success Peter Von Burchard told me in our interview…
“Customer success is really understanding the journey that the customer is on, and the problem that you’re solving as a solution and finding a way to align yourself as a company with getting those customers to achieve that end. And I think it’s really about aligning the business and the solution with the goals of the customer and helping execute on that.” – Interview with Peter Von Burchard, VP of Sales & Customer Success at Wistia [01:10]
Now in the old days, the buyer’s journey started with materials educating the prospect about the problem. But soon after, it’d then be taken over by the sales rep. They’d build rapport, explain the various solutions, differentiate their product from the competitors, and close the sale.
But in the past twenty years or so, that’s changed quite a bit. Today, sales reps are way less involved along the way. A study from McKinsey found that up to 80% of B2B decision-makers prefer digital self-service models to “traditional” in-person models. Buyers now expect to be able to access loads of educational themselves, without the help of a rep.
On top of that…
- Sales cycles are getting longer
- Deals are increasingly complex
- And more decision-makers are now involved
Those are some pretty big changes, I know. So the question is, how do you navigate them?
Well first off, you need to know…
1. How to Deal with a Longer Sales Cycle
How to deal with a longer sales cycle. A report from Demand Gen found that nearly 60% of buyers say the decision-making process is becoming longer year over year. Plus, Gartner found on average it takes input from 6 to 10 decision-makers to settle on a solution. And that means more emails, product demos, sales calls, and nurturing cycles than ever.
Now there are ways to speed up that process. Like spending extra time qualifying your prospects, making sure you’re selling to an authority figure, and relying more heavily on referrals.
But in general, you’ve simply got to get used to dealing with a longer sales cycle.
What You Can Do About It
So, what can you do about it?
Well first and foremost, you can work on your sales cadences. If your buyers need more time to make their decision, that’s okay. You just need to make sure you’re keeping them engaged and answering all their questions along the way. That means developing sales cadences that continue to share industry insights, facilitate free and open communication, and ensure that when they are ready to talk, you’re the first person they think of.
So start putting in a bit of extra time to lengthen your cadences this month.
2. The Shifting Importance of Content
Now takeaway number two is about the shifting importance of strategic content.
In the world of B2B sales, the salesperson with the best content is king.
Research from FocusVision found that B2B buyers now consume at least 13 pieces of content before making a buying decision.
That’s why it’s so important for you as a sales rep to make the shift to creating valuable, customer-focused content for every stage of the buyer’s cycle. Doing so positions you as a thought leader. AND it acts as the entry point to your selling funnel.
Selling expert Victor Antonio said the same thing when I interviewed him:
“The majority of executives don’t want to talk to a salesperson, they simply don’t. They want to do the whole customer journey by themselves. And then, when I’m ready, I’ll reach out to you. Well, how do I reach out? Well, this is the guy that’s got content, he seems to know what he’s talking about. I’m going to go call Will, see what’s happening over there.” [12:40]
What You Can Do About It
Alright, so good content rocks. But how do you make it?
My advice is to put in the time for deep dives. Those pithy little 400 word blog posts aren’t doing a damn thing for positioning you as a thought leader. Instead, you’ve got to really dig into the problem. What’s causing your prospect’s pain points? What are the mechanics of that problem? What are the 200 different solutions out there?
This is the type of stuff that your buyer wants to immerse themselves in.
On top of that, use past customer data like surveys, testimonials, and interviews to better understand what topics and pain points to cover. The more your content resonates, the more it’ll seem like you’re talking right to your buyer.
3. A Now-ESSENTIAL Selling Tool
And the third takeaway is that if there’s one sales tool you need now more than ever, it’s this…
A solid CRM.
See, in the old world, you’d know exactly what content your buyer is consuming. Why? Well, because you were the one who showed it to them in the first place!
But with so much research and engagement happening before you even speak to a lead, you need to know exactly what your buyers have interacted with beforehand. That’s where your CRM tool comes in.
With the right customer relationship management tool, you’ll have a complete record of which content leads have already consumed and where they may be at on the buyer’s journey.
On top of that, you’ll have:
- Tons of lead scoring info to tell you when to reach out
- Lots of buyer background data to help you refine your ideal customer persona
- Automation features to make outreach and follow-up 10X easier
With the right CRM on your side, you can knock out as much work as a whole team of sales reps from 20 or 30 years ago.
What You Can Do About It
Now a few words of note here.
A CRM takes investment. There’s the money factor, of course. But these days CRMs are more affordable than ever.
No, more than the money, I’m talking about the time investment.
A CRM’s data is only as good as you make it. And with bad data, you’re going to throw off the entire purpose of using the tool in the first place. That’s why you need to be sure you’re putting in the effort to record the type of data that truly matters. Now if you head over to our guide on the buyer’s journey, we link to a great article from HubSpot on the topic. So be sure to give that a look.
Because as my friend Daniel Disney pointed out in our interview with Author Andrew Grant:
“With CRMs, you reap what you sow and what a lot of salespeople don’t do is they don’t put into the CRM what they need to get the best out of it, and it’s the same with Navigator.” [19:25]