I've recently completed a number of "Buyer's Journey" exercises for clients, all of whom are focused on selling high-tech solutions to business buyers, and one theme emerges consistently - buyers love to learn, but hate being sold to.
First, I'd better explain what the "Buyer's Journey" involves. It's a structured survey approach that tries to understand the key moments of truth in every buying cycle as the buyers evolve from being untroubled and unaware they have an issue, through various twists and turns in their search for a solution, to the point where they finally regard the problem as having been solved.
These buyers reported that what got a vendor considered in the first place were values like innovation, creativity, their ability to be thought provoking and to appear knowledgeable - and being recommended by others. When they were looking for solutions, they tended to use terms which related to the business issues they faced, not product features.
Once the buying process was seriously underway, their priorities seemed to change, and values like experience, referencability, affordability and the confidence that the solution and the vendor were future-proof came to the fore.
... and for many of them, their requirements evolved significantly through the buying process - in many cases stimulated by a smart vendor that shared their experience of similar situations. The buyer wanted to learn, and they valued being educated.
Of course, reference studies and case studies are a traditional part of the sales person's armoury, but what really seems to work is the sales persons ability to tell stories in a natural way. Just as salespeople who can empathise with their prospects tend to do better, it seems to me that vendors who can align with their target market’s business issues will create a platform for success.
I’d summarise the lessons for those of us who support clients with a complex B2B sales process as
- Buyers love learning, but hate being sold to
- They search for solution to problems, not products
- Vendors who focus on issues rather than products earn respect
- Messages need to evolve as the buying journey advances
- Storytelling generates empathy and trust - and can be taught
Let me know how this tallies with your own experiences!