Coming from somebody who has consistently sought to promote the value of focus and process in all matters connected with B2B sales and marketing, the above headline may strike you as bordering on the perverse. But bear with me. It’s just that no sales process can be successful unless it is based on a deep appreciation of your prospective customer’s buying process.
I see a growing number of references to the Buyers’ Journey™, and it’s probably worth reminding ourselves that the term was first brought to prominence (and subsequently trademarked by) Hugh Macfarlane back in 2003 in “The Leaky Funnel” - a book that boasts more Post-it® note tabs than any other publication on my bookshelf.
I had the opportunity to catch up with Hugh recently at a FunnelCamp™ accreditation course in Manchester last week. We spent some considerable time reviewing the nature of the B2B buying decision process, and I wanted to share a few of the core concepts with you in this article - the first of many on related subjects.
Untroubled and unaware
Every B2B buying decision process - if you track back far enough - starts with the prospect being untroubled or unaware about an issue that will at some point in the future become important to them.
And then something happens - a trigger event - that causes them to realise that sticking with the status quo might not be such a good idea after all. At their own pace, the prospect positions potential solutions in the relevant category, establishes interest, and acknowledges the gap that exists between where they are now and where they now recognise they need to be.
They may do their own independent research and hold off involving potential vendors until they have defined a clear set of needs. Then they will invite offers, form preferences and make their decision. And that decision may be to “do nothing”.
Your prospects always have choices
At any stage along this Buyers’ Journey - and the evidence suggests that the sequence I have described fits most considered, high-value B2B purchases - the prospect can choose to pause, move forward, revisit a previous stage or abandon their search for a solution.
But unless you measure progress by looking for evidence of the evolution of the prospect’s buying decision process, you’re never going to know. If - like many organisations - you continue to manage your pipelines largely on the basis of sales activities completed, rather than buying progress observed, you’ll get it wrong more often than you will get it right.
It’s no wonder that so many sales managers struggle to determine the true value of their sales pipelines, or to generate accurate sales forecasts. Many of us have been preconditioned to measure the wrong things.
Take a fresh look at your sales process
I strongly encourage you to look at your “sales process” with a dispassionate eye. Does it really reflect the stages your prospects go through in their decision making journey? Are you measuring your progress and defining the milestones between stages with reference to observable evidence of buyer intent?
If not, take the time to look at your processes from the buyer’s perspective. Make sure that every sales and marketing activity is intentionally targeted at helping your prospect to decide to move forward to the next step in their Buyers’ Journey with your organisation.
Have the courage to eliminate any activity that does not evidently add value to the prospect’s decision-making process. Base your forecasts on buyer behaviour - not sales activity or aspirations. And don’t be surprised if you end up selling more, with less effort or that your sales forecasts hit the mark with increasing frequency.
Note: The Buyer’s Journey and FunnelCamp are registered trademarks of MathMarketing.