Do you sell the way your customers want to buy?
Nine years ago Selling Power magazine held its Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. Speaker after speaker presented ideas on how to influence the “customer buying journey.” This was a dramatic shift in sales thinking because for years salespeople were taught mostly techniques for how to open sales calls, how to ask questions, how to present, and how to close. Of course these skills are important. But they’re not enough.
Salespeople weren’t taught to understand how their customers buy.
Today the concept of selling to the customer’s buying journey is table stakes, it’s the new standard. Forward thinking sales organizations have built their entire commercial approaches on this concept.
Well known sales training and research firms confirm through studies and research the logic and benefit of selling to the customer buying journey.
CEB Gartner (The Challenger Sale) published a white paper earlier this year titled The New B2B Buying Journey and Its Implication for Sales. “As B2B buying behavior rapidly changes, traditional sales approaches will dramatically underachieve”.
Aberdeen Consulting Group reported that companies with sales funnel stages defined by the customer buying journey had 33% more accurate sales forecasting and 40% more salespeople making quota.
CSO Insights reported that defining how customers buy must be the first place executives begin when conducting sales transformation efforts.
Miller Heiman’s annual Best Practices Study 2017 reported that organizations they rated to be ‘world class’ knew why their customers buy from them 30% more often than non-world class organizations.
In a word, your customers.
It occurred to me fifteen years ago that customers had more information, more access to it, and more timeliness to it. And that customers were being influenced more by their peers than by the salespeople calling on them. Today, for salespeople these trends are only getting worse. Salespeople have to fight to be relevant.
Your organization’s performance and results are at stake. There will be casualties to underperformance. If your team’s underperformance is due to a failure to act, to change how you sell, then you will have committed an unforced error. In their book Shiftability, authors Mitch Little and Hendre Coetzee say that salespeople need to adopt a growth mindset, one that looks at the world through a learner’s perspective. This is the mindset that selling to the customer buying journey requires.
Your customers are expecting this from you.
A customer buying journey is the collective steps a customer takes or the milestones or stages the customer completes that starts with a problem or opportunity and ends with a solution. Often these are called “sales funnel or pipeline models” because the stages are used in CRM to guide salespeople in managing their funnels. With funnel stages, companies can run valuable reports, analyze data and forecast more accurately.
But don’t let the sexiness of using this model to analyze and forecast better cause you to overlook the vital, dirty work of using this approach to sell better, one deal at a time. This is the real value of a customer buying journey model.
You want to know the stage your customer is in when the customer is considering buying because that helps you best influence the customer. It’s key to making a difference for the customer and your salespeople being relevant.
For example, if a customer you’re calling on is early in the buying journey they’ll want to be educated, not sold to. They’ll respond a lot more favorably to insightful information you provide. They want to know what you know, and they don’t mean product or service. What do you know about their kind of situation that could help them decide to act on it or lower its priority?
On the other hand if the customer is well into committing to a solution, if they’ve already been through determining the impact or upside of the situation, if the checkbook is out, then they’ll likely want to know why should they buy from you versus another alternative.
Not knowing this stage information puts you at a serious disadvantage. You’re more likely to commit common, costly selling mistakes like making assumptions about everything.
You could be tempted to get ensnared by the lure of research and data by big sales training companies that suggest this data tells you all you need to know about your customer’s buying journey.
While I have been intrigued by the research, I have learned overwhelmingly about customer buying journeys from my clients the past 20 years. What I have learned most is that my clients know how their customers buy better than any consultant can tell them. Including me. My company’s job therefore is to pull it out of them and keep the design simple. Brilliantly complex customer buying journey models for selling don’t get used.
There’s still time for you and your team to adopt this approach. But don’t wait too long.
We are the one sales training company to have devoted the past 20 years to helping clients define their customers’ buying journey. 120 global sales teams have implemented The BuyCycle Funnel™ customer buying journey model of selling created by Mark Sellers. Clients have seen remarkable results, including:
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