How to better understand the Buyer Journey

“Don’t sell to customers, let them buy from you” might sound strange to traditional “ABC (Always Be Closing) sales people. It is however crucial to understand where a prospect is on his/her buyer journey and therefore mindset to select a suitable selling style.

A simple mental model to think about is by answering these 3 questions on awareness:

  • Problem Awareness: Does the prospect have the problem you are solving? And if yes, is the prospect aware the problem exists and is relevant and urgent to solve?
  • Solution Awareness: Is the prospect aware of the available solutions to tackle the discussed problem? How does the prospect think about these solutions? Does (s)he know you exist?
  • Collaboration Awareness: Is the prospect actively evaluating or even already working with you?

You can then segment a prospect’s situation into these 5 stages:

1. Unawareness: The customer does not know he has a problem
Use provocative selling and show the prospect why the problem is real, relevant and urgent to solve. This often takes a lot of energy, time and resources from unawareness to a signed offer because not only the sales person, but also the potential buyer need to do some “heavy lifting” from 0 throughout the complete buyer journey. 

Books like The Challenger Sale can help you going deeper into the right tools and mindset to be successful during this stage.

2. Awareness The customer is aware he has a problem
The prospect knows she needs to do SOMETHING, but is lost on how to find, evaluate and buy solutions solving her problem. This provides a great opportunity for consultative selling and present ways to solve the problem. While taking the prospect by the hand still takes considerable effort, it is also a great timing to become a trusted partner and steward to customers. 

3. Education: The customer realises there are solutions.
This is the stage where prospects reach out proactively to you asking for your input (Inbound Leads), asking for a solution-based sales approach to make it easy for a buyer to understand, evaluate, trust and buy your solutions. 

This is very different from Stages 1+2 because the prospect to a certain degree conducts the problem-solution-fit evaluation for you and therefore typically results in higher conversation rates from initial contact to signed offer.

4. Selection: The customer selected a solution.
This is where a prospect might push you directly into a transactional sales approach to present i.a. pricing & payment options. However be careful if the prospect really went through stages 1, 2 and 3 of the buyer journey above before providing a quote as the deal might be far from done and a prospect might
a) not be informed enough to become successful with your solution or
b) just “window-shopping” to gain price transparency and initiate negotiations with an informational advantage

5. Onboarding: The customer uses your solution.
You. Are. Not. Done. Here. Depending on your offering and industry and who you ask, it is 3-15x easier to win an additional 1’000 CHF from a customer already working with you than to win this revenue from a new customer from scratch. 

Ideally, your customers can buy more from you in a self-service, web-based sales model. But even if not, make Customer Success not a management function, but a crucial part of your business to generate additional revenue and indeed prevent customer churn.

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