Understanding your customer’s buying journey is not an exercise in pedagogy. It is practical and real. It will help you be more effective in what you do today re: sales opportunities, meetings, strategies and more. Let’s see how understanding your customer’s buying journey helps you make better sales calls.
Recall, a customer buying journey is the collective set of steps or stages customers go through when they buy.
Let’s say you live in a 22 year old house and the roof has never been replaced. You’re wondering how many more years it can last. But nothing’s leaking so far. You put it off.
In a different situation, let’s say you’ve had hail damage and you’re concerned about the roof’s condition. You’re compelled to call your insurance agent to get it looked at.
As a customer you’re in two different stages of your buying journey in these examples. What gets your attention is different in each one. In the first one you’re likely more interested in getting educated – how long should your roof last? What happens if you wait too long? What are some signs of the roof needing to be replaced?
In the second situation you’re probably more interested in knowing the process for filing a claim, how you pick a roofing company, how long the job takes, and the timeframe for all of this to happen.
If you’re in sales for a roofing company, and you had these two leads on your desk, you should approach them differently, and base your approach on where the customer is in the buying journey. For the hail damage, you might get some direct mail out asap. Other roofing companies will be doing the same thing. With data on which neighborhoods were affected, you might make some cold calls or even canvass the neighborhoods. The message might focus on educating the customer on what happens to a roof during a hail storm, empathizing with the customer (it sucks to have to get a new roof), and giving the customer reason to trust you in this time of stress.
For the non urgent roof situation the message might be about the importance of investing in your home before a roof fails and educating the customer on the dangers of doing nothing.
I sell sales training and coaching services. An early stage lead for me might be a referral from a client. For these leads I focus on demonstrating competency, building trust, and learning what I can about the organization. The leads I get from some of our channel partners often have progressed through several stages of the buying journey. They bring me in to help close the sale.
In general, for early stage deals you’re safe to focus on this: build credibility, earn trust, and don’t be overly eager or overly aggressive. Get the stakeholder to talk but don’t ask too many questions.
For later stage deals your selling activity should focus on qualifying a ‘commitment to fund’, meaning, qualifying that the customer is committed to buying something from somebody. How much has been committed? The answer to this critical question pivots your selling activities in one direction or a different one. If you qualify the customer is committed to buy then you shift into “why buy from me” mode. This is where the customer’s head is at. Meet him where he is. Finally, be prepared to tell the customer what a solution should look like. This presents you as an expert. Be careful to not come across too cocky. Most customers like to have options too.
Author, The Funnel Principle, Named by Selling Power magazine a Top Ten Best Book to Read
Creator of The BuyCycle Funnel customer buying journey model
Author, Blindspots: The Hidden Killer of Sales Coaching
Founder Breakthrough Sales Performance
Would you like these results for your sales team? A client of ours for 5 years this company has delivered double digit top line and net income growth annually the past five years. Another client increased sales 35% year over year thanks to our coaching and sales training program. A third client increased the value of its sales funnel by 55% in 9 months.
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Three– the power of marketing clout. In 2011 CEB published The Challenger Sale. While it’s initial shock factor was stating that ‘relationship selling is dead’, the underlying driver of that claim became the lead story. That is, why relationship selling was dying. As customers became more ‘knowledge independent’ from salespeople they didn’t need salespeople to help them buy like they used to. Customers had less incentive tobuild relationshipswith sellers, especially since many weren’t paying off. Finally, with everyone’s schedules becoming super compressed, it’s become harder for salespeople to establish contact early in the process and develop the relationship throughout the cycle.
CEB coined and marketed a fabulous term for what was happening in the customer buying process called 57%. Their Challenger research revealed that customers routinely go through as much as 57% of their buying process before engaging salespeople. The implications are dramatic. Customers are not engaging with salespeople early in the process. Salespeople are therefore not part of discovery and shaping of solution images early. By the time customers engage salespeople they don’t add much value beyond price and availability. It’s harder to differentiate.