Today’s buying journey is a path that changes direction with each step. Effective sales professionals watch for these changes before they put the next foot down. Sometimes this means that the path ends or loops back into itself. Sales professionals who understand this dynamic don’t let the twists and turns throw them.
Understanding the ways that the buyer journey has changed will help your sales team improve their close rates and drive revenue for your organization. Here we examine the fundamental changes in the buyer journey.
Buyers Don’t Always Fully Understand Their Challenge
The challenge sparking the buying journey is often only an early representation of the underlying issue. This issue becomes more clearly defined throughout the buying process as the buyer explores their options and introduces new stakeholders to the conversation.
Sales professionals who engage customers with the understanding that their needs will change throughout the conversation will be more successful than their more rigid counterparts. This is because they can add value to the buying process by offering insights that will help the buyer understand their challenge, better position their solution, and build trust.
Buyers are Risk Adverse
Memories of the global recession loom large. Customers need assurance that investing time and money in a solution will yield a return. This assurance, or lack thereof, determines what the customer does when it is time to buy or walk away. A solution must do more than make sense. It must pay for itself.
The customer’s ROI considerations demand proof of economic value. Even if stakeholders acknowledge value in the solution, they must also reach a consensus on whether funding is possible. This issue introduces the financial team to the process. A CFO might not assign the same value to the solution’s capabilities as another stakeholder would.
These concerns explain why the buyer’s journey is a looping path. The customer advances toward the sale, then encounters unexpected risk factors. In response, the customer steps back in the process, taking time to understand their exposure fully. Once they’ve measured the risk and become comfortable with it, they continue the journey forward. For this reason, there is no spot in the buyer’s journey that represents the point of no return.
Buyers are Well Informed
Most sales professionals understand that buyers are conducting more research independent of their discussions with the sales professional. However, it’s also important to recognize the outcome of this trend, which is that the information is prompting customers to think more critically about solutions. Buyers want to see the numbers behind the claims. They want to vet the solution.
This formality means that procurement specialists are entering the picture. They’re measuring every aspect of a solution. They are also often inaccessible to sales professionals because they aren’t a stakeholder. As a result, sales professionals are unaware of the metrics that customers use to assess value.
Numerical factors like cost and ROI become prerequisites. Sales professionals become qualified or disqualified before having the chance to articulate their value.
Buyers Are Busy
Buying is a process that compounds the sales professional’s daily responsibilities. When one decision maker has the time to evaluate a solution, the other might be busy. For this reason, it’s possible for a customer to occupy different areas of the buying journey at the same time.
This adds complexity for the sales professional. Keeping communication open by checking in and following up quickly help to drive continued momentum throughout the journey.
Buyers Leverage Your Competition
Price and terms enter the discussion once the customer decides to move forward with the solution. Procurement, finance, and all other stakeholders come together. They compare the solution’s implicit and explicit costs. The buyer considers what they’re willing to trade or concede to get the best value.
At this point, customers use negotiation costs to defray risks. Customers play competing offers against one another. Sales professionals often negotiate with both the customer and other solution providers. This scenario obscures the picture for sales professionals because the competitor’s position is unknown.
To learn more download Richardson Sales Training’s, full white paper, Embracing the Turns: The New Buyer Journey, to learn why the buyer’s journey is now an iterative process and how sales professionals can stay ahead of the curve here.