Most B2B sales (and a good chunk of B2C sales) involve more than the purely transactional. The most successful sales reps understand that developing a relationship with leads is what drives purchase decisions. And a big part of developing that relationship is understanding where the buyer is coming from, what led them to your company in the first place, and why they would ultimately buy from you.
This is where a firm grasp of your typical buyer's journey is an invaluable asset. You can generally break it down into five distinct steps. Each one can inform your sales team's messaging, break down barriers, and eventually result in a win. Let's talk about them one at a time.
Step #1: The Buyer's Current State
This is where you want to paint a picture of your ideal customer persona's daily life, even before they're aware of your company or the solutions you offer. Yes, basic demographics are important here. However, it's helpful to go beneath the surface. Imagine the ups and downs your customer may experience on a regular basis.
For example, let's say you provide outsourced software development solutions. Your ideal customer persona is Jonathan, a 35-year-old manager for a software development team. Maybe you envision Jonathan spending most of his time in meetings. He acts as the "glue guy" between different departments within his organization, and deals with a fast-paced workload and a high-pressure environment. This mental image you've created can be a foundation for the next steps in Jonathan's customer journey.
Step #2: The Buyer's Challenges
It's vital to dig into the specific challenges and pain points your customer is facing. After all, you can't effectively position yourself as a solutions provider if you don't understand the problems that need to be fixed!
Think about issues that could keep your buyers up at night, including problems they're already facing and potential problems that they worry about. In B2B settings, think about challenges that could cause buyers to fail at their job, or make their job more stressful and frustrating.
In Jonathan's case, perhaps he is concerned about capacity-related questions — e.g., whether his current team has the bandwidth to complete all their deliverables on time. He may find it stressful when one or more of his team members goes on vacation, and everyone else has to pick up the slack. Also, he is very worried about missing deadlines, delivering incomplete product features, or otherwise derailing the project timeline.
Step #3: The Buyer's Desired State
Now that you've uncovered the customer's key challenges and obstacles, it's time to transition into what a perfect day for them would look like. What would their dream world be, in which all of their problems have been magically solved?
Don't be afraid to think big during this step. Remember, though, that before the customer can achieve their ideal state (their wants), they must first address the risks and challenges they're currently facing (their needs). So think about the things that are non-negotiable for their success — their "deal breakers." Then, move on to the things they would like to have, but may not need at the moment.
For example, what would Jonathan's perfect world look like? He would manage a team of skilled developers who are creative, able to spot issues quickly, and eager to collaborate with one another. On the other hand, what are his non-negotiable needs? He needs to maintain alignment between team members, achieve business goals, and deliver features and completed products on time.
Step #4: The Buyer's Solutions
There must be an understanding that your buyer could reach their "happily ever after" through a number of different options. Your solution isn't the only one available. It may be the best solution in certain areas, but includes significant drawbacks in others.
Therefore, take a long, hard look at your competition. Think about the distinct benefits and disadvantages that come with their offerings. And don't be afraid to bring those up in your conversations with the lead! Doing so will demonstrate that you can be trusted and that you sincerely want the best for them.
Going back to Jonathan's situation, what would some of his potential hiring solutions look like? He could beef up his in-house team with more developers and engineers. He could invest in more training for his current team. Or he could outsource some or all of his team's software development duties. Of course, for each of these solutions there is another subset of options he could evaluate (like whether to outsource to a domestic or offshore company).
Step #5: The Buyer's Purchase
Finally, we come to the step in which your sales reps will (hopefully) close the deal. It's important to note that not all leads (even warm leads) are immediately ready for this step. However, when your reps understand the previous four steps of the buyer's journey and use them to inform their talking points, they'll be in a much better position to convince and convert.
A large part of this step is "de-risking" the purchase for your lead. In other words, bolster the customer's confidence in your solution. Provide case studies, testimonials, references, and warranties as needed. Make sure you understand what process your B2B customer needs to go through in order to finally pull the trigger. Lastly, make sure your customer understands any final actions they need to take to buy your product.
After reviewing several options, Jonathan may decide to outsource some of his software development workload to your company. Perhaps he is impressed with testimonials from your other clients. Or (after talking with one of your reps) realizes that outsourcing is actually less costly than hiring new in-house developers, and provides more scalability. He is also reassured by your company's vetting process for developers and feels confident that they have the skills and experience needed to make his projects a success.
If you carefully examine each step in this five-step buyer's journey and disseminate that information to your sales team, then your reps will be in a prime position to develop strong relationships with leads, overcome objections, and close deals.
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