The Modern Buyer’s Journey Is Dynamic.
Are You Agile Enough to Keep Up?
By Andrea Grodnitzky | 10.8.18
The buyer’s journey today may not be linear, but it’s not haphazard either. There’s still a logical progression from “explore” to “purchase.” The difference is that instead of a linear progression, the journey is now a dynamic, iterative process involving multiple stakeholders who are sometimes at different stages of the journey.
The result? Purchasing decisions have become more complex than ever before because there is a constant process of integration, refinement, and alignment. A visualization of the modern B2B buyer’s journey looks like this:
Understanding the dynamics of the new buyer journey
Numerous factors influence how a buyer’s decisions change throughout the purchasing process. These factors include:
The addition or removal of stakeholders
Discovery of new information that validates or invalidates solutions
Changes in the buyer’s definition of his/her challenges and needs
As each one of these factors becomes part of the process, the stakeholders must repeat the integration, refinement, and alignment stages of the journey. Let’s take a closer look at the different elements of each of these stages.
In this step in the process, the primary buyer from a company is taking in new information learned during conversations. This might include pricing changes, new technical requirements, the opinion of a new stakeholder, or even an insight offered by a competitor. This new information is likely to change the buyer’s thinking and drive the need to refine the solution.
The primary buyer refines and redefines his needs, concerns, and requirements, building confidence in the solution by improving his understanding of his company’s business challenge and the outcome a solution will deliver. Refinement often results in changes to the scope of a solution or an adjustment in priority. Refinement might lead to more questions; if this happens, then the buyer might repeat the integration process. Once refinement has been completed, these changes must then be communicated to the rest of the stakeholders to ensure buy-in and alignment.
Changes in scope and priorities identified during the refinement process have a trickle-down effect: The buyer must explain the reasoning behind the new thinking to other stakeholders involved in the buying process. More questions might arise that force the buyer to repeat either the integration or refinement stage. Once all parties are satisfied and aligned, the deal can move forward to the next phase of the buying process.
Why marketers need to think differently about the buyer’s journey
Extreme diligence throughout the buying process is smart on the part of the buyer—it ensures that her organization is making informed decisions.
This same diligence can be a challenge for marketing and sales professionals who are encouraging a buyer along her journey. As the buyer repeatedly integrates, refines, and aligns her thinking, the risk of a stalled deal or losing business to a competitor increases.
It’s possible to avoid or at least minimize this risk. Marketers and sales professionals must develop a content strategy to support customers throughout the buyer journey. This means creating a mix of high-level information and tactical content that will answer buyers’ questions. It also means creating content and materials for different buying personas.
Curating the right content
Marketers should collaborate closely with the sales team determine the optimal mix of content topics and types. Salespeople can share common questions and challenges they uncover during conversations with buyers. Marketers can then document common stakeholder personas, objections, and questions and responses that resonate with buyers. All this provides insight into what content will grease the wheels of the buying process.
These materials need to be readily available to the sales team to ensure they can respond to customers’ questions and challenges quickly and to avoid creating any additional steps in the decision-making process.
The content created to support the buyer journey is useful for sales professional actively pursuing sales opportunities with current customers and sales-qualified leads. It’s also beneficial for marketers charged with attracting prospective customers to bring new business in the door.
Repurposing sales collateral materials for marketing is effective because:
The information is relevant to the company’s target market.
The information will help prospective customers better understand how a provider’s solution solves their challenge, resulting in more qualified leads and a shortened sales cycle.
Targeting different personas expands a company’s reach.
When marketers and sales professionals fully understand the complexity of and stages in their company’s buyer’s journey, they’re better equipped to anticipate next moves. And when they collaborate on content that educates and informs prospects and customers, they’re able to support those audiences throughout their buyer’s journey by providing valuable insight and guidance.
Success comes from effectively shaping the customer’s thinking.
To do so, marketing and sales professionals need to know a buyer’s next step before he does. The best strategy to achieve this is to understand the steps in the modern buyer’s journey and the influences that slow, speed, and alter it; anticipate those changes; and, add value by guiding customers through that new and complex journey.
About the Author
As Richardson Sales Training’s Chief Marketing Officer, Andrea Grodnitzky is responsible for demand generation and value creation. With a passion for sales and customer-centric activity, Andrea and her team work to inspire customers across the engagement lifecycle and support them in their journey to market leadership by delivering fresh perspectives to their sales challenges.