We know we have to align our marketing and sales processes with the customer buying journey. That used to be simple when we considered the buying journey to be relatively linear. However, current Gartner research shows a completely different picture of the customer buying journey, one that can only be characterized as “Chaotic.”
How do we deal with the chaotic buying journey? Particularly, when this journey is unique for each customer and dynamic? How do we layer the fact that during this journey, customers will seek information through multiple channels, simultaneously?
Some posit, we have to provide very granular, relevant information, intersecting the customer at any point, with just the right information, available through multiple channels, targeting the right person, at the right time. The term “buyer enablement” is used, much like we think of sales enablement. Just like sales enablement, if we provide the right content, training, systems, tools, we can enable the buyer to navigate the process (theoretically, that’s what sales enablement is supposed to do.).
Except the sales enablement model works on a completely different premise. It assumes, the sales person will be selling the same solution(s) repeatedly. It leverages the fact the sales person sees similar situations, daily, learning and improving each time they engage customers, getting coaching to help them improve and improves with practice and coaching is critical to the sales enablement model.
We know a sales person using the best sales enablement tools (content, training, etc) is going to struggle in the very first instance of trying to sell whatever it is they are selling, they need lots of times at bat and practice.
But buyers are different, they don’t buy frequently, they don’t get the chance to learn and improve with successive iterations of buying, unless they are in procurement. So a model based on a sales enablement model is highly unlikely to be effective. In fact it has a danger of confusing buyers even more. Imagine everyone on the short list of considerations implements their own buyer enablement model, each well intended, but inundating the customer with more and more information. Do we have a risk of making things more complicated or are we helping simplify the buying process?
Another concern I have with the concept of the “chaotic buying process,” is why should buyers and sellers accept this? Why do we build our engagement process around the principle, “it is what it is, so we just have to deal with it….”
We don’t manage chaos/complexity by accepting it. We, whether we are buyers or sellers, need to look to simplifying the journey. Since buyers aren’t buying everyday, it’s tough for them to do this.
This is where sellers can create tremendous value for buyers. Recognizing the natural dynamics of the customer buying process is to become chaotic, sellers can offer a lot of guidance to help customers reduce that chaos, to manage, more effectively the journey they are on.
Rather than becoming “just in time information concierges,” supporting the customer in their chaotic buying process, the real job of the sales person is to help remove the complexity and chaos, enabling the customer to manage their journey more effectively. Perhaps, with sales help, the customer journey can start looking less chaotic.