The process of capturing the methods by which prospects make a purchase decision is called buyer journey mapping. The goal of buyer journey mapping is to align the way you sell with the way prospects and customers prefer to buy. You have no doubt read the statistics about how much the buying and selling landscape has changed over the past decade. To give you three examples:
- Forrester Research reports that 74 percent of B2B buyers do at least half their research online before making an offline purchase.
- According to SiriusDecisions,70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer even reaches out to sales.
- Corporate Executive Board says that 57% of executives reach a decision before they contact sales.
This self-directed online activity represents a large shift”, from:
|Selling||to||Helping people buy|
|Sales process focus||to||Buyer process focus|
|Overcoming objections||to||Removing barriers|
|Making quota||to||Providing value|
Sales executives who have been trained in the concepts of a hard sell, overcoming objections and an “always be closing” (ABC) mentality may not have an easy go at making the change. The toughest part for you as a leader of your company is to replace those who cannot make the change – especially if they have been generating good revenue for years. Better yet, show them how a new way of selling – by doing less actual selling – can make them and the company more money.
Mapping is a good term to use because the better you understand the buyer’s terrain, the better you are able to serve them/help them buy. LinkedIn’s recent survey shows that the top four factors in the willingness of a buyer to engage with a vendor all relate to how a company demonstrates knowledge. Buyers expect sellers to 1. understand their company’s business model, 2. be a subject matter expert/thought leader, 3. provide valuable resources, consultation, education, etc., and 4. know their company’s products/services. If you aren’t doing these four things to align with what your prospect is seeking, now is a good time to start.
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The Buyer Journey Mapping Process
There are many flavors of journey mapping, but all seek to answer these questions:
- Which buyer personas should be included? Personas are groups of buyers that have common demographics, interests, goals and behavior patterns.
- What are the buyer’s motivations and/or pain points? These are also known as “triggers” or precipitating events that cause a person/company to start on the purchase path. An example would be a computer software program that can no longer handle the workload.
- What does the buyer need to know, and when? This is where you map the content you provide to a specific stage in the buyer’s journey (for example, how-to white papers earlier than product spec sheets).
- Where will the buyer go to find information? Your website is an obvious answer but they may also visit associations, competitors, events, review sites and publications.
- Who will be involved in the decision to purchase (or not)? In the B2B world, there may be lots of stakeholders (or influencers) for major purchases and the person who kicks off the research phase is often not the one who signs the purchase order.
- What are the steps required by the prospect to make a decision? Does the prospect complete a requirements doc or request for proposal (RFP)? Do they require a demo or an onsite visit? Do they require financials or certification of some type?
- What is the typical timeframe involved in making a purchase? We refer to this as average sales cycle time but it can vary by persona, industry and so forth.
To sum up the process: to be successful, you need to understand how a prospective buyer finds you, learns about you, engages with you and purchases from you – as well as the specific touchpoints along the journey. This knowledge will help you provide a better and more fruitful experience for your new customer, and more top-line revenue for your company.
Tips for Effective Journey Mapping
Remove friction. You need to be relentless in finding and eliminating barriers to purchase. A barrier can be anything that causes friction or slows the buying process.
- Complicated web forms
- Slow loading web pages
- Long checkout lines
- Hard to find information
- Complex or slow interactive voice response (IVR) system
- Long hold (wait) times.
Read Gail Carson’s article for more information on how to remove friction.
Create a list of discovery questions. These are questions that we ask prospects to answer online or when interviewed by a business development rep or sales person. For example, when selling a technical product or service you would ask questions like:
- What are your greatest challenges related to…..?
- How are you currently attempting to solve these challenges?
- What are your technical requirements?
- What would an ideal situation look like/feel like?
- How would your life be better when a solution is implemented?
- Who are the internal stakeholders that are responsible for influencing, deciding and implementing this solution?
The key is to get these questions answered in a natural way during the buying process, not by forcing them on the prospect early on in a scripted manner. Your job is to support the prospect, not chase her away.
Line up your content to support the buyer journey. You need to supply the right type of content, to the right individual/company, at the right part of the buyer’s journey. Take a look at the content matrix for an example of how to align your content assets to the buyer’s journey.
Don’t overthink the process. There are companies who will charge you a small fortune to undertake a four-plus month buyer’s journey mapping project. Unless you are a large company, with a complex product or service, the results may not be worth the wait and expense. Two data points should especially concern you.
- Bob Thompson’s CustomerThink article pointing out that less than 1/3 of CX initiatives are successful.
- McKinsey’s research showing that only 30% of major transformation programs succeed.
Don’t be a victim of the mega project syndrome. Spend a few weeks (not months) mapping the buyer’s journey, streamlining your processes, aligning and supplementing your content, and removing some barriers. Your reward will be happier customers and more revenue.