How Mapping the Buyer’s Journey Can Lead to More Revenue

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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:

SellingtoHelping people buy
Sales process focustoBuyer process focus
Overcoming objectionstoRemoving barriers
ClosingtoGuiding
MetoYou
Making quotatoProviding 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.

The Buyer Journey Mapping Process

There are many flavors of journey mapping, but all seek to answer these questions:

  1. Which buyer personas should be included? Personas are groups of buyers that have common demographics, interests, goals and behavior patterns.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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?
  7. 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.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Christopher: this is a good list of questions to ask for customer journey mapping.

    Regarding #2, I have found that purchases of capital equipment and large project initiatives are less driven by management’s response to ‘triggers’ and more based on their perception of trends and forces. In my projects and sales force training, I use Porter’s Five-Forces model. While it has some notable flaws, it’s excellent for understanding not only what executives perceive, but for helping identify opportunities for salespeople to provide outstanding value. Unlike “triggers”, which are relatively simple to monitor, forces can be both subtle and significant. An article I wrote in 2011 explains more: Out of B-School and into the Sales Call: Why Porter’s Five Forces Beats Triggers. http://customerthink.com/porters_five_forces_beats_sales_triggers/

    Regarding #4, useful predecessor questions could be a) ‘what information do our prospects seek? (i.e. what questions do they ask?) b) where do they go to get it? c) do we provide it?, and finally, d) how easily can prospects obtain it? It’s as vital to know the reasons for the questions and information gathering as it is to know what information they’re searching for.

  2. Hi Andrew, thanks for the great comments. I get your point about how some companies purchase based more on market forces than triggering events. Buyer journey mapping needs to account for both scenarios, plus any other buying motivations. I am a fan of Michael Porter’s work and will read your article.

  3. Hello Christopher Ryan: Yes, Today’s buyer has more control than ever.

    That’s a significant part of the journey taking place without a salesperson involved!

    Buyers expect sellers to (a) understand their company’s business model, (b) be a subject matter expert, (c) provide valuable resources, consultation etc., and (d) know their company’s products or services.

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Christopher,

    According to our research conducted in partnership with the CXPA (https://heartofthecustomer.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Driving-Change-through-Journey-Maps-White-Paper.pdf?x99833), only 35% of journey mapping projects are successful. A key reason that so many companies fail is that they’re following your advice – just doing a quick and dirty journey mapping project.

    When practitioners were asked about what leads to a successful journey mapping project (defined as one that actually creates change, versus sitting on the shelf), they identified three critical components: Creating a broad cross-functional team, involving customers, and selecting the right journey. All three require a disciplined approach – and none of them rely on using one of your salespeople to interview potential customers (which is a terrible design).

    Journey mapping is a powerful capability, and can lead to a more customer-centric outcome. But only if you take the time to do it right.

    Jim

  5. Jim, thanks for your comments and for sharing the research data. Your points are well taken but not sure they are on target with what my article is about. My intention was to focus strictly on the “buying process”, while your data covers a very large scope including customer support, product usage, etc. In fact, the two departments who are the biggest sponsors of the types of projects represented by your data are CX and customer support, while I am speaking to marketing and sales. (plus the CEO, who should be very interested). Also, reviewing the appendix covering the type of companies who responded, it appears that it was mostly larger companies who (probably?) spent more money and effort to accomplish their mapping projects. Yet, they are still mostly unsatisfied. Having spent years in the CRM, ERP and content management industries, I saw no correlation between the scope, complexity and expense of a major project and the success it produces. Sometimes it is better to start small, achieve incremental value, and build from there.

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