I can still remember the powerful inspiration I gained from my first reading of Hugh Macfarlane’s “The Leaky Funnel” – the 2003 book that first drew the B2B sales and marketing community’s attention to the concept of the buyer’s journey.
PHASE 2: DEFINING
Your prospective customer has concluded that there is a compelling reason to act, and has satisfied themselves that credible solutions are available. Now, their attention turns to defining their vision of a solution and agreeing what their decision criteria should be, what their decision process should look like, and who they need to involve.
It is essential that your sales people are actively engaged with the prospective customer during this critical phase. Once the prospect has established their vision of a solution, identified the options they ought to shortlist and how they will decide what to do, they are ready to move to the next stage…
PHASE 3: SELECTING
Your prospective customer is now embarked on a serious evaluation of the solution options they have chosen to shortlist. It would be dangerous to assume that all the options under consideration are obvious competitors – they may be considering doing it themselves or entertaining the idea of a radically different approach.
The inevitable stakeholder disagreements need to be resolved, and once the decision team has narrowed their options down to one or a handful of acceptable solutions, and assuming they still believe that there is a compelling reason to act, they may now be ready to move to the next stage…
PHASE 4: RESOLVING
If the proposed purchase is of any significant value, it would be rare if your prospective customer did not have some concerns that they must resolve before they are able to move forward. These might be about the price or the contractual terms – or (more seriously) they may have reservations about doing business with your organisation.
Until and unless these concerns and reservations are addressed to their full satisfaction, it is unlikely that they will be prepared to move forward to the final stage…
PHASE 5: APPROVING
If the purchase is of any significant value, it is likely that it will have to be formally approved by a higher authority. At this point, your competition has shifted from alternative options to alternative projects, and there remains a real and tangible risk that they will decide to allocate their scarce resources to another completely different initiative.
Only if your project clears this final hurdle, will you finally be in a position to receive the order you have been hoping for (and may have already confidently been forecasting for some long-overdue date)…
Finally, let’s not forget that the buying journey isn’t over when the customer places an order on us. It’s only over when the problem they set out to address has been successfully resolved, and they are happy with our “solution”.
THE DYNAMICS OF BUYING
At any point, your prospect can (and frequently will) pause their buying decision process, revert to a previous phase, reassess their priorities or defer or abandon the journey altogether.
At any point, a new stakeholder may enter the decision-making process. Or a new requirement may emerge. Or a new priority may consume the prospect’s attention and divert their resources.
It should be obvious that there will always be plenty of reasons that are genuinely outside of our control that can affect your prospect’s buying journey.
THE CHOICES OPEN TO US
But it’s equally obvious that many of the reasons buying decisions get delayed or abandoned are entirely within our ability to influence. At every stage in the prospect’s buying decision journey, we face choices:
- We can choose to understand or ignore the decision dynamics
- We can choose to apply the strategies and tactics that have been proven to advance the buying journey, or we can ignore them
- We can cling to the false hope that a recent change has not upset the buying process, or we can acknowledge and address it
- We can hope that a weak champion will somehow miraculously bring their colleagues with them or we can seek a stronger sponsor
- We can cling to a poorly qualified deal that by any rational analysis is going nowhere or we can redirect our energies towards more promising opportunities
- Or we can blithely pursue our traditional sales process without proper regard for the prospect’s actual situation or priorities
We can move forwards with our customer, or we can fail without them. We can make the compromises that are often necessary to achieve mutual success, or we can pursue our short-term selfish interests.
We can continue to regard what we do as driving a sales process and we can cling on to out-dated bullshit concepts like “always be closing”.
Or we can embrace the realities of the modern buying environment and seek to understand, facilitate and embrace our prospect’s buying process.
I think you can guess which way I’ll be voting…
If you’d like to have a chat at any time about implementing buying-process-centric thinking in your own organisation, please drop me a line or book a call.