An Overview Of The New Buyer’s Journey
Written by: Ryan Flannagan
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Chapter 7: The New Buyer’s Journey

“Woah, that is a lot to take in,” Chuck said. “I feel like I just tried to drink from a fire hose.”

“It’s one of those things that’s tough to acclimatize to at first, but with a closer look you’ll find a lot of stuff you already know, and other stuff you don’t know but know enough things like it so  you’ll pick it up quickly.”

“So you say. It’s starting to sound like a consultant spiel again.”

“When learning something new, it’s often easiest to apply something you already know.”

“Yeah, okay.”

“You’re aware of the buyer’s journey.”

“You mean Awareness, Consideration, and Decision?”

“Yes.”

“Of course. That’s first-year B-school stuff right there.”

“Okay. Let’s map inbound marketing to the three stages of the buyer’s journey, and get you an overview of how this might work in a context you already understand.”

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.  

Actually, don’t.

You’ve definitely heard this one. It’s first-year B-school material, but it’s good to think about again in the context of what you’ve read so far. The buyer’s journey has remained the same since people began buying things. But as with all aspects of selling in the 21st century, the details have changed significantly. 

You know the basics of the old way. Sales reps came to buyers with a general understanding of what buyers in their position needed. They started a conversation, and sometimes that conversation ended with a sale.

Today, buyers diagnose their own problems and research options in advance. A recent CEB study of over 1,400 B2B customers in multiple industries found that 57% of a purchase decisions get made before first contact with a vendor.

Let’s look more closely at the three stages of the buyer’s journey, and what the modern, connected, mobile world has done to change them.

The Buyers Journey

Easy as One, Two, Three 

Buyers like to think of their situations as unique, but nearly all buying processes go through the same three steps: 

  • Awareness — when the buyer becomes aware of a problem or opportunity
  • Consideration — when the buyer has clearly defined the problem or opportunity
  • Decision — when they buyer has clearly defined his or her preferred method to solve the problem or leverage the opportunity

This was true in the old days, and remains true now. The question is how to change your approach to this truism while also meeting how the details have changed.

Awareness – when buyers become aware of a problem or opportunity

Twenty-first-century buyers are informed and sophisticated, and B2B buyers are expected to know not only what’s happening in their areas of responsibility, but what’s likely to happen in the coming months and years. These customers go looking for their own problems and opportunities. Smart profit engineering decisions are those where customers get involved with sources of information, setting up vendors to begin the journey as advisors and guides.

Consideration – when buyers clearly define the problem or opportunity

Old-school sales presentations cost, and made, a lot of money, but today’s consumers are suspicious of packaged sales pitches, and look closely at any claims vendors might make. They prefer to find their own answers by reading expert articles, social reviews, and other online sources of information. Modern strategy creates content that serves as that information source, maintaining that position of guide and advisor, and continues relationships started during the awareness stage.

Decision – when buyers have clearly defined the preferred method to solve the problem or leverage the opportunity

Once upon a time, this was the Big Finish. Reps asked a closing question, and then saw what happened next. If they had provided useful, topical content to buyers during the awareness and consideration stages, they didn’t have to ask for the sale. Customers had confidence in their expertise, which they’d earned though demonstrating it in their content. Customers would simply accept the advice and take the next logical step: the sale.

The Other Side of the Mountain

Here’s a part you probably haven’t heard before.

The buyer’s journey doesn’t stop at decision anymore. In the age of smartphones, social buyers, stopping once the sale is made is a mistake.

It has always cost five times as much to attract a new lead as to sell to an existing client, but the modern age makes that aftercare even more vital.

If the buyer’s journey is a trip up a mountain, and the decision is the peak, you can’t just go back down the trail to find another climber. Instead, you need to walk down the other side of the mountain with the new client. Motivate him to tell his friends, relatives, clients, colleagues, mentors, and pets about how great the view is from the top.

Only when he’s doing that is your job as a guide along the buyer’s journey truly complete.  

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