May 28, 2019
Understanding the Buyer’s Journey -- The Essence of a Successful Sale
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Today’s sales professionals face an uphill battle. Buyers are more educated than ever about service and product offerings in their respective marketplaces. Buyers are also incredibly busy. If a seller comes knocking with a generic sales pitch, not only are they unlikely to get the sale, their chances of further engaging with that prospect are extremely limited. In order to overcome these challenges and close more sales, successful salespeople must work harder, work smarter and deliver more value than their competitors.
A critical first step in the sales engagement process is to delineate all of the possible buyers and important influencers you might face in your particular marketplace. You should think broadly at first as potential buyers and stakeholders might surprise you. Understanding the full spectrum of potential buyers will enable you to then be more successful in finding the appropriate individuals you want to engage with at a particular prospect company. A few techniques which could facilitate this exercise are:
Once you have built your list of who you believe are the top influencers and decision makers at a company, it is then critical that you fully understand what makes each of these individuals tick. Each will have different motivations and goals which must be understood before you can devise your plan to deliver value. Some of the research and data gathering steps you should consider include:
Once you fully understand the motivations of your potential buyers and stakeholders, you are now ready to specifically craft the story of how your offering will deliver exactly what is needed for each individual.
Humans are wired to respond to a good storyline, and therefore storytelling is a critical skill-set of a sales professional. Throughout my career, I found that prospects respond best to actual examples of problems being solved versus generic descriptions of features of your product or service. Specific examples enable them to visualize how exactly your offering will solve their specific problem and make them more successful.
Your knowledge of each prospect’s specific motivations is critical to be able to bring the buyer on a journey to allow them to achieve their goals. You must educate and make them believe you are there to help and not simply to get a sale. It is critical that you build a relationship of trust with one or more stakeholders who have enough influence or decision making power to purchase your product or service.
Once you have built this relationship of trust with one or more key stakeholders, your job is to now give your advocates the tools to persuade others in their organization who will weigh in on your offerings. You must agree on a roadmap that will lead to your common goals of engagement. This roadmap should include specific timelines and deliverables. Depending on the individual company and economic times, un-budgeted purchases will face a major uphill battle. It is therefore critical that you clearly demonstrate why your offering will deliver an ROI and other benefits that are far stronger than the status quo or other alternatives. An important part of your job is to make your advocates look good. Therefore make sure you arm them to counter any potential objections from colleagues, and position your offering as critical for their organization. Once you have succeeded in closing the sale, your relationship with your champions should be nurtured. This relationship is important to not only keep this customer for the long term, but customer references will make future sales far easier.
Each customer engagement will be different, but in order to illustrate this process, I will share one specific example. We believed that enterprise software companies could benefit greatly from our service offering, yet we didn’t have any reference accounts yet. We realized we needed to do a deep dive analysis of the industry, including mapping out key companies, understanding industry dynamics and determining whether stakeholders would be different than in other industries where we had found success. After this analysis was complete we identified one company to initially target because:
Our successes in other industries gave us great stories to tell about how we could deliver meaningful ROI to our clients. We adapted these stories to the dynamics of the enterprise software industry and this specific target company which we now had deep knowledge of through our research. We armed our key stakeholder with these stories which created strong buy-in from this individual, and gave him the tools to bring other stakeholders to the table. Even though our offering was very new to this company and its industry, our stories were compelling enough to build strong consensus among these stakeholders to support our proposal and we soon closed our sale. Going forward, we supported this customer in every way possible, and they became an important reference account which enabled us to quickly bring on many other companies in this industry.
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