The Myth that is Undermining Your Sales
The myth undermining your sales misconception that buyers are necessarily 70% of the way through the buying process before engaging with sales. I call this common sales myth the Buyer Journey Fallacy.
The Buyer Journey Fallacy
The sales myth that buyers are 70% of the way through the buying process before talking to a salesperson has become pervasive even though SiriusDecisions debunked it in 2015. Since then, I've heard that myth quoted by thought leaders on conference stages as a way to shock the audience. It is shocking. It is also a fallacy that results in poor decision-making on the part of the sales teams.
The actual statistic, according to SiriusDecisions, is that 70% of the buyer journey is digital. And according to Gartner's latest article, the buyers, especially millennials, like it that way. However, that is very different than saying they have completed 70% of their buyer journey before they talk to sales.
A buyer might talk to a sales rep early in the process and still want 70% of their engagements to be digital. According to Gartner, buyers prefer digital tools that provide information and support decision-making. Buyers don't trust salespeople and feel they have time for them. What the means is that in their past buying experiences, sales reps have not provided enough value for the time they demand. Successful sales
If sales reps are going to be successful, they have to add value that the buyer recognizes. Sellers need to figure out how to support the buyer's desire to engage digitally and be available to answer questions and help with the buying decision. Success in this area requires strong corporate leadership and excellent sales and marketing collaboration. Selling organizations need to understand the desired buyer journey and build a parallel sales process supported by a well-structured CRM.
The Buyer Journey
The concept of the Buyer Journey is nothing new. It has been around longer than I have been in sales. We used to call it a Buying Process or Decision-Making Process. What has changed since then is the internet. Before the internet, the first interaction the buyer had was with a salesperson. Ads and articles might have triggered the exchange, but the journey began with the sales rep interaction.
With the introduction of the internet, the buyer has had more and more access to information before deciding. The buyer journey concept evolved because marketing teams wanted to figure out how they could influence the buyer as early in the process as possible. The goal was to deliver the right content at the ideal points along the journey to get the buyer to take action. Thus, the buyer journey was born.
So, let's remove the confusion. If 70% of the journey being digital, that doesn't mean the seller entered at the end of the journey. It means that the buyer is not 100% reliant on salespeople for information. How much each buyer will count on salespeople and how much they will count on digital engagements is an unknown. The more value a salesperson brings to the buyer, the greater their role in the process.
The Digital Buyer Journey
When SiriusDecisions says that 70% of the buyer journey is digital, that is a very broad statement. What they are arguing is that they buyer has used content created by your's and your competitors marketing teams to research solutions. They might also have used resources that compare solutions to help them get more neutral input.
If the marketing team has done their job, they have carefully crafted content including a website, articles, infographics, videos and more to direct your ideal customer toward your solution. Most of the time that content is designed to be encountered before the buyer connects with a seller.
In a B2B complex sale, a good marketing team will collaborate with sales so that multiple buyers from an organization engage with both digital content and humans as early as possible in their journey. In this way, marketing is helping to set the sellers up for success.
Additionally, the marketing team should produce the content sellers need from the time the opportunity is qualified until it closes. Marketing's role in the buyer journey can't end when the buyer gets passed off to sales. Marketing will need to build the tools the buyers want to use.
If Gartner is right about what buyers actually want from the selling organization, that changes the role of a sales rep from order taker to consultant. A much more influential and important role.
Where Do You Cross the Buyer Journey?
If your sales team only responds to leads from inbound marketing, then it is very likely that your buyer is pretty far into their journey before a salesperson engages. These buyers are people who are out searching for a solution. They may have been reading information on this topic for weeks or months preparing for this decision. They are pretty far down their decision-making path. It may be a shorter sales cycle and the sales rep may be less influential.
If your company does a great deal of cold outreach, you may catch buyers before they have begun their buying journey. If you introduce a solution to a buyer who doesn't know the solution exists, you might initiate the buyer journey. In this case, the sales process will be longer, and the sales rep has a better chance of exerting influence.
If you have existing clients, that also puts you in the position to work with a buyer early in the buying process. Because you have access where your competitors don't, you can help the buyers identify potential problems and offer solutions before they have a chance to do any research. This is one of the situations where sellers have the most influence if they are trusted partners. In that case, you get to frame the problem and solution and the buyer will likely rely less on digital tools.
How Far Along the Buyer Journey is Your Buyer?
The fact of the matter is that you simply don't know where your customer is in their buyer journey until you ask them. They may be just starting the journey, or close to the end regardless of whether they reach out to you or you reach out to them.
Moreover, the buyer(s) may think they are close to a decision, but introduction of new information from you or a competitor can move them back to an earlier stage of the buying process.
Whenever the seller engages with the buyer(s), it is the seller's job to make sure that the solution the buyer(s) are looking at is the right one for the problem they have. Often, if the seller joins the party very late in the process, the buyer(s) are ready to make a decision or have already made a decision and are ready to buy. A good sales rep will still make sure the solution is a good fit and establish a trusting relationship in preparation for the next opportunity to support their client.
Don't Buy into the Fallacy
Don't let selling myths undermine your team. Build a great marketing team, get powerful content out into the world to attract your ideal customer, and prepare your sales team to engage in a way that helps the customer to make the right decision.
There is no right or wrong, good or bad about when the customer engages with the seller. What is important is that the sellers understand the buyer journey and the process the buyer needs to go through in order to make a purchase. That process almost always involves sellers understanding the problems that need to be solved and how the solution you have helps the buyer(s) solve those problems. Prepare your team to enter the journey where the buyer is and provide the best support possible.
If you need help aligning your sales and marketing team around the buyer journey, we are here to help.