The Buyer Journey in B2B Sales – Sales Processes for the Digital Age
What is the buyer journey and why is it important specifically for B2B?
In the digital age, the sales process has changed drastically. The traditional sales method, in which a salesperson actively approaches a potential customer, is now obsolete. Instead, companies are focusing more and more on the entire decision-making process of the buyer – the so-called “Buyer Journey”. This blog article focuses in particular on the buyer journey in B2B sales. Even though the buyer journey in the B2C sector is very similar, the B2B buyer journey is usually much more complex, as the decision-making process is much more complex than in B2C.
The Buyer Journey – What is it?
The buyer journey (or customer journey) describes the path that a buyer takes before making a purchase decision. This journey consists of various phases through which the buyer passes in order to ultimately reach a purchase decision.
Importance of the buyer journey in B2B sales
For years, customers have been tending more and more to inform themselves and not to obtain information exclusively from conversations with salespeople. Especially in B2B sales, where decisions are complex and different stakeholders with different needs have to be considered, the Buyer Journey gives companies a way to better understand their own processes and get a holistic view of the sales process.
Depending on the phase of the customer in the Buyer Journey, different content with a different depth is also required. Here, too, the Buyer Journey helps to understand when which content is needed.
Impact on the sales strategy
To be successful in enterprise sales, sales teams need to understand and target each stage of the Buyer Journey. By focusing on the needs of your prospects as well as the stakeholders involved in the decision-making process, you add value and convince them with industry expertise to differentiate your business. To achieve the best possible sales results, sales customization decisions should be aligned based on the Buyers Journey.
Personalization and individualization
The Buyer Journey in Enterprise Sales requires a customized approach for different departments and stakeholders. It is important to consider different perspectives and individual goals of the decision makers in the company. By analyzing the Buyer Journey in detail, sales teams can identify and address these individual needs. Ideally, the Buyer Journey is created separately for each Buyer Persona.
Framework for Buyer Journeys
There are different ways (and also levels of detail) in which a Buyer Journey can be mapped. Especially if you are still at the beginning, the following framework is suitable:
|No Awareness||Awareness without urgency||Awareness with urgency||Internalize||Visualize||Decide||Evangelize|
|Channel of Interaction|
Explanation of the framework – X axis:
1. No Awareness
The target person may not even be aware that he or she has the problem that the product is supposed to solve and may not even know the company/product. Here, for example, especially educational content and no content with direct purchase C2A is needed.
2. Awareness without Urgency
In this phase, the target person is aware that there is a problem. She may have seen one or more videos or read blog posts on the topic, but does not yet see the acute added value of her own solution.
3. Awareness with Urgency
In this phase, the buyer recognizes that he has a problem and also sees the potential that could be solved by the seller’s product. The buyer begins to consciously and specifically deal with his own issue.
At this stage, the buyer starts to talk internally with colleagues specifically about the issue.
In this phase, it is important to show how the target image can be demonstrated with one’s own solution and how one’s own solution specifically solves the customer’s pain points. On the one hand, this should be individualized, and on the other hand, it should be supported with references, case studies, and the like.
In this phase, the customer decides to buy your product and goes from being a lead to a customer.
From customer, the customer becomes an evangelist or fan and talks positively about you among colleagues and publicly. As in any stage, not every target person will reach the next stage, but evangelists are multipliers for the purchased product.
Explanation of the framework: Y-axis
While the holistic Buyer Journey is a story with a beginning, middle, and end, each step along the way contains a story in itself. This sentence-length story should summarize what the persona is experiencing at that particular stage of the journey
What does the customer do at each stage? What is he trying to understand and overcome? Is he passive or active? Is he already talking to other people about the problem?
Knowing what a customer is thinking at each step of the journey will help you understand and answer the specific questions and needs they have at that point. The “thinking” question or statement should accurately describe what the customer is looking for – and your product or content should be able to provide a solution.
This item is similar to the bullet points for Feeling created for the “Doing” element, but presented in a simpler format. “Feeling” should be a single word or phrase that describes the customer’s emotional state and how they feel about the situation – anxious, cautious, excited, overwhelmed, etc. This information is important to define the tone for the content you are creating.
The term “action” is somewhat more nuanced than “doing.” Doing is about the practical steps a person takes in the context of their own life to arrive at a decision (research, exploration, content consumption, etc.). Doing is about the relationship between your customer and the larger market. It’s about recognizing that they need to engage with actors in the market (e.g., you!) to solve their problem. For example, “If I’m concerned about these things, I should consider this product.” The Action element provides the appropriate context and market perspective to help the buyer understand what action they need to take and how to take it.
6. Channel of Interaction
Depending on the phase, different content is needed to pick up the customer in the respective phase. This can be, for example, social media, the website, classic advertising, trade fairs, on-site visits & Co.
This line should define in particular what is to be shown with the content and what the purpose of the content is. This can be, for example, awareness, creating a business case, showing expertise & Co.