What’s the last big purchase you’ve made? Was it a computer, a car, or a house? How long did it take you to ultimately make a decision and purchase? From realising you have a problem with your current solution, to considering alternatives. This process is commonly called the buyer’s journey.
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When it comes to B2B sales and marketing, understanding the buyer's journey is essential to building a high-performing sales process that buyers love. By taking the time to map out what information a potential buyer needs at each stage, you'll craft a customer experience that buyers not only delights but boosts business growth. In this post, we will introduce the concept, and provide helpful insights based on industry reports, as to the experience B2B buyers expect in 2022.
What is the Buyer's Journey?
The buyer's journey is a framework used by sales, marketing, and revenue operations (RevOps) to understand how someone purchases a product or service. It consists of four main stages: awareness, consideration, decision, and delight.
The Stages of the Buyer's Journey
Awareness Stage 📣
In the awareness stage, the prospect becomes aware that they have a problem, and is looking to solve it. During this time, they typically realise they are experiencing some level of pain related to said problem. As an example, if they are having trouble with their accounting, they may consider switching to a different system.
There are two important factors to consider at this stage— the importance and urgency of the problem they are experiencing. If a firm’s accounting system completely stops functioning, they will make a purchasing decision much faster than if certain users are simply annoyed by the lack of specific functionality. This will often define how they proceed through the awareness stage. This is what professionals often refer to as the top-of-funnel.
This stage is where marketing is most involved with the development of a target audience through content initiatives. Your sales team can also assist by becoming involved in communities, social media platforms, and social selling.
Consideration Stage 🤔
In the consideration stage, the buyer will begin solving their problem by searching for solutions. Going back to the accounting example, decision-makers would investigate the differences between accounting solutions available, whether this would be outsourced service providers, or new software. In this stage, the buyer is looking to research alternatives to solve their problem, but has yet to create a shortlist of options that are suitable for them.
During the consideration process, pieces of content can serve as a helpful introduction to your product or service. According to Gartner, buyers spend 45% of their time researching independently either offline or online. This stage can be an excellent one to target, as buyers have purchase intent. By providing useful content, you can establish your brand as a trusted source of information.
The consideration stage can often be problematic for sales teams with limited resources. Many marketing-qualified leads are tied back to individuals simply searching for more information at this stage. As an organisation, it is important to gauge a buyer's intent early in this process, and create nurturing sequences, should they not be at the decision stage. This will depend on the nature of your product and available resources.
According to the DemandGen Report 2021 Lead Nurturing & Acceleration Benchmark Survey, 57% of organisations see a 10% or more increase in lead close rates when leads are nurtured. By taking a creative approach to how you can engage with potential customers, you will improve the performance of your sales process.
Decision Stage ⚖️
In the decision stage, customers are hungry to get the numbers and information they need. They are often in touch with the sales reps of competing companies, or engaging in trials. The more you can address their questions and concerns with content—such as case studies, pricing, and required next steps— the more likely they will be able to move ahead with your solution. No one likes hearing back from a rep weeks after they needed answers. So, keep in mind that responsiveness and helpfulness is what closes deals at this stage.
Beyond this, in the world of B2B, buyers typically must engage with a buying group in their organisation to make a purchasing decision. They will have to justify the decision to move ahead with your solution. Providing them with the material they need to be successful will be a major benefit. Beyond this, we also recommend engaging with other individuals in the buying group directly whenever possible, to present your solution first-hand.
Solutions such as Valuecase, help reduce friction at this critical decision stage by empowering buyers to have all the information they need in one place. This assists in answering any questions that other buying group members may have, creating an overall seamless buying process.
Delight Stage ❤️
In recent years, the attention paid to the customer success portion of the buyer's journey has grown in importance. As many products, especially in the software space, are sold as recurring subscriptions—ensuring that the customer is satisfied is crucial. The costs to retain a customer are often much lower than to acquire a new one. As a growth leader, you'll want this process to be as smooth as possible for the buyer.
Ideally, you'll want to carefully examine the point at which the customer leaves the hands of the sales rep. For some products and organisations, this may happen rather early, especially if the product has low churn rates and low recurring revenue. For more complex products, you may wish to retain a single point of contact for your buyer to assist with the successful rollout of said product or service. We suggest carefully considering each buyer's persona at this stage to understand the support they expect as well.
The Modern B2B Buyer
When it comes to the buying experience, there has been a massive shift in the process both B2B and B2C buyers expect. Instead of waiting for sales reps to help them, they expect the purchase process to be more transparent than ever. 77% of buyers state that their last purchase decision was either very complex or difficult. This leaves a massive opportunity for organisations to gain a competitive advantage by reducing friction and eliminating barriers. Here's what you can expect from the modern-day buyer:
More recently, buyers have also become much more well-informed. Instead of picking up the phone to call suppliers, they spend time researching instead. According to B2B International, 60% of the buyer's journey is complete before getting in touch with suppliers. From blog posts to videos, carefully creating the types of content they are searching for makes a significant difference. These pieces of informative content, suited to each of the journey stages, will ultimately give buyer's the experience they most desire.
Many buyers also carefully consider alternatives through platforms, such as Capterra and G2. Ensuring that you are leveraging these channels to their fullest and managing reviews can impact your closing rates.
Peers and buying communities now have a significant impact on how buyers make decisions. Instead of simply relying on reps to tell them about their product, or researching independently, buyers are turning to their peers and contacts. As an example, 97% of IT buyers rely on peer recommendations when it comes to considering alternatives.
For marketers, this means that listening on social media and communities should be a vital step in forming the sales process.
When it comes to sales reps, we recommend they get involved in these communities themselves to not only represent the brand, but possibly generate new opportunities as a result as well.
Lastly, buyers are also looking to be in control of the process as much as possible these days. In decades prior, it was often the sales contact driving the process by setting meetings and moving things along. Now buyers expect reps to react to their needs and be able to buy when they are ready. In recent years, many B2C brands have made buying as frictionless as possible. Think about Amazon, where you can search for a product and have it ordered within a few clicks. B2B buyers are taking these experiences and shaping new expectations as a result. 80% of buyers now expect an experience similar to that of a B2C customer. By taking the experiences you value as a consumer and translating them into your own marketing and sales process—you'll stand out from the crowd and self-empower your buyer.
The Buyer's Journey - Creating a Process Prospect's Love
In conclusion, understanding the buyer's journey is essential to achieving high growth rates as an organisation. By taking the time to understand not only the current buying process your customers undergo, but also how they would ideally like to purchase, you can craft an experience customers love and become brand ambassadors for.