Navigating the Dynamics of the Customer’s Journey

Buyers decide how to approach a problem or a challenge. Buyers decide when and how to engage with salespeople, depending on the complexity and the specific risks of their different buying situations. And they also determine what value means in their business context (and for them personally) and how they want to use or implement your products, services, or solutions to achieve better business results.

Buyers make buying decisions

Think about it for a moment. The key number in sales (revenue) depends on a decision we don’t make in sales. Whatever we do or don’t do, whatever we automate internally or not, buyers make buying decisions. However, all our efforts in sales enablement are focused on empowering salespeople to influence this buying decision. That requires navigating the dynamics throughout the customer’s journey, and it requires creating value at each stage of the customer’s journey for the relevant members of the buying team.

Selling means creating value for the buying team at each stage of the customer’ journey

Although buyers have access to a tremendous amount of information – more than ever before – it does not necessarily mean that they are always better informed when it comes to making the best buying decision. That’s because information, in the absence of context, is insufficient. What does a certain offering mean in terms of the buying team’s business context? Do the expected business outcomes differ depending on the solution chosen?

And understanding the buying team’s context is the prerequisite for creating value for them at each stage of their customer’s journey. Yes, sales professionals do create value for buying teams, especially in complex situations. Because they enable buyers to connect the dots between their specific context and various approaches to leveraging products, services, and solutions to achieve the best business results. The value they create is to enable buying teams to make their best buying decision.

Creating value for buying teams requires navigating the dynamics across buying teams along the entire customer’s journey. Today, let’s focus on the awareness phase of the customer’s journey.

Navigating change dynamics to develop a shared visions of success (and to avoid stalled opportunities)

In the early phases of the customer’s journey, when buyers are about to decide whether to tackle the given business problems or not, it’s the sales professional’s challenge to get access to the right stakeholders as soon as possible. In this phase, it’s about analyzing their context and understanding their strategic initiatives and their desired business outcomes. And it’s key to understand the different buyers’ ideas about how to approach the challenge. Only then can sales professionals provide ideas and insights on how to solve the problem. They can also build credibility by providing data, case studies and success stories that cover the entire business impact, different approaches and potential results to be achieved.

Why are they called change dynamics? Because at this stage, the goal simply is to get the buying team to a commitment that says “yes we want to change our (bad) current state so that we can achieve better results in the future.” Until the buying team makes this decision (an individual’s opinion is not enough!), there is no real opportunity. This phase is about developing a lead to an opportunity.

Enablement’s role is to equip salespeople to successfully navigate change dynamics

Researching the specific buying situation, and analyzing the stakeholder and buyer network is, of course, a sales professional’s responsibility. And it’s the sales manager’s job to coach accordingly. Sales force enablement should provide the right customer-facing content types (success stories, references, presentations, white papers, etc.), and relevant internal enablement content, such as playbooks, value messaging guidelines, needs analysis templates, email templates, etc.

Value messages in this phase should be focused on how to solve the given business challenge to achieve the desired outcomes (or more). Supportive content types are, for instance, references, success stories, case studies that equip salespeople to successfully navigate these change dynamics here.

The CSO Insights 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study shows that sales enablement teams have room for improvement (quality and quantity) to provide the right content types AND to develop salespeople to use those assets effectively. Currently, email templates (76.5%) and white papers (65.3%) are the most used assets in this phase, followed by product collateral (42.0%), needs analysis templates (42.0%), case studies (38.4%), and references (21.4%).

Given the needs to be mastered in this early phase along the customer’s journey, the goal should be to provide more valuable case studies, success stories and references (by industry, region, or other relevant criteria), and to equip salespeople to use these assets effectively.

To sum it up, enablement teams should be aware of the fact that product collateral is often used way too early along the customer’s journey. The data (42.0%) supports this observation. If that’s the case, it means that the buyer doesn’t know yet whether the problem should be tackled in the first place, and the salesperson suggests a product to build on a decision that has not been made yet. It’s obvious that the result will, most likely, be a stalled opportunity.

Questions for you:

  • How do you tailor content along the customer’s journey?
  • Which content types are used in which phase along the customer’s journey?
  • How do you address the “stalled opportunity” challenge?


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