In case you haven’t noticed, there’s been a sea of change in the way people buy products and services. With the proliferation of marketing materials on the internet, buyers are no longer dependent on salespeople for information to aid in their buying decisions. Marketing teams and Sales teams who recognize this are transforming their sales strategy to an inbound approach where they tailor each interaction to the individual buyer’s context. An essential element of incorporating inbound principles to your sales process is understanding the buyer’s journey.

The buyer’s journey is a three-step process:

1. The Awareness Stage

During the Awareness stage, buyers identify a challenge they face or an opportunity they wish to pursue. It’s during this stage that they prioritize their challenge or goal. For you to fully understand the Awareness stage from the buyer’s perspective, you must answer the following questions:

  • How does the buyer describe their challenges or goals? If they buyer describes a goal in very general terms, you may need to ask questions and drill down into the details to fully understand the goal. This detailed understanding will enable you to deliver a more appropriate solution.
  • How do buyers educate themselves on these challenges or goals? This enables you to respond to the buyer’s questions and concerns in a way they will best understand. For example, buyers who prefer to consume information via textual media will not find video very useful.
  • What are the consequences of inaction by the buyer? Understanding the consequences of inaction helps you better understand their sense of priority.
  • Are there common misconceptions buyers have about addressing the goal or challenge? Knowing these misconceptions enables you to proactively dispel them early in the sales process.

If the buyer decides they do indeed need to overcome a particular challenge or achieve a particular goal, they’re ready to move to the second stage of the journey.

2. The Consideration Stage

At this point, the buyer has clearly defined the challenge or goal and is committed to addressing it. Now they’re ready to evaluate the different options available to solve the problem or pursue the goal. You can help the individual buyer by understanding:

  • What types of solutions do buyers typically investigate? Knowing this puts you on the same page as the typical buyer. It also positions you to help less-informed buyers understand what types of solutions you offer, realizing that your offerings may not be suitable for that particular buyer.
  • How do buyers educate themselves on various solutions? As mentioned earlier, knowing how buyers educate themselves enables you to deliver information in a way they will best understand.
  • How do buyers perceive the pros and cons of available solutions? For buyers, perception is reality – at least at the beginning of the buying process. Just because you know from experience what the real pros and cons are, you must approach them from the buyer’s perspective. Understanding where the individual buyer is coming from enables you to present your experience-based view in a way that educates the buyer without causing offense.
  • How do buyers decide which category is right for them? For some buyers, price is a huge determinant; for others it’s quality; or it may be trustworthiness of the brand. By paying close attention to the buyer’s conversations throughout the process, you can get a good feel for what the primary determinant is, and alter your approach accordingly.

Once the buyer decides on a solution to their problem or a means to reaching their goal, they move into the Decision stage.

3. The Decision Stage

By now the buyer should be able to make a list of the real pros and cons of the various solutions you offer, and decide which one best meets their needs. Questions you should ask yourself regarding the Decision stage are:

  • What criteria do buyers use to evaluate the available offerings? Knowing how buyers evaluate various offerings puts you on the same page as them and helps you steer them to the best solution in the context of their preferences.
  • When buyers investigate your offering, what do they like about it compared to alternatives? What concerns do they have with your offering? Having a feel for this enables you to play to the strengths of your offering and allay any unfounded concerns they might have.

Of course, you must face the fact that your solution may not be the best solution for a particular buyer. If that’s the case. If your company has a good inbound marketing strategy in place, there will be plenty more good prospects for you to work with. Whatever the case, by transforming your sales strategy to an inbound approach, you’ll be better-positioned to close more prospects.

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