As a sales professional, you’re no doubt familiar with the sales cycle. Your sales manager has probably used the term many times when talking about the sales process. It goes like this: You start with a discovery call, which leads to a demonstration, followed by drafting a proposal, negotiating the deal, and finally closing the deal.
This may be the internal process your organization takes, but it means that you’re fitting the buyer into your sales cycle. The reality? A buyer goes through a very different process. In fact, the buyer controls the buying process more than sellers control the selling process. This means that you need to get inside your buyer’s journey.
The 5 Steps of a Buyer’s Journey
1. Status Quo. During this step, buyers are happy with the way things are, and are not yet willing to make a purchase decision. The status quo never lasts, however, and buyers will inevitably move into Step 2.
2. Priority Shift. It’s inevitable that the status quo won’t last. Something will usually happen to change your buyer’s priorities. Maybe their competitor has a new product, or there’s a shift in personnel or capital. Whatever the circumstances, when a shift occurs, a buyer realizes that the status quo no longer works. That’s when they experience a priority shift, which moves them into Step 3.
3. Conceptual Solutions. At this stage, your buyer is looking for solutions, and arming him or herself with information to make an informed decision. They’re searching online for articles, blog posts, and other content and digesting information. This step is ideal for marketing automation software because you’re tracking buyers who are downloading and digesting your content. Armed with the knowledge that your content provides, the buyer then moves into Step 4.
4. Vendor Review. During the vendor review, buyers will be researching specific vendors in search of companies who can provide solutions to their problem.
5. Purchase Decision. The buyer is ready to purchase, and will hopefully choose your company to provide solutions.
If you wait for the vendor review stage, you’re missing a huge opportunity. According to Lori Wizdo, Principal Analyst at Forrester, “buyers might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their journey before they reach out to the vendor." Your buyer has done a large amount of research long before they even contact you. So realizing that you can affect the buyer’s journey long before the vendor review will help you create the social selling machine your business needs to succeed.