Shine the Light on Your B2B Blind Spot — Mapping Your Prospect Buying Process

Blog97_MappingBuyers_1-1I often use the statistic from the Corporate Executive Board that B2B prospects are 57 percent through the buying process before they ever contact a potential service provider.

Some of the 1,900 respondents report being as much as 70 percent complete with the decision-making process before reaching out to a vendor. I use this data because it points to extraordinary new sales opportunities for us to engage with prospects and shape opinions. But we don’t.

We fall victim to this “blind spot” due to lack of knowledge. It’s ironic. Prospects are busy doing their pre-purchase research, while we remain blind to their growing sophistication.

The upshot? Two-thirds of the sales process traditionally used by B2B sales people to close new sales opportunities have been taken away by ambitious prospects anxious to know what they need to know when they need to know it. The implications are clear:  sales and marketing must come together and figure out how to influence prospects at each stage on the buyer’s journey.

This isn’t about selling more effectively; it’s about selling differently. To improve sales performance isn’t simply about improving the current offer, it really involves how salespeople need to change the way they sell and win complex sales. It’s one part executive education and ten parts sales effectiveness.

In my travels I find few organizations that have taken action to change their go-to-market strategy. They are still trying to approach prospects the way they did three to five years ago. This is insane. And we all know the definition of insanity: keep on doing the same things yet expect a different outcome.

While I’m here to help, I do need to emphasize the incalculable loss of millions of dollars in potential B2B sales caused by this blind spot—as we referred to in our last blogpost, that wide open 57% Zone.

Is this really a problem?  Jason Robinson, Senior Vice President for Sales and Marketing of MarketBridge, a technology-enabled service firms says, “Sales productivity is suffering, with an estimated 67 percent of sales reps not meeting their quotas.” He goes on to say that over the past several years B2B customers:

  • Have been increasingly difficult to reach, leading to sales productivity metrics dropping off a cliff;

  • Complain that sales reps are woefully underprepared and seemingly not attuned to the fact that today’s customer is privy to endless amounts of information and perspective prior to ever engaging with sales;

  • Stop inviting sales reps back to take the process forward, which means the money and effort invested in reaching those customers have been wasted. [Remember, 53 percent of sales organizations report fewer than half of first meetings every turn into second meetings. CSO Insights]

Reach Sales-Ready Prospects Before They Find You

The above statements are a cautionary commentary on the state of B2B selling today. Digital channels play a growing role in the purchasing decisions of today’s B2B buyer, and we need to continue to invest in digital strategies, including search engine performance, digital advertising, social media, websites, communities, and blogs. The MarketBridge report, “The Ultimate Guide to the New Buyer’s Journey,” emphasizes that it’s not just the creation of digital tactics, but rather how your organization attracts prospects once they do engage digitally.

Fasten your seat belts. There is an even greater reason and urgency to eliminate your blind spot.

A DemandGen report cited startling research on B2B buyers that cites eight out of ten B2B purchases are unplanned and unbudgeted. That’s 80 percent!  What to do? Become a crystal ball gazer? Take heart. You can point a flashlight on these blind spots with any number of strategies and tactics that will render professional selling in the B2B space more effective.  The buyer’s journey does not have to remain hidden.

How Does Mapping the Buying Process Help?

Admittedly, misalignment between the buying and selling processes cut win rates. You see, without a buyer-defined view of the buying process map, next year’s marketing plan is a guessing game. But a detailed map will provide key information to build the right marketing plan and aim it toward the right direction.

To prepare buyer maps (the decision journey) and buyer personas (the person’s interests, behavior and attitudes), you need to dig for deeper understanding of your buyer through buyer research. This may come from careful segmentation, marketing automation, and data analytics. It may come from primary interviews or secondary sources such as LinkedIn.

Think like an archeologist. He painstakingly extracts tiny bits of material that eventually and hopefully leads him to an entire framework of his “find.” Whether a T-Rex or pterodactyl, his process is methodical, tedious and full of promise. But it’s enormous, lifetime work, as it is for you to discover the real face of buying.

Develop meaningful buyer personas; that is, a complete profile of real insight into who’s making purchase decisions and why. Map buying processes with robust views of buying touchpoints, interactions and activities. Respect and account for the new sophistication, independent and self-educating nature of today’s buyers. Your map needs to reflect your buyer’s time in online research, your buyer’s struggle with multiple decision makers, and your buyer’s unplanned or unbudgeted environment.

Jeff Ernest of Forrester Research declares that “B2B marketers have a blind spot,” when it comes to knowing the buyer’s journey. One way to shine light on this annoying blind spot is to commit to producing good and deep buyer research. Money well spent. Or be left behind.

Can I tell you step by step how to do this?  Not quite. It depends on your sales culture. Your resources. Your resolve. Your relationships. You can outsource or do-it-yourself. To do it well requires you to walk in your buyer’s shoes and define the data by your buyer’s terms, not your own.

Try using Marketo’s e-book on buyer personas and journeys as a starting point. It will give you a good feel for how to go about this process. Think about the different touch points that occur when you engage with prospects at each stage of their buy cycle. Be ruthlessly objective. What is triggering their behavior? What is their real experience of your organization? Take the blinders off.

Now think about the new types of data available today that informs your sales process. Imagine all the data points you can glean from your buyer’s visit to your site: number of pages visited, which pages, which downloads, which calls-to-actions ignited movement.

Let me share with you a Forrester Research diagram that will help you to walk the buyer’s journey. At each landmark, think how your organization touches that buyer, if at all.  More important, what are you doing to be there in the moment of need to help shape the outcome?

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I’m confident you recognize that the B2B buying process is not one big decision; it is a series of micro-decisions. And the company that wins the business is the company that is there to answer those questions and provide fresh insights that influence how the buyers think about the problem so that the buyers can confidently advance their journey.

As discussed in earlier blogs, look at the very early stages of your prospects’ problem-solving cycle, when they first realize they have a problem. They aren’t in a buying cycle yet. Instead, they are trying to understand their problem; determine how high a priority it is to fix, compared to everything else going on; who in the organization has to be brought in to change the status quo; how other companies have solved this problem. Above all, they have to decide if it’s worth solving at this time.

How well do you know what questions your prospects are asking at these stages? What insights are they seeking? What state of turmoil are they in? Where do they find information? What motivates them to move to the next step? If you’re not confident that you have the answers, you’ve got a blind spot.

Blog97_MappingBuyers_1-3Blind spots are dangerous. But there’s adventure in bringing them into the light of day. And discoveries to find. So when you think about buyer mapping and buyer persona, why not adopt the personna of an adventure hero. Become the Indiana Jones of sales archeology.

You’re bound to find riches.

See you on the upside,
Bill

For more information on how to simplify the complex sale, go to www.pleinairestrategies.com
Or call Bill in San Diego at 760.340.4277 or 213.598.4700

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