How to let go of the outdated buyer’s journey
The buyer’s journey has changed beyond recognition. Digitally savvy, options-rich customers have access to all the information they need to make a choice, and businesses are seeing that success does not come from closing a single deal anymore. Rather, it’s all about accompanying the buyer throughout the entire journey, from pinpointing the prospect’s problem to gaining references from a happy customer. To carry this out, it’s critical to understand how the buyer’s journey has evolved, and cannot be managed solely by the sales team any longer. In fact, to engage customers in this new reality, collaboration between teams across the journey will be essential. Here is how the buyer’s journey has transformed in the past years, and how businesses can navigate through it.
Largely, this shift is due to the wealth of information the internet has made available. Now buyers’ access to content does not depend solely on the sales team. Rather, they are digitally savvy, well-informed, and can reach content independently. Indeed, there is such an abundance of content to be found in websites, social media, blogs, email campaigns and ads, that buyers find it hard to locate the information relevant to their business problem.
Overloaded with information, buyers will have little clarity and even less time to sift through all the materials they are exposed to. Marketers are creating more content than ever, but they generally have no inkling from the sales team on what works and what doesn’t. Businesses are practically wasting money on creating content which ultimately will not work, without proper understanding of the new journey buyers go through.
When facing ‘content shock’, buyers look for trustworthy references and opinions among their peers. DemandMetric reports that one of the top metrics most associated with moderate to significant revenue impact from Customer Marketing is “customer influenced revenue via referrals or references” (42%). A Harvard Business Review study in 2017 ranked customer references as a more influential decision support than company websites, company content and sales presentations.
So how can businesses harness this need for trustworthy peer-led guidance? The answer lies in the Voice of the Customer - a tool which has proven its value again and again in recent years, yet is not considered a priority within the traditional sales funnel.
The evolution of the customer journey
This landscape goes to prove that the old sales adage of the sales funnel does not exist any longer, or rather has evolved almost beyond recognition. Its well-known and established form has been standard practice for the last century, albeit in a simpler time where the sales team was in full control of the buyer’s journey, and each stage of the funnel was clearly defined. The customer or prospect was guided from stage to stage, each one led separately by Marketing or Sales.
Today, this has changed dramatically. The information overload means that contradictory inputs fight for dominance with no clear timeline, and the buyer can access them at any time, at any stage of the journey. As a result, the old, linear process with a clear beginning, middle and end, is over.
Collaboration is critical
It all goes to show that the sales team cannot progress the buyer through each stage on its own, nor can marketers devise and create unique, differentiated content that authentically addresses the buyer’s specific desired outcomes in a relevant and timely way. In a sense, neither department alone can bring value to the customer as they navigate the new, complex journey. Rather, it’s time to implement an alliance between the two departments, whose lack of coordination and communication has further fractured the buyer’s journey. When these two become aligned, valuable information flows both ways. With input from all teams, businesses can paint a clearer picture of where the customer is, what they are looking to achieve, and what information will be beneficial to them at the point where they are.
As a result, we see the alliance between Sales and Marketing creating the extended revenue team: a tight collaboration between departments involved in the buyer’s journey. In this way, the convoluted journey becomes clearer, as each team reports and shares what is working and what is not, and collectively help to advance their customers to the next stage.
Time to reimagine the buyer’s journey
Experience of the last years shows that the old preconceptions surrounding the buyer’s journey do not apply to an era when information is plentiful and easy to access, economic downturns threaten businesses and economies, and buyers are more demanding and savvy than ever before. Sales, Marketing, and the extended revenue team hold the key to doing more with less, by combining the intelligence each gets from each point of the journey it meets the buyer. In this way, all together will be able to provide a consistent and practical voice for the customer or prospect among the bulk of information they encounter, and help guide them towards the solution that best fits their needs at any given point in time.