Like it or not, the buyer’s journey doesn’t look like it used to.
These days the journey is long and winding, with an average of 6-10 stakeholders involved. And more and more, the process is becoming digitized — or at least has elements of a digital touch along the way. So you must adapt your strategies and tactics accordingly.
Today I’m going to share all about the B2B buying cycle. We’ll cover the steps in the cycle and different ways to capitalize on and force-multiply your efforts every step of the way.
Just because the buying cycle is night-and-day different today than it was 15-20 years ago doesn’t mean you have to wallow in self-pity, or worse, give up on sales completely (I’ve seen it happen). No! This is your time to study the trendlines, sharpen your skills, and come out on top of your competitors.
B2B Buying Cycle vs. B2B Sales Cycle
We have to make an important point of distinction. Don’t confuse the buying cycle with the sales cycle. They might be two sides of the same coin, but they don’t always match up. The buying cycle is from your prospect’s POV, while the sales cycle is from the salesperson’s POV.
The sales cycle:
Step 1: Prospect
Step 2: Cold call
Step 3: Qualify
Step 4: Educate/Pitch
Step 5: Overcome objections
Step 6: Close deal
The buying cycle:
Step 1: Oblivion
Step 2: Awareness
Step 3: Consideration
Step 4: Decision
Step 5: Post Purchase
Mastering the B2B Buying Cycle
Step 1: Oblivion
This technically isn’t part of the buyer’s journey, but I need to discuss it anyway. You see, 80% of your people are oblivious to their pain. Sure, they know there’s a hole in the boat, but they have consciously or unconsciously decided not to deal with it. So they are not looking for solutions. These aren’t actually buyer’s at all, so they will not convert to a meeting let alone a sale.
The problem is, they are your ideal customer persona (ICP) so your outreach — whether cold emailing or cold calling — will ultimately target them. (It’s just the nature of sales.) But trying to convert those folks trapped in oblivion is like trying to squeeze water from a rock. It’s not going to happen. 80% of people will never buy. And that’s OK.
How to Navigate: This is where most salespeople quit. After all, rejection after rejection is hard to stomach. But we have to remember that every “No” is an important waypoint to the next “Yes.” Trust the process and keep failing forward. The other 20% are out there!
Step 2: Awareness
The other 20% fall into this category. These are all your potential buyers. In this stage, the buyer is aware they have a specific problem that requires a solution. They are aware of their need for help. However, only 10% of buyers are actively aware, while the others are only passively aware. (Passive awareness means they know a problem exists, but they’re too busy to put much thought into it.)
How to Stand Out: In the awareness stage, you must be sure to have sales copy and messaging that speaks to the buyer’s pain points and their needs, not to your product’s features and capabilities. Also consider your digital presence. Your prospects are googling you, visiting your LinkedIn, and your website. Are you positioned as a thought-leader in the industry? If not, put a plan in place to make it happen! You’ll capture far more sales this way.
Step 3: Consideration
Only 2-5% of your prospects fall into this camp. While this number might seem low, remember that there are millions upon millions of decision-makers out there, and as many checkbooks and credit cards. So while you only get a crack at 2-5% of them, that’s still a massive amount of opportunity. Anyhow, these buyers are considering different options, products, and service providers. They are talking with sales teams, attending demos, you name it. They are interested in what you have to say!
How to Stand Out: First and foremost, personalize your messaging to their company and the prospect’s specific role. Make them feel like the demo was tailor-made to their needs. Also bring case studies to the table, showing how you’ve driven value to similar org’s. And finally, where it makes sense, communicate how your offer is infinitely more valuable than the competition’s (the prospect is surely comparison shopping). Know your competitive advantage and use it!
Step 4: Decision
In this stage of the buyer’s journey, they’ve likely considered multiple options and are on the brink of making a decision. But there is still looming doubt in your prospect’s mind, and they likely have a low-level fear of making the wrong decision. There is risk involved, and they need the reassurance that the risk is minimal and mitigated. If you’re a closer, you know the drill.
How to Stand Out: If you’re in a sales meeting with the decision-makers and you move to the closing stage, be sure to ask for the sale so they can make a decision. That is, be sure you have a clear call-to-action. Also, throughout the decision-making stage of the buyer’s journey, remember to have true empathy and understanding. You’ve made big decisions in the past, so put yourself in their shoes. This way, when it comes to overcoming objections, they will trust that you have their best interest in mind.
Step 5: Post-purchase/Retention
During post-purchase, your prospect is constantly evaluating your product or service and considering whether or not to keep it, drop it, or switch to a competitor. Much of the post-purchase pressure isn’t on your shoulders. If your product or service delivers value, then you’re golden. But if it doesn’t, you will experience cancellations and churn.
How to Stand Out: While you can’t control how the product or service performs, you can control how you treat the customer or client. That is, the trust and rapport you’ve built with the person over time. This authentic relationship-building is only good for business. So be sure to keep in close contact with the customer. And if the trust and mutual respect is present, consider upselling and cross-selling other complimentary items or projects.
The buyer’s journey can extend out to 1-3 months (average), but it’s not uncommon to have deals in the works for 3-6 months and even longer. Remember that the name of the game is relationship building and authentic connection. Work on this and becoming an advocate for your buyer every step of the buying cycle and you’ll set yourself up for massive success.
Also keep in mind that patience and persistence is crucial. Remember, your buyer is on a different timeline than your stringent and time-bound “sales cycle.” Whether we like it or not, they will make decisions when it’s right for them and when it works within their organizational protocols and processes. We can do what we can to shorten the process and move the deal along, but in the end the buyer has sovereignty over their decision. As it should be.
So there you have it. The buying cycle is intricate and complex. But follow the pro tips I’ve highlighted above and you’ll be closing more deals than you ever would have imagined.
Until next time…