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Impassioned Sales Solutions, LLC | Houston, TX

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Not all buyers have the same priorities … but sometimes we make the mistake of imagining they do. The buyer’s journey has certain discrete stages. It’s our responsibility as sales professionals to understand these stages, identify the priorities that connect to each stage, and then adapt to those priorities. 

An important early stage of this journey is called Engagement. This is where buyers start talking about what they think they need. They may engage with others in the organization, or they may engage with external people, such as their current suppliers or prospective new suppliers. During this stage, buyers discuss what they believe the need is. Typically, they share different perspectives on this question – they’re brainstorming.  

There’s a lot of conversation: “Wow. Our employee turnover is really high.” This stage is all about communication. Buyers may choose to engage internally at first, and then move on to engage with external parties. They may or may not be open to getting outside help in guiding the brainstorming process.  

The next stage of the modern buyer’s journey is Consideration. In this stage, the brainstorming has percolated into a desire for information and insights that support some specific course of action. Three questions come to the forefront of the buyer’s mind during this stage: What is the real problem here? What are our options for solving it? And, who could we reach out to for a possible solution?  

Of course, a buyer’s initial assessment of the nature or cause of the problem may not be accurate. For example, a buyer may assume that the problem of high employee turnover is directly related to salaries being too low, when in fact, the major factor is a toxic workplace culture. In this stage, the patient is often conducting the diagnosis without the aid of a physician—unless you consider Google a physician! Lots of Web searches take place here in the second stage. Also, lots of requests for quotes, typically via email. 
We may be able to help them get deeper clarity about the true nature of the problem they face. Notice, however, that no coalition for solving any problem exists yet in the buyer’s world. 

The next stage of the modern buyer’s journey is Decision. Now that the buyer knows, or believes they know, what the problem is and has assembled a list of options for solving that problem, a different set of questions emerges. For instance: How much is it going to cost us – in terms of money and other resources – to solve this problem? Do we even want to solve this problem? (They may not.) Is this the most pressing priority we face? (It may not be.) If we do decide to solve this problem, who would oversee implementation of the solution? Can we, should we, solve it on our own? Or are we better off solving it in collaboration with someone on the outside? If so, who is the best partner? And so on. In this stage, the buying team has to arrive at consensus on a number of important choices. As sales professionals, we will want to look for ways to better understand who the various stakeholders in that discussion are and what is likeliest to make consensus among them possible. 

The end game of this stage, from our point of view, is a buying decision to work with us. But that decision is inevitably going to be the result of many other decisions buyers make along the way. It is always going to be in our interest to get the clearest possible picture of what issues have driven, and are currently driving, those critical preliminary decisions. 

Ultimately, some kind of capital (financial, political, or logistical) is invested at this point. Even when the decision is not to make any financial investments, someone always makes a less obvious investment, namely their political capital within the organization. How? By sponsoring a particular course of action. In some cases, that course of action will be doing nothing. In some cases, it will be expanding someone’s responsibility internally. In some cases, it will be working with someone on the outside. 

What defines this stage is that one or more internal or external people make the case for following a certain path… and then the buying organization walks that path. For instance, the VP of Human Resources, after looking at the options, may aim to “solve” the turnover problem by proposing that Pat should be Monthly Office Party Coordinator, hoping Pat can create a more employee-friendly workplace. But, with a tiny budget to work with and no adjustment in her compensation or responsibilities, \]three stages we’ve been looking at might repeat themselves. The VP of Human Resources might suggest another course of action, and the organization might begin walking down a different path. 

The next stage of the modern buyer’s journey is Advocacy. Here, based on the experience they’ve had with an external person and/ or institution they’ve bought from, the buyer becomes a raving fan and advocates on behalf of the selling party. The buyer might tell people in their immediate circle about the good experience they had, they might tell people on their team or in their organization, they might tell everyone online, or they might do all of those things. Of course, as sales professionals, we want to be sure we deliver on all our promises and generate advocacy. 

That’s what the buyer’s journey looks like. Think about any meaningful purchases you’ve made recently, and the likelihood is that once you look back, you’ll realize that you went through these stages yourself! (By the way: The stage where the prospective buyer first becomes aware of who we are and what we do, Awareness, is not included in the breakdown above … because in many cases that’s likely to be more of a marketing step than something a salesperson can take part in.) 

When it comes to the buyer’s journey, the big questions we face as sales professionals are:  

  • What are we doing to make it easy for buyers and influencers in each of these categories to work with our organization?  
  • How do we determine which stage of the journey a contact is most likely to be in?  
  • How do we customize our interactions with a specific person once we find that out?
  • What targeted insights and resources do we offer people in each of the four groups?



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