:: By Scott Cramer, TinderBox ::
Business-to-business companies must understand how today’s customers navigate the buyer journey. New data indicates a large percentage of the process is completed before the buyer ever interacts with sales – and that means reaching customers at the right moment in the journey is critical. But determining how customers move through the sales funnel is difficult.
Businesses must look at their own buyer journey to gain a full perspective. By assembling a high-level view of the early, middle, late, and post-sales stages of the sales process, SaaS companies can better attract, engage, and maintain the best interactions with their customers.
The following key findings, based on internal research offer a real-life glimpse into how companies can successfully navigate the buyer’s journey.
Peer Relationships and Analysts Key in the Early Stage
Successful SaaS companies know the buyer journey begins well before prospects have a clear understanding of the problems they need to solve. The early stage of the journey begins with simple recognition of a problem in the sales process, along with a resolution to solve it.
According to research provided by Forrester, most buyers rely on two sources to influence their decisions early in the process:
-Twenty-three percent of buyers seek the guidance of analysts
-Twenty-one percent rely on peer experience and reviews for technology recommendations
Buyers want to know a product’s capabilities before they’re led further into the buyer journey. This means B2B organizations must stay current or ahead of the latest technology trends. Forrester research reveals buyers rely most on performance specs, the latest trends, and a solution’s ability to integrate with other systems to guide early stage decision-making.
Reliability and Trusted Sources Vital at Mid-Stage
The mid, or evaluation, stage is when buyers begin to thoroughly evaluate each solution on their list – a process that can take several forms, including:
-Gauging brand awareness
-Completing online research
-Conducting face-to-face demos
-Holding on-site meetings
During this stage, Forrester research reveals that buyer influence is nearly equal between tech analysts and tech information websites. Content needs at this point are also evenly split among technical comparisons of other products, tech trends, and information and pricing.
At the mid-stage, buyers are often looking for differentiators to narrow their options. Pricing is a key factor and the reason a choice may be eliminated from the buyer’s list. But vendors can also accept pricing concerns as an opportunity to personalize costs and packaging to overcome hesitancy.
Late-Stage Success Hinges on Peer Recommendations
Online searches and peer recommendations influence a considerable portion of the buyer’s decision-making process. In the late stage, buyer choices are typically driven by personal and personalized recommendations. Buyers place greater value on meaningful interactions with salespeople – either face-to-face (29 percent) or by phone (20 percent) – compared to still relying on peers to influence purchasing decisions (18 percent).
Because peer influence is ever-present throughout the buyer journey, vendors need to consistently craft content that speaks directly to peers and decision-makers.
A buyer, for example, may care about how a company can solve their problems. A presentation of the best solutions to these problems must be translated into sales and marketing materials that explain not just what your company does, but how you can help the customer. Creating dynamic, late-stage content requires sales and marketing to work together to provide salespeople with the material they need to gain buy-in from all decision-makers within an organization.
Personalization Defines the Post-Sale Stage
Personalization, customer experience, and commitment to education are most critical at the post-sale stage. Forrester research determined that 38 percent of buyers find in-person sales interaction most vital, followed by value and clarity of websites at 32 percent.
In the post-sale stage, vendors must also provide resources to educate new customers on product use, integration, and adoption. Buyers stressed information on integration of solutions with existing systems (26 percent), technical guides for deployment (25 percent), and customer support options (22 percent) as most vital.
The most successful companies have accepted and embraced that the B2B sales process has been completely transformed by buyers. By implementing an artful blend of sales savvy and customer sensitivity, these companies are successfully navigating the new buyer’s journey landscape. By adhering to the tips described above, you can better direct your company’s efforts toward mastering the buyer’s journey and closing business in a more thoughtful and strategic way.
Scott Cramer is the director of inside sales at TinderBox, a cloud-based sales productivity platform that powers personalized sales quotes, proposals, contracts and presentations.