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Reclaiming Our 70% Of The Customer Buying Process

by David Brock on December 4th, 2012

I wrote about 70% Of Buying Process Completed Without Sales Involvement! There were a lot of reactions, but my friend Bob Apollo of Inflection Point made some astute observations, which provoked me to talk about reclaiming our 70% of the customer buying process.

In truth, our organizations are already involved in the 70% that customers are performing without sales.  That is if we are paying attention to the way our prospects and customers find information.  (Fingers crossed)

Hopefully, your organizations have rich marketing and content strategies, if you don’t you are truly disadvantaged.  Through sophisticated content management and nurturing, our companies are–or should be influencing the thinking of the customer as they evaluate alternatives.  So as the prospect or customer is self education, hopefully (fingers crossed), we are engaging them in with meaningful content.

Hopefully, we also are engaging the customer in the “social community,” whether it’s on discussion boards, in various industry and social media sites, we are finding, listening too, engaging, and influencing our prospects and customers.  Again, if you are still questioning the relevance and ROI of social media, then you are missing much of the customer buying cycle.

Having said this, don’t breathe a sigh of relief too quickly.  Too often, these efforts are disconnected with what sales is doing.  Marketing is executing their strategies, perhaps with the goal of creating sales qualified leads, tossing them over to the wall to sales, “tag you’re it!”

If we want to reclaim our 70% of the Customer Buying Process, we need to rethink our customer engagement models from the customers’ points of view.  We need to look at the life cycle of customer experience — how they want to be engaged, where, who, and why.  How do we “provoke” them or give the insight to think about new opportunities and doing things differently?  Once we’ve done this, what’s next?  and so on through their whole buying process.

Doing this will redefine our entire engagement models, the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved.  Bob makes the point that eliminating the silos of sales and marketing is critical to reclaiming our 70% of the customer buying process.  The new engagement model will require close collaboration between sales and marketing.  Our organizations will have to be more nimble in responding to and engaging customers.

We will have to engage them earlier–not when they have determined they have a problem they need to solve.  Where marketing may have initiated the customer engagement, it may now be sales starting the process.  Rather than marketing turning things over to sales for the next steps, it may be sales turning it over to marketing to nurture.

We will have to be more fluid and nimble on our models.  We can’t “herd” customers through a series of formulaic gates, but determine how and who best to engage the customer, based on what they need now.  We need to be equally nimble in the why and what of that engagement process.  It may be marketing, it may be sales, it may be a partner, it can be very diverse.

In past posts, I’ve suggested the analogy of a basketball team as a model of how we increase our relevance and value creation through the entire customer buying process.  Each player has a defined role.  The team has “plays” and “strategies,”  but they are nimble and adaptable, based on what’s most appropriate for the specific moment and situation.

In reality, the picture is a little more complex.  It’s not just sales and marketing, it includes customer service, our product organizations, our corporate executives, our supply chains, and other parts of the organization.  All create “impressions” on prospects and customers.  All are part of the “team.”

We cannot reclaim our 70% unless we are truly customer centric.  We cannot define an engagement model from the inside out, but we have to start from the customer point of view.

We can–and we have the responsibility to our customers and to our organizations to reclaim the 70%.  We do this by understanding our customer buying processes, by creating rich customer experience models in which everyone in our organizations have a defined role and contribution.

We can create and deliver value through the entire customer buying process by being purposeful in what we stand for and how we engage the customers.

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