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Shepherding Our Customers Through The Buying Journey

by David Brock on June 10th, 2016

Over the past several months, Hank Barnes and I have had periodic discussions about the Customer Journey and mapping  the journey.

While many large consulting companies and other experts talk “expertly” about mapping the customer journey, creating content, experiences, and engagement.  When you study their work, it’s usually focused on buying done by individuals.

Whether it’s a consumer deciding what they want to a purchase for themselves, or a business person buying tools for themselves or their small work group, mapping customer journeys is usually about the journey of individuals satisfying their own needs.

It’s when you get to the complex B2B buying journey that much of journey mapping starts falling apart.  The data on No Decision Made (NDM) for complex B2B buying shows that, whether it is CSO Insights data showing over 40% of forecast deals end in NDM or CEB data showing close to 60% of pipeline deals end in NDM.

Customers struggle getting to a decision and buying.  More importantly, it means customers struggle in solving complex problems and achieving their goals.

Classically, sales people try to help customers with their buying journey by focusing on each individual.  The thought being, “if we get each person, or a sufficient number of people, predisposed to our solution then we will get the decision at the end of the journey.”

The problem is we are still focusing on the individuals and not the group.  To get a decision in complex B2B sales situations, we need to get the entire group (the 5.4 or whatever you believe) to the same destination at the same time.

We don’t achieve this by working with each individual!

Complex B2B buying is really an effort of sheparding, guiding the group to reaching the same destination at the same time.  It’s not something we can do alone, but with the help of key individuals in the customer.

The journey for the customer, isn’t an easy one, it isn’t precise.  There are ebbs and flows.  Some customers will lag or want to split off from the group.  Some will want to take the group in a different direction.

While the destination may always be the same, the journey for each organization is different.  Even if they have bought in the past, the journey won’t be the same.

Guiding the customer on this journey requires great nimbleness and adaptability, both on the part of the customers leading the effort and on the part of sales people helping the customers navigate the process.

Perhaps, rather than trying to map the customer journey, we are better served by focusing on a few things:  How do we get the customer moving in the first place, how do we guide them to the goal and help them solve their problems, how do we keep them moving when they start slowing down, how do we keep the group together, in the process, how do we get those that split off back into the group

 

(A colleague just reached out, I’m not trying to make any statement about customers being sheep–so don’t go there.  But I do think there is something we can learn from border collies 😉Book CoverFor a free peek at Sales Manager Survival Guide, click the picture or link.  You’ll get the Table of Contents, Foreword, and 2 free Chapters.  Free Sample

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5 Comments
  1. Excellent post Dave! It accentuates a couple important points for me: 1) B2B and B2C may share some common characteristics but there are key differences as well (a point seemingly missed by many with their “one-size-fits-all” proselytizing and 2) effective B2B selling requires application of a broad base of skills and engagement that is missed by the “sit and wait for qualified leads” crowd.

  2. I think the word you want is “shepherding.”

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