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Our Customers Don’t Know How To Buy, Are We Helping Them Learn?

by David Brock on January 30th, 2022

While it’s some years old, we all know the “spaghetti chart,” from Gartner. As a refresher, I’ve shown it below.

It’s easy to understand how customers struggle with complex B2B buying. It’s easy to understand how many buying initiatives fail.

The reality is customers don’t know how to buy, and have all sorts of things that divert them from their buying efforts (for example, their day jobs). After all, they aren’t buying every day. In addressing a specific issue or opportunity, they may have never faced it before, or it may have been years since they last looked for solutions in the area.

And this creates a huge opportunity for salespeople. After all, this is all we do, we work with dozens and hundreds of customers doing the same thing. We see where they struggle, where they make mistakes, things they do to succeed. We know who they typically need to involve the issues they need to consider, questions they should be asking themselves as well as us. We know what information might be most useful and what may not.

In short, we know how to help them make sense of what they are doing, how to help the simplify their buying journey, and how to increase their likelihood of success.

To be certain, everyone’s journey is different, everyone’s circumstances will be different. So we can’t be completely prescriptive. It will never be linear, step 1, step 2, do not pass Go or collect $200. It will still wander, but much less so. We can help them minimize the starts and stops, the huge shifts in directions. We can help them maximize their success as they execute their buying process.

It might start looking like this:

But what does this have to do with our Selling Process?

Our selling process can help us guide the customer through their buying process, but too often we construct our process in ways that aren’t so helpful. Some things:

  1. Our process focuses on us and the things we do in our process, it doesn’t identify the things the customer needs to be doing.
  2. Our process focuses on what we are selling. The customer’s buying journey isn’t just about the product selection, but it’s about a business challenge, gaining alignment in the organization, risk, and change management. The issues they are looking at are much broader than what our sales processes usually address.
  3. We tend to drive a linear, relatively rigid approach. Step 1 do this, Step 2 do that…… As much as we want to do that, because that makes it perfectly predictable and optimizes our efficiency, it ignores the customer side of it. Their buying journey will always be squishy. We help them by helping them simplify and “straighten it out,” but it will never be linear, Step 1 do this…. We have to be more agile in adapting to the issues that are most critical to them.
  4. It will always be their process, not ours. We have to work within their process, but creating value by helping them learn how to more effectively achieve their goals through what we have learned from others.
  5. Sometimes, we achieve more by having them talk to others about their buying journeys. We all know about references, “We love your product, we love your company.” But it may be more helpful to have customers talk to each other less about what they bought but how they managed their own process to achieve their goals.

We call it “Complex B2B Buying/Selling” for a reason, it’s complex!

We create the greatest value when we help the customer simplify what they are doing and achieve success in solving their problems.

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