Consumers aren’t always willing to make a purchase on a whim. It can take days, weeks, or even months of careful thought before they commit to buying. And if you wait to interact with them until the end of their decision-making process, you’re missing out on profitable sales opportunities.
That’s where the buyer’s journey comes in.
What is the buyer’s journey?
The buyer’s journey (sometimes called a purchase journey) describes the process a customer goes through to purchase a product or service. If you mapped out all the decisions, actions, and interactions that take place from the moment a prospect identifies their problem to the moment they buy a solution, that map would represent the buyer’s journey.
Essentially, it’s what a sales funnel looks like from a prospect’s perspective. Mapping out the journey provides an in-depth view of how your potential customers behave at every step in the buying process. It also describes how each step leads to the next, so you can ensure your buyer’s journey doesn’t have gaps that cause leads to drop out of your funnel.
Why is the buyer’s journey important?
Companies use this concept to learn what challenges their target audience faces in the buying process. Armed with that knowledge, they can adjust their sales strategy to minimize those pain points and meet their prospects’ needs.
No matter what kind of business you’re running or what industry you’re in, it’s important to have a framework that helps you understand who your customers are and how they behave before purchasing.
The buyer’s journey enables you to examine the choices your prospects make at each stage.
The buyer’s journey enables you to examine the choices your prospects make at each stage. Then, you can identify the parts of your process where potential customers either moved on to the next stage or dropped out. This allows your sales reps to be more intentional about what actions they’re taking and when. They can deliver the right information at the precise moment when it’ll have the greatest impact.
How do you track the buyer’s journey stages?
You can use sales funnel software and sales pipeline software to monitor the buyer’s journey and create different types of content for every stage. These tools organize the selling process and automatically capture all customer names and activities, saving sales reps valuable time.
What are the three stages of the buyer’s journey?
When businesses evaluate a prospect’s decision-making process, they break it down into three stages:
Each stage presents unique challenges for customers that can shake their resolution to buy. It’s your job to eliminate as many of those roadblocks as possible. You must also observe how prospects respond to every step of your sales cycle so you can continue identifying and knocking down obstacles.
The awareness stage
The first buyer’s journey stage is all about the potential customer’s pain points. In the awareness stage, the prospective buyer knows they have a problem that needs a solution. For instance, a jogger whose headphones keep falling out of their ears while they’re exercising.
At this point, the solution isn’t immediately clear. The jogger could go with any number of solutions to their problem. They could find a cheap DIY fix that keeps the headphones in perfectly. Or, they might call the manufacturer and get their headphones replaced. They might even consider not listening to music while they run.
The bottom line: During the awareness stage, every solution is on the table. The consumer knows they have a problem, but they don’t know about your company or your products or services. While they may take a few steps toward finding a solution—such as performing a Google search or soliciting advice on social media—they don’t know what that solution is yet.
The consideration stage
As people research solutions to their pain points, they begin to see their options. This is when they enter the consideration stage. If our jogger posted on social media to ask for help with the headphones that keep falling out, they might get tips for quick fixes, suggestions for better headphone brands, or links to useful third-party accessories.
In the consideration stage, buyers actively identify and consider potential solutions. Say our jogger likes their headphones and decides they don’t want to buy new ones. As they search for other possible solutions, they begin to consider the pros and cons of each one. And that ultimately leads them to…
The decision stage
In the decision stage, buyers choose the product or service that will solve their pain point at the right price. Our hypothetical jogger, for instance, became aware of their problem and considered various solutions—now they’ve decided to buy a third-party accessory for their headphones. They’ve made a decision, but they haven’t made a purchase yet.
This is usually the stage where sales reps have the most interactions with potential customers. Even if a prospect has decided to buy something, it doesn’t mean they will. They probably still need to consider a few factors, such as paperwork, warranties, customer support options, implementation and maintenance costs, etc.
Buyer’s journey vs. customer journey
The buyer’s journey is a unique path that consumers take to purchase a product or service.
The customer journey, however, also encompasses what happens after the purchase.
Businesses use customer journeys to understand and improve the customer experience at every touchpoint—from discovery to purchase to support—so they can boost client retention and earn long-term loyalty.
It’s important to track both journeys and to ensure they complement one another. If they don’t, anyone who buys from you may feel a disconnect between how you treat prospective customers and how you treat existing ones.
How much of the buyer’s journey is digital?
About 57 percent of the B2B buyer journey is already completed by the time the lead speaks to a sales rep. Why? Because potential customers usually turn to the Internet to learn more about a product or service before interacting with a sales rep. They’ll sift through blogs, review sites, social media posts, and forums to explore solutions and get feedback from people with similar circumstances to their own.
Considering such a large chunk of the journey is digital, it’s critical for your marketing team to produce online content that allows you to control and amplify your brand narrative.
How to apply the buyer’s journey to the sales cycle
Now that we’ve covered the important details of the buyer’s journey, let’s take a look at how you can incorporate it into your sales operations.
Evaluate your buyer personas
Buyer personas are in-depth descriptions of your target customers. They typically include information like:
- Likes and dislikes
- Education level
Keep in mind, your customer base isn’t a monolith. You will have multiple buyer personas, and each one will have different details. When you add content to your sales funnel, build a unique funnel for every persona so you don’t find yourself pitching to the wrong audience.
Define your buyer’s journey
Once you understand who your ideal customer is, you need to create a journey that correlates with your sales funnel and/or pipeline. Note that every company will have their own definition of when a lead moves from awareness to consideration and from consideration to decision.
- Awareness: During the awareness stage, buyers are at the top of your sales funnel. You can make yourself visible by publishing blogs, landing pages, ebooks, guides, and social media posts. Given that the potential customer is focusing on their pain points, your content should be, too.
- Consideration: This is the center of the sales funnel, where you should use your unique selling proposition (USP) to show how your solution stands out from the rest. Create engaging and educational content like case studies, blogs, demos, and white papers to further emphasize your USP.
- Decision: Prospects are at the bottom of the sales funnel and ready to buy a product or service. The content you offer during this stage should be crafted to meet any sales objections that typically arise at this point, whether they’re related to pricing, contract length, supply concerns, and so on.
Align your content with your sales strategies
Once you’ve determined what type of content your buyers need at each stage, you must make sure your sales reps are ready to run with every opportunity.
Sales reps usually don’t speak to potential customers until the decision stage. At that point, the consumer may have read every piece of content—or none at all. Your reps must be able to handle prospects with varying degrees of education about the product or service without sounding redundant or confusing.
Now, let’s explore an example of what this process might look like.
A buyer’s journey example
Let’s say a company sells online file storage and organization software. Their ideal buyer is a frustrated CPA who spends too much time searching for their important documents and client information.
When the CPA enters the awareness stage, they do some research on Google. The file storage company has SEO-optimized content that targets the CPA’s pain point, and it pops up near the top of the search results page. The CPA clicks on the blog post.
As the CPA reads more content about the problems they’re experiencing, they start to see the need for organizational solutions. That’s when they enter the consideration stage and begin looking through different options. At this point, the file storage company should focus on their unique selling proposition to make their product stand out. The content on their website—the “About Us” page, online catalogs, FAQs, and case studies—will all be helpful in illustrating their value.
After learning more about what the file storage company does, the CPA decides to enroll in a free demo. During this process, the CPA and sales rep have multiple phone meetings and email exchanges to discuss pricing, contracts, scalability, and other issues that may influence the CPA’s decision to make a purchase.
Perfecting your buyer’s journey
Every piece of content should be suited to the consumer’s needs and optimized to make the information easy to process. Plus, there should always be a clear and compelling call to action, which moves the prospect to the next steps in the buying process.
Bear in mind that it may take you a few tries to find out what content works best and where it should appear during the buyer’s journey. A simple CRM platform can help you make those determinations.
Keep tabs on your buyer’s journey with a CRM
Understanding the buying process is crucial if you want to close more deals. Zendesk Sell is a powerful CRM that prioritizes simplicity, making it easy for you to organize your funnel and pipeline, build strong relationships with your prospects, and streamline your sales process. Our software even offers features like email automation and templates so you can fine-tune your inbound marketing strategy.
Give Zendesk Sell a spin for 14 days by signing up for a free trial, and start crafting a simpler, more insightful buyer’s journey.