Sales Managers: Why it’s Important to Understand the Differences Between the Sales and the Buyer's Journey
“As hard as it has become to sell in today’s world, it has become that much more difficult to buy. The single biggest challenge of selling today is not selling, it is actually our customers’ struggle to buy” - Brent Adamson, VP of Advisory at insights firm Gartner.
Research from Gartner suggests that one of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of success today isn’t selling; it’s buying. And this significantly changes how modern sales teams should be approaching the sales process. One of the most prominent questions that is often asked is ‘at what stage should sales get involved?’, and the answer is typically towards the bottom of the funnel. But if it turns out that the problem isn’t rooted in the sales process, but in the buyer journey, it highlights just how important it is to understand the differences between the two, and get involved from the start.
Sales Journey vs. Buyer Journey
The sales journey and the buyer journey are often grouped together and considered to be two different terms for the same process. However, while it’s true that they are certainly two halves of the same coin, the processes are actually distinctly different. The sales journey focuses on meeting the business’ needs, and it’s a process that every sales team will employ. The buyer journey, on the other hand, is focused on meeting the customer’s needs, and while common in marketing, it’s often overlooked by sales.
The typical sales journey will follow a discovery, demonstration, proposal pathway:
- Discovery of an opportunity which results in creating a strategy
- Demonstration to a prospect to gain access to the business
- Proposal of a deal to ‘prove’ that the strategy was valid and valuable
The typical buyer journey follows an awareness, consideration, decision pathway:
- Awareness of a problem growing within the organisation
- Consideration of the potential solutions and possibilities on offer
- Decision made to reach out to a specific vendor or supplier
To truly drive success and deliver impressive results, it’s simply not possible to use one process but not the other… nor would you want to. Both processes bring their own advantages. The sales process is used to effectively manage your pipeline and generate effective key performance indicators that help you track performance. The buyer journey makes it easier to understand the customer, and engage with the right people, at the right time, using the most persuasive and supportive techniques.
By understanding the differences between the sales journey and the buyer journey, it becomes easy to see how utilising both processes simultaneously can drive results. The ability of the buyer journey to act as a visual mapping tool enables sales teams to better align the steps that they typically follow in the sales process to the needs of the customer at every stage of their own buying journey. It’s key for strategy coordination.
Aligning Sales with the Buyer Journey
Leveraging the power of both the sales journey and the buyer journey means that, now more than ever, sales leaders need to be flexible in their approach, and that’s not always easy. Shifting from an established process of guiding customers through the sales funnel to instead supporting them as they transition through the stages of their own buying process can introduce new challenges. However, your efforts can significantly increase the ease of the buyer journey, ultimately resulting in an easier, simpler sale.
The main challenge that is introduced when considering both the sales journey and the buyer journey at the same time is the need to align them both; to mirror your own sales process with the process taken by your buyers. The clear solution to this is to redefine the existing sales process to reflect the awareness, consideration, and decision stages that buyers will typically transition through as they take the steps towards conversion.
If your team has become accustomed to jumping in only towards the end of the buyer journey, now is the time to make a change. Aligning sales with the buyer journey means a need for sales teams to connect in different ways, at different stages, right from the start. This is why there has been such a notable shift in recent years to remote sales.
Introducing Remote Sales
Implementing a remote sales approach ensures that today’s sales teams are able to touch base, connect, and support the buyer through their journey from anywhere, at any time. The time and cost demands of face-to-face sales have typically required sales teams to rush through the process in a single ‘blast’, often resulting in pushing the customer beyond the stage of the buyer journey that they are currently at. The flexibility of remote sales, and its low demand on business resources, allows sales teams to slow down, engage more regularly, and maintain the pace of the customer, every time.