7 Stages of the Buyers Purchasing Journey

By Janice B Gordon | Buyer Enablement

Feb 05
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“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 our customers’ struggle to buy.” Brent Adamson Distinguished VP, Advisory, Gartner

Customers and Buyers Struggle to Buy!

We do not live in a world where traditional sales techniques work their magic efficiently. Buyers are more informed, conducting up to 70% of their research before needing to speak to a representative. A buyer is so disillusioned by sellers selling features and benefits of products rather than offering real value and insight.

You see that more information is not knowledge; it is just more data; much of the data buyers research is not comparable or easily intelligible. I cannot imagine that many buyers love trolling through websites and data sources to find differences in competitive solutions to a perplexing problem.

Rarely does a Problem have a Clear Cut Solution

With the usual in-house legacy systems, the answers that buyers seek must uncover the best fit solution.

Added to the mix the number of stakeholders involved in making B2B purchase decision has climbers from 5.4 60 upwards of 7, coming from varying location, roles and functions the many perspectives of these decision-makers only complicates the purchasing journey further.

The make-up of the decision-making unit and the processes are unique to each customer group; this is more reason to understand each buying group process intimately. You might find the people you have built a relationship in the early stage are not the decision-makers.

Buyers are under enormous pressure. Gartner research finds that when B2B buyers consider a purchase, they spend only 17% of their time meeting with a shortlist of potential suppliers.

What Buyers Want

I recently interviewed Deb Calvert author of Stop Selling and Start Leading., whose research into buyer preferences with leadership experts  James M. KouzesBarry Z. Posner. led to the conclusion that buyers want sellers to exhibit leadership behaviours.

Buyers do not want more information from sellers; they want clarification and insights, that they cannot find for themselves.

According to Deloitte Digital, in Experience Selling: The Future of B2B Sales, Sellers must focus on personalisation, speed and outcomes if their commercial operation is poised to gain market share.

Buyers do not want more information from sellers - Janice B Gordon quote

Buyers go on a journey from awareness of a problem to purchasing a solution. The popular Awareness, Consideration and Decision is a simplified buyers’ journey, defined from the supplier perspective. However, I believe it takes the wrong view; the buyers’ purchase journey is not linear; buyers and stakeholder will naturally bounce between the stages to find the best fit solution.

Let’s Review What I Believe are the 7 Stages of the Buyers Purchasing Journey:

  1. Identify the problem as a priority
  2. Research the options of a solution
  3. Set the criteria for supplier selection and problem-solving unit
  4. Shortlist the supplier options
  5. Evaluate and Negotiate the priority of specific challenge and obstacle for the best outcome
  6. Purchase process
  7. Post-purchase engagement

The buyers purchasing journey does not stop at the initial purchase; in fact, the relationship-building journey has only just begun. The seller must look beyond the initial sale, and help their buyers create value and deliver ROI.

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Gartner research went further in identifying 6 B2B buying “jobs” that customers must complete along the buying journey, to their satisfaction to successfully finalise a purchase:

  • Problem identification. “We need to do something.”
  • Solution exploration. “What’s out there to solve our problem?”
  • Requirements building. “What exactly do we need the purchase to do?”
  • Supplier selection. “Does this do what we want it to do?”
  • “We think we know the right answer, but we need to be sure.”
  • Consensus creation. “We need to get everyone on board.”

There is no dispute that the B2B purchasing process is complex, with much of the process is executed before and without the seller active interaction. According to Forrester, 59% of buyers prefer to do research online instead of interacting with a salesperson. Given the late seller engagement, how can the seller help the buyer advance through the complicated purchase process?

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6 Ways Sellers Make Purchasing EASY?

 Companies that prioritise customer experience generate 60% higher profits than their competitors according to Kapow. An excellent B2B customer or buyer experience is never built for the company or unit. It is created for a human in the company to experience.

  1. B2B buyers are B2C consumers and have consumer brand-level expectations. The seller must build trust on an individual level rather than think of the B2B decision-making.
  2. Each of the decision-makers has a unique view and priority until you understand these individual priorities and perspectives; you cannot begin to deliver the experience they expect.
  3. Sellers must genuinely understand the customer needs, their process and their world. Buyers do not want to buy a product; they want to buy a solution and need a partner to help them evaluate and negotiate the internal and external process to reach a consensus decision.
  4. The key to delivering a great experience while supporting the buyer through the buying process is to map the buyer purchasing journey to include the individuals and processes involved in the purchase journey. The mapping process enables the seller to align all their supplier operations and functions to ensure they deliver a consistent service that is of value for the specific customers purchasing criteria.
  5. The aim is to gain cultural alignment, not just the processes but internal buy-in of the culture to build transparency and trust. The method of mapping the buyer purchase journey help to communicate the nuances and complexity and focuses the supplier on customer priorities. It highlights the degree to which the customer is prioritised in service design and delivery. It is the next best thing to having the customer at the supplier table.

 

You may be thinking that making B2B purchasing EASY this is no mean feat, I would remind you that we are not reaching for perfection, EASY is not perfection! Alignment is about being dialled into your customer, the closer you are to your customer, the easier it is to, personalise and anticipate their needs.

If the seller is better able to understand the customer challenges, map the journey and tailor their service to the customer’s specific requirements, then they will develop a compelling proposition and make the experience easy.

 A supply company that understands the buyer purchase journey in detail can design “ideal” experiences and align the supplier operations and people on delivering high levels of service and so build the breath of relationship and loyalty.

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About the Author

Janice B Gordon helps enterprising companies adapt their sales approach and grow key customers. This has led her to create the popular Scale Your Sales framework. Janice is the Customer Growth Expert an Author, Educator and Consultant ranked 25 of the Top100 Global Business Influencer 2017. Contact Janice to talk about Scaling Your Sales.