(Editor’s Note: This post was written by Martyn R. Lewis, author of How Customers Buy…& Why They Don’t.)
Working with my clients’ sales forces, I started to see repeating and quite frankly alarming patterns. Because for the most part, we were working with good salespeople from good organizations marketing good products, yet far too often the results suggested otherwise.
It was obvious that something was wrong, something needed fixing.
Now, I have always believed in the value of talking to actual customers, so I introduced a singular, and at the time somewhat radical, element to our methodology. I insisted that we research our clients’ customers as comprehensively as we did our clients’ sales teams.
From talking to ever more customers about how they buy and why they don’t, we came to regard this process as a journey – the Customer Buying Journey.
We developed a model that enabled us to effectively decode and map the elements, the “DNA” as it were, of each buying journey in other words, how customers buy. The DNA concept of an actual identifiable code meant that the Customer Buying Journey could now be mapped.
Here’s what we found.
The Buying Journey DNA has six major elements or strands. The nature of these strands can vary greatly between different markets, but a very interesting fact came to light in our investigations.
The buying journey for a particular market when buying a specific offering will share the same DNA. In fact, a similar DNA code will define a single market, and conversely if two buyers purchase the same offering, but in a different manner, that will denote two distinct markets.
These strands will allow you to determine the unique elements for any market’s buying journey and develop in-depth knowledge of what really happens throughout the end-to-end Customer Buying Journey.
Here are the six DNA strands:
The Customer Buying Journey Trigger is an event, experience, or activity that causes a customer to enter into a buying journey. This does not imply that they will conclude that journey or even get very far with it. Neither does it signify any particular rate at which that buying journey may proceed. You will also see Dependencies added to and included with this strand.
The events, activities, or experiences that trigger a Customer Buying Journey can be internal or external to the buying organization. Internal triggers might include dissatisfaction with the current state or the realization that a certain area needs to be changed. External triggers can come from many different sources. Perhaps reading an article, visiting a trade show, or researching online prompts interest in a new or alternative approach.
These are the activities buyers are likely to engage in throughout the buying journey. They are usually grouped and sequenced as a series of sequential steps that comprise the total journey.
When buyers talk about what they do throughout their buying journey, a strange thing happens. They energetically start to describe what they did, thinking this will be a short and simple story. But they rarely get very far before adopting a different tone as they unravel a surprising complex web of activities.
3) Key Players
Here you want to determine the roles across an organization, or outside of the organization, are likely to be involved in which steps across the buying journey.
Companies and organizations, in and of themselves, don’t actually start any buying journeys. The only way these things happen is if people get involved. Living, breathing individuals determine if a buying journey is worth starting, and it is they who move that buying journey forward.
4) Buying Style
The dynamics of the customer’s Buying Style are often ignored, trivialized, or just plain missed, and I cannot overstate their importance.
As we talked to more and more buyers about how they actually approached their buying decisions, we began to notice important patterns. We have seen companies not only change their overall approach to the market but change how they are organized and even how they think of their company based on gaining insight into their customers’ buying styles.
5) Value Drivers
The Value Drivers provide the motivation for the buyers to move forward into and through their buying journey. These are the reasons someone would actually get into, and progress through, a buying journey. Value Drivers are the pot of gold; they provide the motivation to start and the fuel to continue and successfully complete the Customer Buying Journey.
6) Buying Concerns
Buying Concerns – perhaps the most important facets of the DNA – are widely overlooked and the least understood aspects. These are inhibitors, the friction, that can slow down or stop a buying journey. They come in all shapes and sizes, yet we found for a specific offering in a given market there was great commonality of buying concerns across a particular buying journey.
After much analysis, we were able to define nine categories of buying concerns, any one of which can stop a buying journey in its tracks.
Buyers can behave in remarkably predictable ways. When faced with buying a particular offering within a particular market, buyers will exhibit very similar buying behavior. It is the DNA of that particular Customer Buying Journey that forms the basis of a successful market engagement. Look for it, learn it, and doors will open.