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The B2B Buyer’s Journey: Your Biggest Competition is Your Customer’s Self-Education

The B2B Buyer’s Journey has become a strong point of focus for marketing and sales instead of arbitrary sales cycle stages that don’t have a clear relationship to the decision-making process of the prospective customer.  When researching the Buyer’s Journey, you will find at least three consistent stages: The Buyer's Journey  

The Buyer’s Journey: Who Is Educating Your Customer?

We’ve all heard that the majority of customers aren’t making their first sales contact until 70% of the buying process is complete.  SiriusDecisions, and any experience in B2B sales, would tell us this isn’t REALLY the case.  This number just indicates a growing amount of self-education by the customer. But WHO or WHAT is educating your customers, if it’s not you? Your customer’s self-education–or lack of education–is your biggest competition.  Here’s why:
  • The customer might never know they have a problem. How many opportunities have you lost because prospective customers didn’t realize they had a problem?  The answer is, you don’t know.
  • They might see it as a problem, but not a big enough problem to make a change.
  • They see it as a problem but don’t understand the full value your solution can bring and immediately ask how steep of a discount they can get.
At this point in the buyer’s journey, a sales rep should be doing everything they can to teach their customer about the problem they have—whether the customer knows they have a problem or not—and the total potential impact of solving that problem.

The Customer is NOT Always Right: My Conversation with Frank

A great example of this exact situation is from a conversation I JUST had this week with one of my favorite people to work with, an account manager. I got a call from the account manager, we’ll call him Frank, who told me that he “just had one of the worst calls…but we can fix it….” Frank was just told politely by his customer that they had no intention of renewing the software they purchased from Frank several years before.  Although the customer had already purchased the software, or someone within their organization had, they had regressed all the way back to the “Awareness” phase. This customer had never truly implemented the solution and had completely forgotten what their problem was. When the customer explained why he wouldn’t be purchasing the solution again, he told Frank that “we usually just take all of that work and send it to a third party to manage.” Whoa. The customer thought that sending the work to a third party was a better decision than actually implementing the solution they paid for. In reality, it was costing him more time and money—and with a little education, this was clearly the case. The customer’s problem can be summed up in a little scenario: Imagine that every time you went to the dry cleaners, you gave them EVERY piece of clothing you owned because you had no way of telling which ones were clean or dirty! This was essentially what the customer was doing.  Sending off his laundry without filtering out the clean clothes first. Put this way, the problem seems extremely obvious—but it wasn’t obvious at all to the customer. For this customer, that’s just the way things were. They didn’t realize they had a problem because it had always been that way. How was Frank going to change his customer’s mind? By creating a Customized Value Analysis to show the quantified value that the solution would have when implemented correctly. This one was a no brainer.

So, How Can You Educate Your Customer?

By using a Customized Value Analysis that the Value Management Office at Ecosystems creates, we are able to pinpoint known and unknown buyer pain-points and attach very tangible metrics to them. This isn’t an absurd Return-on-Investment calculator report that shows the customer they saved $1M with a 300% ROI and leaves the rest to the imagination. No, a truly effective Customized Value Analysis will list out WHERE the impact happens and how we got to the numbers. The Value Analysis we put together lists out the specific problems we’re solving and itemizes the benefits:
    1. Reduced third-party charges by increasing filter rates on workloads
    2. Improved productivity by reducing time spent collecting and managing excessive workloads
  1. Reduced hardware requirements to stage unfiltered workloads
  2. Reduced software licensing for unfiltered workloads
value driver

Creating a Customized Value Analysis

So, how can you create a  Customized Value Analysis for your customer? We’ve compiled a few tips for you here. Thought leaders among the sales leadership I work with are now incentivizing their teams to create Customized Value Analyses for their customers to help uncover and grow their deals. We need to take a more active role in educating our customers instead of waiting to meet them in the second and third stage of their buying process. Show your customers a quantified reason they must change before they even realize they have a problem. Help them uncover the problem, fix the problem, and then seal the deal.