The problem, of course, is that no one believes that they have false insight about how their customers buy.
How could your sales team possibly bring in millions of dollars of revenue every year without knowing how your customers buy?
How could marketing not know your buyers when they regularly survey customers, track their digital footprint and analyze their online behavior against a well-documented buyers journey?
And aren’t your senior executives talking to your customers every day? They must be a reliable enough proxy for understanding how your customers buy!
After speaking with many buyers about their purchase experience, I have learned that the answer is most often no. Most providers aren’t aware of the drama that’s playing out in their customers lives and are more focused on what buyers think of them, their product and how the buyer will make a solution choice. This is not buyer insight.
Buyer Insight. It’s not what You Think.
Take a close look at your website, your about page, your marketing messaging and collateral, your sales deck and your strategic vision and mission statement. If your touting;
“We are the leading provider of…”
“Our mission is to disrupt…”
“Our value is…”
“We’re are #1 in…
it’s a pretty good indication that you’re addressing what you think is important and should matter to your customers. You think you’re customer-focused but you’re not. It’s a blind spot and you’re operating off of assumptions that give a false baseline and that means that your sales and marketing will be off.
Solution looking for Problem
One of the biggest flaws with operating from a false baseline is that we mistakenly try to convince prospective buyers that they can be more effective with our solution when they’re struggling to understand how or why they need to change at all.
You may have the perfect solution, but if the buyer doesn’t know how to align all of the pieces of their internal operation so everyone will be happy to change, they will do nothing.
It’s not just a decision about the problem your product solves or what you think is important, it’s about your buyers ability to understand and manage all of the people, rules, policies and procedures that contains and maintains the problem. This is the drama that’s unfolding in your customers lives and what matters to them.
Whatever is holding the status quo in place is way more powerful than any solution you can offer.
The heart of the problem for sales and marketing is that they’re outsiders. How can they begin to understand all of the issues that hold the status quo in place or all of the history and internal politics that have prevented buyers from solving their problem?
A Simple Fix
This is a simple problem with a simple fix, which is to ask recent buyers to share their buying experience.
Not your customers but the buyers; they’re different people. You need to interview:
- The people that bought your solution.
- The people that bought your competitors solution.
- The people that evaluated multiple solution options and did nothing.
- The people that bought a solution and never even considered your company.
It can be a delicate conversation to get these people to share their purchase experience openly without feeling manipulated or pushed but the buying patterns will emerge quickly and remain remarkably consistent across buyers, regardless of company size or industry.
The real challenge is to ensure that they tell you the truth and don’t leave important facts undiscovered.
Shifting the bias to get to the truth
It’s not that these recent buyers will try to lie to you, the problem stems from your own need to know information.
When you approach these interviews with a need to know specific information, you can’t help but pose bias questions and bias questions are going to get a biased response.
Even the best, well thought out, open-ended questions, cannot extract good data.
You end up restricting the possible answers to a confined data set which results in buyers offering bad or incomplete information that you mistakenly take for truth.
When we conduct these interviews on behalf of our clients, we use one scripted question to get the buyers to open up and share what happened the day they decided that things had gone too far and decided to fix the problem. This is the trigger point and you should probe deeply here as it will set you up well for understanding how to jump start future prospects and drive urgency in their purchase decision.
For the rest of the interview, we follow along with the conversation and focus on the criteria for change which shifts the bias from our need to know, to the buyers true discovery and decision-making process.
Using Buyer Insights to Align Sales and Marketing
Marketers can use the insights to craft a “path to purchase” that helps prospects recognize all of the internal issues that they will need to complete before they will be able to get buy-in.
Sales reps can use the insights to understand all of the behind-the-scenes issues that prospects are wrestling with and help them work through all of the necessary ins and outs of the decisions that buyers will need to make.
Shared insights across sales and marketing is the basis for alignment and a continuous improvement loop that runs through the organization. If you start with the buyer, marketing can prime the pump and sales can facilitate the buyers path to purchase.
It sounds easy and obvious, I know. After all, we all know that a fundamental aspect of selling and marketing today is to sell the way your customers want to buy. Aligning your efforts to the things that buyers need to do to gain approval for a purchase is a great strategy – it helps you reduce time on things that aren’t relevant to the buyer and helps the buyer embrace change.
Unfortunately, most companies exhaust every possible option to understand the customer’s buying behavior and decision process with one exception: asking actual buyers.
That’s where we come in!
Every day we ask business decision makers to tell us how they made their decisions, what internal issues they wrestled with, who was involved and what criteria ultimately got the decision team to buy-in.
We’ve had lengthy conversations with C-level executives, directors, engineers, lawyers and doctors, asking them to take us through what they were doing and thinking when they decided to investigate alternatives to solve the problems our clients address.
The insight that we provide is pure gold!
About Gordon Hogg:
I help CEOs align their sales and marketing teams around Buyer Insights — to power success in sales and marketing through customer-centric strategy. To learn more or get in touch, visit https://insighthought.com/