Frank V. Cespedes and Tiffani Bova
This posting highlights selling insights for the new challenges of the B2B landscape. The next posting will afford a few tips on how to address these observations
Selling has always been more about the buyer than the seller. So any effective sales model must adapt to changing buying protocols, not ignore or resist them. This is a big transition for firms who’s marketing, sales-training and enablement tools, and wider organizational processes reflect outdated assumptions about purchasing in their markets.
For a century, buying has been framed in terms of moving a prospect from Awareness to Interest to Desire to Action (AIDA). The AIDA model and its variants are the basis for sales funnels at many B2B firms. The typical funnel starts with a marketing-generated lead for a “suspect” that, after qualification, becomes a “prospect,” and then a customer through steps that are measured and managed. In each step, sales people are expected to perform a series of tasks, usually sequentially, in order to close. It’s an inside-out process and CRM systems are there to provide data about progression (or not) through that company’s funnel steps — the famous “pipeline” metrics that dominate so much talk about sales.
But research indicates a very different contemporary buying reality. Rather than moving sequentially through a funnel, buyers actually work through four parallel streams to make a purchase decision.
Let’s examine these activities, one by one:• Explore: Here, buyers identify a need or opportunity and begin looking for ways to address it, usually via interactions with vendors and self-directed information search on the internet.• Evaluate: Buyers take a closer look at options uncovered while exploring, again leaning heavily on self-directed search and peer interactions as well as vendor sales representatives.• Engage: Buyers initiate further contact with providers (or accept proposals from providers) to get help in moving toward a purchase decision.• Experience: Buyers use a solution, increasingly in pilots or proof of concepts, and develop perceptions about its value based on that usage.