I spent the weekend with some friends who were planning an overseas vacation next spring. This is something they have wanted to do for some time, they have been saving up money, vacation days, and sacrificed in other ways, in order to make the trip everything they wanted. You can sense the energy of anticipation that is going into every element of the planning, and ensuring that the trip lives up to everything they imagined and more.
When speaking to them about the trip, they talk about the unique destinations they plan to visit, food they plan to try, experiences they hope will live up to or exceed expectations. What was striking is that over the course of the hour or so we talked about their trip, the subject how they were getting to where they were going did not come up. There was actually one point where they talked about have to traverse a winding mountain side road, but again the focus was not the means of travel, but the experience and life changing experiences and memories.
There is a subtle lesson for sellers in the above example. Namely that people are much more focused on the outcomes and experiences than how they got to those experiences; simply stated, most people are much more focused on the end than the means. It is accurate to say that for most business people, as long as the means are ethical and legal, what counts is the outcome.
While it has been a positive that many sellers now spend time and effort on understanding the “buyer’s journey”, there is a risk in relating to the journey strictly through our own filters and needs as sellers, and over emphasising how “our product” is right for the journey. Sellers need to do a better job of focusing on the outcomes, and the possibilities they deliver for the buyer, rather than the features of our “solution”, how it addresses one or two elements of the journey, while ignoring and confusing what the buyer set out to accomplish on their journey, with the “how” of traveling the journey.
You can look at this in the following way. We do an exercise with reps of all skills, experience, and offerings. We ask them a simple question: “what do you sell?” With all the talk about being customer centric, and being driven by the buyer’s journey, the most typical answers we get, actually contradict their stated intent. 80% of the responses to that question talk to deliverables. “We sell software”, “we sell hardware, solutions, integration, systems, trucking services, etc.” All good, all accurate, and for the most part miss speaking to the buyer’s journey.
Buyers set out to buy results, outcomes, specific changes in their business. This is as true for commodities as it is for so called “complex solutions”. Look around within your company or even department. When was the last time you heard your VP of Sales, “I wanna buy me a piece of software that will process leads based on an algorithm designed to….” No, it is more likely they will talk about the impact that app would have on their pipeline, conversion rates, leading to increased revenues, margins, cash-flows, impact on funding, etc.
Just like my friends, they are more focused on the destination and the experience of that, not the journey. While in some aspect of life it is more about the journey than the destination, in sales success is measured by the destination.
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