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The Buyer’s Journey: The Path from Prospect to Customer

  • Post category:Marketing
  • Reading time:6 mins read

The modern consumer is more informed than ever before. This is due to the endless amount of data available at their fingertips. In most cases, this means that the power has shifted from the sales rep to the buyer. This transfer of power is the key reason why the sales tactics of the past are no longer effective. In order to find success in sales today, sales reps need to adjust their mindset from selling to helping. The best way to begin this process is to become extremely familiar with the consumer and their journey towards making a purchase. Most marketers refer to this experience as the buyer’s journey.

What is the Buyer’s Journey?

The buyer’s journey is the path that a consumer ventures along before they ultimately purchase your product or service. Consumers don’t wake up and decide to buy your product or service just because. They go through a process of becoming aware, considering and evaluating, and eventually purchasing your product or service.

By understanding the buyer’s journey, the pains and problems they experience along the way, and the factors that influence their thinking, sales professionals can better empathize with the buyer. Sales professionals who genuinely understand the buyer’s journey can better position what they have to offer.

The Three Stages of the Buyer’s Journey

The buyer’s journey consists of three major steps or “stages.” Each stage describes how the buyer advances along their path towards purchase.

Let’s take a high-level look at each of the stages.

  1. Awareness Stage: The first step in the buyer’s journey is becoming aware that they have a problem.
  2. Consideration Stage: Next, the buyer defines their problem and considers potential solutions to the problem.
  3. Decision Stage: This is when the buyer evaluates and ultimately decides on the best provider to provide the solution to their problem.

Now that we’ve outlined the overall journey, let’s take a closer look at each stage from the buyer’s perspective.

What is the Buyer Doing During the Awareness Stage?

This initial stage is when the buyer realizes that they have a problem and that they need to alleviate it. This is also when they may begin looking for helpful information to help them better understand their problem.

The Buyer’s Journey - Awareness

What is the Buyer Doing in the Consideration Stage?

The buyer will have identified and clearly defined their problem at this point. They are also committed to researching and better understanding all potential options to solve the problem at hand.

What is the Buyer Doing During the Decision Stage?

At this point, the buyer has decided on how they plan to solve their problem. Their goal now is to develop a list of available options, refine this list, and eventually make a purchasing decision.

Without an intimate understanding of your potential customers, it is difficult to map out the buyer’s journey. This, in turn, makes it very difficult for your sales team to do what they do best – sell. If your team does not have a firm grasp on the problems that your prospective customers face, then you should conduct a series of interviews to gain a better sense of the journey towards purchase.

Tailor Your Sales Process to the Buyer’s Journey

Having gone over the three stages of the buyer’s journey, there’s one last thing you need to keep in mind. Your customers only want to engage with you when they’re ready and on their terms. You can waste a lot of time and effort if you force a customer along the buyer’s journey if they’re not ready for the adventure.

However, your sales reps can shine when buyers are looking for additional information about your product that can’t be found online.

Awareness Stage

Again, at this point in the journey, buyers are identifying the challenge or opportunity that they want to chase down. They are also figuring out if the goal or challenge should be a priority.

What We Should Be Asking

  • How do buyers describe their goals or challenges in the context of your business?
  • How are buyers educating themselves in regards to their goals or challenges?
  • What could potentially happen if the buyer interacts with you?
  • Are there common misunderstandings buyers have in terms of their goal or challenge?
  • How do buyers determine if they should prioritize their goal or challenge?

Actions We Should Be Taking

  • Create sales collateral that educates your customers along their path to purchase.
  • Provide them with resources to help define their problem or goal.
  • Help, help, and help some more!

Consideration Stage

Upon entering the second stage, buyers have clearly defined their goal or challenge and have committed to addressing it. Now they’re evaluating different solutions to aid in achieving their goal or solving their challenge.

What We Should Be Asking

  • What categories of solutions are your customers investigating?
  • How do your customers educate themselves on the various solutions?
  • How do customers interpret the pros and cons of potential solutions?
  • What will the consumers latch onto to determine which solution is right for them?

Actions We Should Be Taking

  • Understand how your product or service solves their problem compared to the rest of the field.
  • Consider how your competitors show up in the marketplace and how they influence perception.
  • Provide customers with resources to help them identify the right solution for their situation.

Decision Stage

Buyers have now selected a solution and are now evaluating the various providers.

The Buyer’s Journey - Decision

What We Should Be Asking

  • What criteria do customers reference to evaluate the available solutions?
  • When customers investigate your company’s offerings, what do they like about it compared to the alternatives? What about potential concerns?
  • Who needs to be involved in the decision? How does each person’s perspective differ in terms of the final decision?
  • Do customers expect to try your product or service before they purchase?
  • Do customers need to prepare for additional tasks such as implementation or training sessions?

Actions We Should Be Taking

  • Understand potential objections customers may have prior to the sales process. It’s essential to predict so you can best prepare a solid response.
  • Ensure you have a unique selling proposition that provides value to the customer and differentiates you from the rest of the field.

Closing Thoughts

Some of these considerations fall under the marketing umbrella more than the sales umbrella. However, the answers to these questions will provide a sound foundation for the buyer’s journey.

The practice of getting to know how your customers decide to purchase is invaluable as you create (or refine) your sales process. You’ll be able to better empathize with prospects, handle objections, and provide the right information at the right time. In the end, engaging in this process will help you close more deals and win more business.

Andrew Roche

Andrew Roche is a Digital Consultant at Shift Digital. He is also pursuing an MBA in Marketing & Finance through the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University

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