Guest Column | April 26, 2021

Don't Let Your Buyer's Journey End In A Ditch – Grab The Wheel

By Richard Chambers, America’s Return Inc.

Buyer's Journey Path

A buyer’s journey implies travel from one place to another. Departing from Point A – a frustrating condition. Arriving at Point B – a desired outcome via a purchase. Most journeys, however, stall along the way. Travelers on the route to technology solutions tend to shun potentially helpful salespeople out of distrust. And sellers – MSPs and VARs – are usually technicians, uncomfortable with selling despite it being their #1 business priority. Hence the great appeal of digital marketing tools: organic search, landing pages, downloads, configurators, shopping carts, and videos, with no human contact. While this digital transformation (DX) has in many ways improved the customer experience (CX), too many digital buyers simply drive into a ditch (%#!X) and abandon the journey. How to be welcomed as a live guide, gaining greater results from your digital campaigns? Read on.

Lewis Carroll had Point B in mind when he noted: “If you don’t know where you’re going any road will take you there.” Most commercial buyers cannot express the outcomes they seek in terms of clear business results or personal wins for all stakeholders. They are thinking means not ends. And search engines do not help with outcomes. When a searcher inputs the keywords “increase profitability”, Google will deliver 94,400,000 means. Maybe your paid search ad for, say, disaster recovery services was one of the buyer’s means. The searchers reached your landing page, registered to download a video, but failed to watch to the end, then ignored your next four automated remarketing emails. Just sending another programmed email from your avatar is not likely to jump-start that stalled buyer. It takes roadside assistance from a salesperson to provide consultative guidance to keep the buyer moving. A follow-up call with very specific comments or questions about the business and personal results gets qualified prospects in gear. Since you will likely get voicemail in this outreach, be specific in your message. For example, “You mentioned when you registered for the video that you have grown to over 75 endpoints in your network, but only have part-time IT staff. Can we chat about two or three ways to keep you safe while avoiding the cost of hiring a full-time administrator?” [See Selling from A to B: the shortest distance between “problem” and “solved.”  Channel Executive Magazine, November 2018]

My Point A corollary to Lewis Carroll’s rule is: “If you know where you are, you’ll know what to do next.” Buyers are as unclear about their current location as they are about the desired outcomes. Most customers cannot account for the costs and risks of staying exactly the way they are, leaving them uncertain about urgency or cures. A manufacturer with aging network infrastructure frets about the cost of upgrades while worrying about the security risk of not acting. Or a law firm that needs to share highly confidential documents wonders if a simple cloud-based storage system will be as private as its high-maintenance on-premises network. Or the cash-strapped university debates if investing in better remote learning capabilities will attract more tuition-paying students. These buyers’ digital journeys usually start with a web search for answers. But searchers rarely distinguish between performance deficits – what they cannot do at Point A – and treatment deficits – the remedy they think they need to get. The latter becomes the subject of the searches for means described above. Again, befuddled by the flood of options, the searchers lose certainty and quit. While a consultative salesperson providing a business and technical assessment could have spared these buyers much wheelspin, such a service often is not appreciated until a breakdown occurs. So, look at your stalled digital funnel traffic as opportunities for engagement. Customers enjoy the probing I refer to as “The Good, the Bad, and the Money,” in which I help them clarify the financial upside of getting to Point B (the Good) and the economic toll for staying at Point A (the Bad). [See details in the Channel Executive Magazine, March 2019 article here.]

Besides not clearly knowing Point A or Point B, the customers often launch out on the road without a map, unaware that digital marketers have charted “buyer’s journey maps” that could prove useful. These idealized paths display the flow of customer touchpoints from the buyer’s point of view, as opposed to the traditional sales-funnel view at the heart of CRM systems. A typical journey itinerary starts with awareness of the situation, proceeds through consideration of alternatives, and arrives at a decision to act. The map further reveals various internal influencers who manage checkpoints along the way. These journey maps are for the marketing and sales staff, projecting the actions the customer is likely to take, to place digital messages in their path. Most buyers, of course, are not reading these maps. In the above examples, the buyers become uncertain about the route and stop, perhaps abandoning the trip altogether. When my sales training clients ask me to investigate stalled digital leads, my outreach confirms not just the buyers’ vague grip on Point A and Point B, but also their entanglement in the internal decision making process and have given up. Further, the default journey map moves in one direction only: forward to a sale. Trying to motivate a stalled prospect to move forward is rarely as effective as walking them backward on the trail to where they got lost, then reorienting their direction. An abandoned shopping cart or a truancy from a webinar is typically just a data point to a digital marketer. However, aiming your telephone calls to these disconnections yields some of the richest sales conversations of any business development activity. My favorite question to use in those calls is “What would you like to be able to do (Point B) that you can’t do now (Point A)?” [For other tips on pipeline management and getting past voicemail, see Suddenly Your Sales Team is Inside. Now What? VAR Insights, June 18, 2020]

Digital marketing has undeniably improved the scale and quality of outreach. But your automation does not mean the customer’s journey is with self-driving vehicles. My message here is not to rescue every soul that wishes to unsubscribe to your newsletter. But if your target personae are unresponsive to the next steps of your map, you have good reason to become a travel guide. Reach out to discover the outcome (Point B) someone had in mind when, for example, they started but did not complete an application. What was pulling them into the journey? Or contact a webinar attendee who did not act to schedule a demo. Rather than pressing them to commit, learn more about what personally triggered them (Point A) to attend the webinar. Your curiosity is more important than your pitch. Boost your confidence to have these conversations by sharing individualized routes previous travelers successfully took with you to their destinations. You may just be giving a push to yet another 5-star review.

About The Author

Dr. Richard L. Chambers is president of America’s Return Inc., provider of The S.A.L.E.S. System, an SMB channel sales development program helping OEMs, ISVs, distributors, VARs, and MSPs sell solutions with higher profit in less time.