B2B is not one size fits all; not everyone is a buyer no matter how hard we wish.

Yet revenue teams (marketing and sales), continue to operate as though “buyers” were a singular homogenous group.  And if you continue to sell to everyone as though that’s true, you’ll continue to miss out on sales: sales you could have had.

While there several ways to segment things, in this story (and the associated webinar)  we are looking at the time to decision.

The reality is that at any given time only about 10% of your market is truly in buying mode,  These are people who entered the market on their own, without a nudge from a seller.  These are those buyers who go through 57% of their journey before engaging a salesperson.

If you can survive on your share of that 10%, great; most can’t. Since active buyers are the most recognizable group to revenue teams, they gear their efforts almost entirely to this group.

But what about the other 90%, the prospects, potential future buyers, don’t you need to engage them as well?  Most sellers will tell you they have “nurturing’ programs, but prospects report the information they get is neither nurturing nor nutritional. That’s because too often the content is created for buyers – making it irrelevant to the 90% who are months away from being buyers.

Of the 90%, about 20% are what we’ll classify as Passively Looking.  Typically, people who are anywhere from 9 to 18 months from a decision is required.  They perceive a luxury of time, versus the urgency sellers learned to look for with Actively Looking Buyers.  A different story when there is no hurry or BANT.  These people are looking for similar insights that matter to Actively Buyers some 9 months before you engaged.  Meaning your engagement needs to track to what would have been current and relevant to an Active Buyer, 9 months prior.

It’s like companies are sending information on harvesting to people who have yet to decide if they are going to plant.  Wouldn’t it be better to share insights on the ins and outs of what goes into a decision to plant?  Once they have planted, it then makes more sense to share studies on new practices in watering and pest control.  Closer to harvest, insights on markets for the crop and means of maximizing crops.  Then finally, just as the combines are ready to roll, you can send what others have been sending all along, “Harvesting Today.”

A huge part of the challenge or opportunity is capturing and sustaining a prospect’s attention long before they switch to active mode.  The average salesperson is exposed to only a small part of the entire buying process – less than 18% of cycle time directly with sales reps. Ignoring or abdicating the opportunity to influence or gain mind share early is as fatal as ignoring the buyer and opportunity.

Start by mapping back to where the buyer was 12 months, 9, months, 6 months before they started with you, usually three months before they became active.  What actions could you have taken during those months to help the prospect through the journey before they were active?

Most sellers don’t know, because they haven’t bothered to find out.  Recently I had the following experience with a VAR of a huge IT company.  They launched a lead gen campaign, but I quickly started hearing that reps felt the leads were questionable.  I asked them to expand. “The guy said he is not ready to buy for 9 months, what’s the point?”  I got the same message from others, all stating that these leads were premature. “We need leads ready to buy now, this cycle or quarter,” they reported.

Imagine the opportunity during the six-month lead up to shape their thinking and become their emotional favorite.  While there is no guarantee, most passively looking prospects do transition to being actively looking buyers. The question is who they turn to when they do?  What you do during those six months separates sellers from order takers.

First, you need to map the entire journey, especially the “formative” part of the journey that most sellers don’t participate in.  They try, but the nature of the message prevents this.  If the pertains to the conversation the prospect organization has internally, it will be consumed, and you will have influence over their thinking.  Thinking about where they are, not your product, if there is a hint of product, the message is ignored because it is not part of the current conversation.

Pick critical elements you have seen unfold in previous deals and build a series of outreaches and interactions to suit those moments.  When they are at the “should we do something phase?” Send insight relating to why it makes sense to or the risks of inaction.  Then follow the pattern we laid out above about the harvest.  Hold off hold off on presenting yourself as “the Who” until that question’s time has arrived, usually as they approach Active phase.

Buying is emotional, as is selling.  Taking steps to becoming their emotional favorite by helping them deal with the emotional stress and challenges of their journey, will not lead to faster sales, but will lead to more opportunities.  Get enough opportunities active in your pipeline, and timing is less of a challenge.

https://www.gartner.com/en/sales-service/insights/b2b-buying-journey

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