5 reasons why you must elevate the buyer experience
Reading time: about 8 min
Posted by: Taylor Dolbin
Selling today requires a relentless focus on buyer experience—understanding why people buy and crafting a buyer’s journey reflecting their needs, expectations, and motivations.
It’s not like you have much choice. Everywhere you turn, people are adopting a more user-centric approach. The best phones, cars, websites, and apps train people to expect delightful user experiences. The same principle applies to the buyer experience in the B2B space: Prospects want a frictionless, delightful experience that feels tailored to their needs.
If you’re not creating good buyer experiences, you will lose business to competitors who do. Moreover, sales journeys grow more complicated, and you have to win over more stakeholders who influence buying decisions.
The safe path through this minefield is to make a deep, heartfelt connection with your buyer. That might sound counterintuitive if you’re selling industrial machines, software solutions, or other B2B products. But ultimately, closing a sale is about getting your buyer to tune out all the noise and agree to do business with you—or stay in business with you. It takes an emotional bond to make that happen.
With that in mind, consider these five reasons why you can’t afford to ignore the buyer experience.
1. Competition is stiffer than ever
Think of all the ways buyers can find out about you and your competition: Websites, online reviews, social media platforms, industry publications, blogs, and countless other sources make the competitive environment more challenging every day. It takes almost no time for your buyers to find all of that competition. When buyers have 50 choices instead of five, you really have to step up your buyer experience, prove your worth, and encourage them to choose you out of all that competition.
Today’s buyers are just like everybody else: They’re trained to expect experiences tailored to their precise needs and diverse interests. Meeting—or exceeding—buyer expectations can make all the difference when competition is hitting you from every angle.
Questions to ask yourself:
- How are your competitors optimizing the buying experience?
- What technology would you need to confront competitive threats?
- What are the customer expectations common across your competitive landscape—and how would you surpass them?
- What are your best opportunities for using the sales process to set you apart from the competition?
- How would you revamp your sales process to make more human connections with prospects?
2. Complex buyer journeys create an abundance of pitfalls
Buyer journeys used to be fairly straightforward: Shoppers bought from brick-and-mortar stores, catalogs, or websites. B2B buyers went to trade shows, scheduled demos, and sat through pitch meetings.
Today’s shoppers have a galaxy of touchpoints: chatbots, email, mobile apps (often combined with in-store sales), social media platforms, sharing platforms, digital wallets, branded websites, and dozens more. Each channel provides an opportunity for you to deliver an excellent experience—or fall short of expectations. Whether you are automating outputs or are reaching out personally, each interaction needs to be optimized to minimize confusion, frustration, or overgeneralization.
If you’re using an account-based selling strategy, hopefully you’ve identified a number of key contacts within the organization. You have to be reaching each contact via the most effective touchpoints for them and tailor your content, messaging, and approach to their role and company. For example, if you know a key decision maker is active on LinkedIn, it may make the most impact to send him or her a personalized message and a piece of content geared toward an audience in similar roles.
The savviest sales organizations test their touchpoints and monitor them for signs of improvements or declines. They also survey customers about their preferred sales channels and adapt their strategy to make stronger connections with buyers. If they use Lucidchart, they thoroughly map out the customer journey in a diagram or an account map so they always have a visual understanding of their environment.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Do you have touchpoints in all the places where prospects might expect them to be?
- Are you testing your buying experience rigorously to find flaws and identify opportunities?
- Have you mapped out your buyer journey so everybody on your team can see it and understand it?
3. Emotions drive buying decisions
A clever CRM integration does not close sales. Your state-of-the-art feature set won’t impress the skeptics, and you’ll be seen as too expensive for the penny pushers. Your competitors stay in business, even if your products do a better job.
Why? Because every part of the buying decision, from grabbing a six-pack to provisioning a data center, is emotional. Reason and logic may form the foundation for the decision to buy, but feelings, intuitions, and trust seal the deal.
That’s why it’s crucial to adopt a buyer-centric approach at every step on your buyer journey. In a B2B environment, for example, the people who make discovery calls need to ask sophisticated questions to understand the prospect’s pain points. Account executives need ready access to the findings of the discovery calls to ensure they understand the prospect’s goals and objectives.
In e-commerce, you have to analyze every buyer touchpoint and identify factors like clunky user interfaces and slow-loading web pages that torpedo sales.
Addressing buyers’ emotions is never easy because all the people involved in buying decisions have different motivations and viewpoints. You can simplify things, though, by zeroing in on the key decision-makers and creating an account map to help your entire team visualize the most important influencers and stakeholders.
You must address the emotions and expectations of people who have the strongest influence on final buying decisions. The goal should ensure the buyer’s journey reflects what key influencers want most from an interaction with you—not just a solution but a lasting emotional experience.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Are you making sure your sales process makes an authentic human connection with prospects?
- Do you apply a standard set of discovery questions to uncover prospects’ motivations?
- Are your analytics apps optimized to flag sources of friction in your buying process?
4. Key accounts tend to underperform
B2B sales organizations see this all the time: They go to extravagant lengths to land big accounts, only to discover that reality doesn’t live up to their hopes. HubSpot, for instance, asked sales executives how many times they had rebuilt their key account programs in the past seven years due to underperformance. The findings: 84% did it at least once, and 40% did it twice or more.
That’s a lot of disappointment.
Key accounts are inherently complex, with a host of competing factions and political tie-ups. Misunderstandings lead to extra meetings. Crossed signals generate time-sucking revisions. Delays undermine the profitability of a key account relationship.
The potential of a key account must be weighed against the complications that ruin profitability. Optimizing the buyer experience on key accounts can help ensure you understand the client’s most important challenges and motivations—and help you make more money.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Does your discovery process connect you with the core motivations of a prospective key account—and the complexities of meeting their demands?
- How robust is your key account management strategy, both in planning and execution?
- If you’re using account-based sales, how well is your buying experience integrated into that process?
- Are you mapping out key-account personnel to ensure you understand the interplay of people’s relationships?
5. Churn is expensive
Everybody’s heard the adage that it costs five times more to find a new customer than it does to keep one. Thus, a buyer-centric sales process should make a point of understanding a prospect’s expectations and meeting their needs long after the deal has closed.
Onboarding can be a source of aggravation or an opportunity to prove you have your act together. An exceptional onboarding experience should show people how your product will solve the pain point they’ve been experiencing. Especially in a B2B setting, where the user is often different than the buyer, you need to make your product essential or else the account will not renew.
Top-notch service after the sale can keep customers in your orbit even when the competition has a stronger feature set. Find out what your clients need as far as customer support and work to solve problems as quickly as possible. Some clients must have answers within 60 minutes, while others can wait 24 hours. A client in a real-time business like e-commerce needs always-on support. A multinational corporation needs support for multiple languages.
Forbes magazine quoted a survey estimating that poor customer service costs companies north of $75 billion a year. Avoiding churn can help keep some of that money in your company coffers.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Do you understand what kinds of customer service slip-ups undermine a customer relationship?
- Is your onboarding process smooth and impressive?
- How robust is your feedback process?
Winning with a better buyer experience
You can’t expect any rest from the realities of intense competition and complex buyer journeys. You’ll always need ideas for optimizing key accounts and reducing customer churn.
If you need inspiration, think of the innovative brands and brick-and-mortar retailers that are crafting unique shopping experiences to fend off online rivals and adapt to shifting consumer habits. They have a lesson for us all: When you create unforgettable buyer experiences, people forget to buy from somebody else.
About the author
Taylor Dolbin graduated from BYU in English and works as the Sales Solution Strategist at Lucidchart. His key focus is empowering sales organizations to sell more effectively. His greatest passions are trail running, triathlons, dirt biking, and being a husband and father to two (sometimes more, sometimes less) foster children.
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