There is a lot talked about in terms the buyer's journey, what it is and what it isn't.
I always think about it, like the way I buy things myself. Whatever I want to buy, I go online first, work out the solutions and come up with a short list, often I make a decision. Last time I purchased a car, I had a short list of three and the cars all configured, but actually I knew which car I wanted and it was really a matter of agreeing the price with the dealer. I think of all us have a buying journey and decision, very similar.
Often I read "sales and marketing gurus" who talk about the buying process process, from a theoretical perspective. Or they talk about it from a vested interest, they say "this is what happens and this is why you need to buy my course". All of us need to get real and stop guessing, because we know how buying works really. So what do the "experts" like gartner say?
This is Gartner view of what the buying process looks like.
I have to be honest, I've never really looked at the diagram and I know that Gartner just describe it as "complex". It is. That said, it doesn't matter where you sit in the argument about what is the best demand generation process, what everybody does agree is that social media is part of the buying process and if you are not on social, or not good at social, then you are leaving money on the table. Even cold calling gurus try and cobble together social selling / virtual selling courses today, so the argument has been clearly won. People but digitally. Period.
Can you influence the buying process?
Of course you can.
Let's work backwards. Let's assume that somebody is going to buy a product, any product, what are they going to do? They are going to search.
The first thing they might do is go to Google. The problem with Google is we all know that people are trying to game the system and they also buy their way to page one. Go to Google and search for "digital marketing" and you will be provided with a totally confusing set of results. Maybe you will find a useful white paper and maybe it will give you an overview. I would suggest that you will want more information, so you will search on social, you will ask your friends and contacts what they are doing and you will ask your wider network.
Regardless of the search, there is one fundamental thing that a buyer is looking for here.
Let's be honest, nobody is search for a brochure or corporate content, why? Because it says the same as everybody else, "buy my product because it's great". In the B2B world, if I have to stand in front of a Board and present why we are going to buy product A, a brochure is no use to me. The Board will just laugh at me.
I want to be helped, I want insight, I want to be told what are the risks, tell me the questions I will get asked at that board meeting. Your content needs to be found at the start of the buying process, at the end of the buying process and all the stages in between.
Hint: Don't forget, I'm not a persona, I'm a real person.
As a salesperson you must be creating content.
To be found, you need to have a wide and varied network and for somebody to want to engage with you, you must have a buyer centric profile. That is how you influence the buying process today.
Let's talk about how you can prospect with social.
Let's flip this in terms of you proactive prospecting
We always laugh at cold callers and emailers as they could be getting so much more results and "better" results with social. Why? Because tasks like cold calling and emailing are harder work. I'm not saying you have to do less work, but it is digital selling easier. Surley, we all want something that means we get more and better results for less time? After all we only have 200 days a year to make our number.
Fear of rejection
On social, you have no need to have fear of rejection, if somebody does not want to talk to you, they just don't respond. There is no calling people or emailing people and them telling you to go away! I'm sure the "red meat" cold callers hate this, after all isn't rejection character building? Maybe, but I want to get the best out of my sales team, I want them all contributing and I want them using the most effective and efficient methods.
Lower barrier to entry
Social provides a lower barrier to entry, than cold calling or cold email. There are no gatekeepers and people, there is no interruption. People will answer when it is convenient to them and people are on social because they want to be. When you call or email people, you are stealing their time, when you are on social, you have the opportunity to save people time and add value.
Back to the buyer's journey.
Guiding people through the buyer's journey
By undertaking those actions above you will be able to guide buyers through the buyer's journey. Key is that social will enable you to engage with buyers earlier in the buyer's journey, enabling you to set the agenda and lock out the competition.
Either the buyer finds you and then you can help the buyer or you can reach out to the buyer and immediately start building a trusting relationship, that will soon have you as trusted advisor. No annoying the client with unwanted phone calls and interruptions, no longer being ghosted by sending emails that just get lost in people's inboxes.
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