I’d been working for eight months on one of the biggest deals of my career. It was decision time.
My company was competing against one other competitor.
All of the positives were in our favour.
We ticked every single box they had.
Customer: “Sorry, guys, we’ve decided to go with someone else.”
Me: “WHAT?” (gasping but showing no real emotion)
[I looked my customer square in the eye, as I couldn’t contain myself.]
Me: “Richard, are you serious?”
Customer: “Yeah, Jermaine. Your offer was good but the other company demonstrated added value we hadn’t considered in the relationship. We still love you guys and want to continue with the other stuff we’re doing. But, on this project, we’re going in a new direction.”
Me: (in my mind a song plays… “The first cut is the deepest…”)
This was a customer I’d worked with for six years, who we’d given blood, sweat and tears to.
This was the day I finally began to notice some hard truths about customer relationships. It was this that triggered the start of my five-year intensive study and obsessive journey to understanding customer growth and relationships.
One of the truths I learnt, and want to share with you, is connected to the buyer’s process and the unspoken areas most professionals miss with existing customers.
We believe when we acquire a customer we no longer need to follow a process of helping them make decisions in their best interest. Decisions that, if considered properly, will be based on our core expertise and will lead to us being the best and only solution.
When reading what I’m going to share, you may say…
“Jermaine, I’ve heard this before.”
While you may have heard this truth, it’s about owning the truth and taking action on it.
Once you add the understanding and application of the buying process to your customers, it will redefine and reshape every approach you take to your current and future opportunities.
Believe it or not, there are over 300 million pieces of content written on buyer decision making.
You’ll hear a lot about logic over emotions, as that is the reality of what we do and how we weigh our decisions through an emotional lense over a logical one.
There is new incumbent research from institutions like Harvard, who argue that we are less logical than we think to a significant degree, and actually 95% of our decisions are emotion-driven.
Here’s the truth…
We’ve been reviewing customer trends and consumption habits since the early 1900s and probably even earlier. No one really knows the real percentage or specific impact some influencing triggers have over others on customer decisions.
For example, in historical archives like Taylor & Francis, which has established economic texts from the 1800s, there are hundreds of industry-based studies that indicate wildly different examples of consumer behaviour influence.
One example is the ceramics industry in the 1980s. Buying decisions were significantly influenced by specific magazine purchases and geographical distinction. The decisions change from being different from your neighbour in another state or county, or if the purchase could be made the same day and delivered within the week.
Yes, even before Amazon we wanted same week delivery! 😄
What we do know broadly from the early 2000s until now is there is a buyer’s journey. The marketing industry was at the forefront of highlighting this.
There is a range of tactics and strategies that work to support the customer in particular situations.
Everywhere possible I do my best to take concepts that are highly rich, and then narrow them down to allow my customers to take full advantage of them in their richest form.
The Five Buying Decisions
There are five buying stages every customer needs to make before they truly commit to, and fully embrace a decision.
This process can happen fast in B2C purchases, for example, when buying detergent, chocolate or socks. But in the modern B2B environment this process is slowed down considerably and typically has 4 + 1 elements:
- The increase in the number of people in the buying process.
- Complexity or newness of a product or service.
- The resource capability or expertise of the customer.
- The demonstration and clarity of business benefits by the partner.
+ 1 – The consistent bombardment of new and unfiltered information that can confuse or sabotage buyer conversations.
In order for us to effectively navigate these potential blocks and the process, we must understand the buying journey and buying commitments.
These influence how quickly a decision is made and the likelihood of new, and especially existing customers choose us every single time.
The five stages in the buyer’s journey have two unique elements rarely discussed but implied in what we know about decision making today both at a practical and a neurological level.
These two elements are important first factors in understanding how to approach and manage the entire buying process with your existing customers.
The buying commitments lie underneath the buying decision journey.
These are perhaps the most important and undervalued areas in complex B2B markets where you are selling large solutions that impact multiple people, departments and work environments.
It was the connection between this and the buying journey decisions that I missed those years ago with the big customer deal I lost. 😞
CASE STUDY EXAMPLE
A very big customer of mine went through a similar challenge.
They had lost a tender for a very big transformation project with a customer they’d worked with for years. They were now being asked to tender for another important customer worth millions they were already working with.
Having learnt from their previous experience, they knew their behaviour was becoming a dangerous trend and they wanted to prepare for it, and most of all stop it.
Through my work with them, we recognised they were getting to the “Relationship/Options” area of the diagram above but were failing to add in getting the pre-commitment needed before moving on.
Each tender cost thousands in man-hours. This value was being massively eroded, and the relationships weren’t getting stronger.
Among other strategies I implemented with them, we re-assessed their buyer journey and commitments process. I helped them to learn a new way to approach evaluating and creating a more attractive proposition through Relational Influence and Value Advantage.
It took us just 48 days to design this process.
My customer won the tender at the margin and price they wanted, and it generated 22 million in revenue.
They now had the methodology and successfully used it to map against all their other customer accounts.
Integrating the Buyer Process
The buying process may seem like a lot. Yet when reviewed closely against your sales process, you’ll recognise these components support any customer review and qualification process.
There are two immediate actions you can do today:
- Design questions that uncover or help the customer at each stage in the buying process, both their journey and commitments.
- Review any currently stalled projects and match against the buying process to understand where your customer is stuck.
You must apply this intentionally, with the view to really help the customer evaluate the right problems to solve. If needed, illuminate compelling benefits they see themselves as this will enable them to more confidently commit and be willing to invest what is needed.
What happens if you find yourself stuck in a particular place?
Take the space to really look at one specific key customer account and follow this process through. I can guarantee you will be enlightened by your findings.
This is just one of many powerful customer concepts within the Customer Mastery system.
If you’d like to know how you, your team and organisation can take full advantage of how to use buyer commitments with any key customer, then get in touch with my team at www.jermaineedwards.com/
Ensure your clients are ready to make decisions with you consistently.
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