The old rule in sales ABC “Always Be Closing” has passed its use by date. Today ABC would serve us better if it stood for “Always Be Changing”. And this rate of change has never been more challenging for Sales and Marketing because business as usual has come to a sudden end as power has shifted from the Vendor to the Customer. The world has changed and this has created 2 game-changing mega shifts:

Mega Shift #1. B2B shifts to B2C: Here I see two emerging types of consumers: Corporate Consumers and Connected Customers.

Corporate Consumers are those people in the organisation who have a problem and have or can find budget to fix it. Think of the VP of Sales who is trying to prepare his sales forecast for the board the next day. He trials/buys a single user license of, then gets his direct reports to start using it and 6 -18 months later the entire organisation is using it. Corporate Consumers are those individual decision makers in the company and are the entry point to corporate adoption.

Connected Customers are always online and do or want to do everything online. Connected customers navigate a large part (60% to 70%) of the buying decision with information gathered online before contacting a representative of the vendor or services provider. They are influenced by, and share their buying experiences (good or bad) with, their network of professional and personal contacts.

Mega Shift #2. The Sales Cycle shifts to The Buyer’s Journey:

The impact of the shift to Corporate Consumers and Connected Customers is this. If the Decision Maker (buyer) is different then in all probability the way he/she makes buying decisions will be different also. Therefore, you must align the way you sell with the way these people want to buy. In other words the Sales Cycle is dead, long live the Buyer’s Journey!

“The best way to succeed in sales is to make the buying experience irresistible” David Ednie, President & CEO, SalesChannel Europe

“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.” – Walt Disney

The Buyer’s Journey (see graphic, with special thanks to Tom Russell of Meeting Magic) is what is critical to creating happy, satisfied and delighted customers. The Buyer’s Journey is a series of sequential steps that we all go through when making a buying decision. It starts with SEARCH, which is done online today. Followed by FIND, where we get a number of options or alternatives to consider. We then QUALIFY our selection down to 1 or 2 possible solutions. This is followed by TRY. Here we evaluate our qualified choices by testing it out in a trial usage evaluation. The next step is BUY. Assuming that the trail experience is positive we will go ahead and buy the Cloud service and start using it immediately. To do this we need to ACTIVATE the service and that is usually the trigger point for being billed for the service. The next step is MANAGE, which is where we configure the service by setting parameters and preferences, etc. The next step is UP-SELL. Here we have the possibility to purchase additional functionality, capacity or performance as needs require. SUPPORT is the next step. Here we get resolution to problems and questions that arising from using the service. The last and final step in the Buyer’s Journey is REFER. People tend to share highly positive (and highly negative) experiences with others. We will tell anyone who will listen about what a great choice we made if we were genuinely delighted with our experience at each and every step in the Buyer’s Journey. This is where shared experiences can go viral and you can turn your customers into your unpaid sales force. Refer is therefore an enormous ‘multiplier moment’ opportunity (and a threat). An enormous threat if the customer experience is bad or sub standard and an enormous opportunity if the customer has a great or better than expected experience. Creating satisfied customers is not enough. Creating delighted customers is better but still insufficient. Today, you must create devoted customers and then get them to share their devotion with others.

Question: Have you aligned your Sales and Marketing actions with your Buyer’s Journey?

Read blog post: The Buyer’s Journey: The 5 steps of the Buyer Decision Process

View Slideshare: Tipping the funnel: Make your customers your unpaid sales force

Read the book: The End of Business as Usual by Brian Solis