Why buyer experience is the most important thing in sales

Carl Carell
April 19, 2019

Traditional selling is dead. Today sales teams win B2B deals by creating exceptional buyer experiences. Simply selling no longer cuts it.

Think about how traditional selling works. In its simplest form, sales reps identify customers with a problem that your product or service solves. And then they use presentations, phone calls, etc. to convince the buyer that they need what you’re selling. Every sales rep action is an effort to drive the deal forward and get the contract signed.

Today’s B2B buyer is remarkably different than the uninformed buyer of the ‘80s and ‘90s. They do their own research long before reaching out to a sales rep, and define their own solutions. In fact, 69% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a salesperson is actively involved in the process.

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.

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.

Benefits of a great buying experience

Delivering a great experience to prospective buyers has the biggest impact on whether or not they will buy something from you. The overall buying experience actually outranks product and price. If you can provide a great buying experience, you will see:

  • More traffic to your website
  • More leads coming in
  • Higher conversion rates
  • Larger average deal size
  • Shorter sales cycle
  • Lower customer churn
  • More referrals

And in return grow 2X faster than your competitors that deliver average experiences!

Why do you need to focus on buying experience?

A. Stiffer competition

Today’s buyers have access to an unprecedented volume of information. They’re savvier, and they have more options than ever before. Think of all the ways they can find out about you and your competition: websites, online reviews, social media platforms, industry publications, blogs, and countless other sources. This makes the competitive environment more challenging every day.

Today’s buyers are just like everybody else: They’re trained to expect experiences tailored to their precise needs and diverse interests. You have to prove your worth, and encourage them to choose you out of all that competition. Their tipping point often comes down to how well they feel understood—and how well your solution speaks directly to their needs.

B. More complex buyer journeys

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 consumers have a plethora of touchpoints: chatbots, email, mobile apps, social media platforms, sharing platforms, digital wallets, branded websites, and dozens more. Whether you are automating outputs or are reaching out personally, each interaction throughout these channels needs to be optimized to minimize confusion, frustration, or overgeneralization.

It’s not only the number of touchpoints that increased, but also the number of decision makers you have to persuade. The New B2B Buyer Experience Report shows that buyers are taking longer to make purchasing decisions, are relying on more people within their company to help make those decisions, and are researching more before contacting a sales rep.

Because today’s buyer journey has become so complex, it’s more important than ever that you provide an exceptional and seamless buyer experience to close the deal. At every stage, you need to tailor the experience to your buyer’s needs and motivations.

C. Emotions drive buying decisions

It’s not enough to present your product or service as the solution to prospects’ problems. Even if you have an intelligent CRM integration, do a better job than your competitors, or have a state-of-the-art feature set, you may not close the deal. You have to make a connection to their innermost emotional challenges.

Why? Because every part of the buying decision—regardless of the deal size—is emotional. Reason and logic may form the foundation for the decision to buy, but feelings, intuitions, and trust seal the deal.

For that reason, you have 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. Or 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.

What exactly is the buyer experience?

We can define it as: “How your target buyers perceive the experience of buying a product or service in your market". The first thing to understand here is that the buying experience should really be understood from the buyer’s perspective. Only the buyer can tell you the steps they must take to get to purchase, what they need at each step and their satisfaction levels throughout the experience.

What does the buyer want?

According to Scott Albro, these are what buyers want when buying something:

  • Simplicity: Buyers are 86% more likely to buy during a simple experience
  • Relevance: 64% of buyers cite that “understanding the customer” is the most important factor for them
  • Information: 95% of buyers prefer brands that provide content throughout the buying process
  • Low Risk: “Reduced financial risk” is cited as the third important factor by 54% of buyers
  • Control: 70% of the buyer experience is completed prior to interacting with the vendor

Where does it begin and end?

The buying experience covers the entire process that the buyer engages in as they move from the status quo (i.e. what the buyer is doing before) to purchase. Some buying experiences are simple enough to consist of just a few steps (e.g. e-commerce). Others, however, are complex enough to consist of dozens to hundreds of steps (e.g. B2B solutions or buying a new home).

From a process perspective, it’s important to understand that the buyer might not make it to a final purchase (i.e. decides not to buy). Similarly, they might buy something from a competitor, but not from you. That doesn’t mean they didn’t have a buying experience.

What are its elements?

  1. Buyer’s Psychology and Emotions: This is the most important element and it covers the buyer’s desires, needs, wants, and fears. It governs much of what the buyer will experience.
  2. Information Buyer Consumes: Most buyers consume tons of information (online reviews, articles, demonstrations, etc.) during the process and view it as the currency of the buying experience.
  3. Interactions During The Process: These interactions are defined by whom the buyer is interacting with (brands, peers, journalists, analysts, the list goes on and on…) and how the interaction takes place (online, in person, the phone…)

How is it different than customer experience?

The buying experience is clearly focused on prospective buyers, whereas the customer experience deals primarily with existing customers. There are many examples that highlight the distinction, but these two show just how different the buying and customer experiences really are:

  • Focus: Buying experience should focus on revenue-oriented objectives such as increased conversion rates and shorter buying cycles. Whereas customer experience focuses on the level of customer satisfaction.
  • Level of Control: You have less control over the buying experience because it’s about prospective buyers—in most cases, people you don’t know—as opposed to the customer experience where you already have a relationship with the customer.

How to improve buyer experience?

First things first, you have to understand where your organization currently stands. By testing your process, interacting with your buyers and evaluating every touchpoint, you have to find the gaps between:

  • What you think your buyers are experiencing
  • What they are currently having in reality
  • What they want to have

Every buyer wants two things:

  1. They want help with making better decisions.
  2. They want it to be easy to get to and make the buying decision.

When designing your experience, you have to focus on moving the buyer to the next step by providing them with what they want and need. This is called buyer-responsive sales and marketing.

Here are some actions you can take:

1. Become a trusted advisor

Sales reps get a bad rap: they’re faced with the stereotype that they’re just trying to trap buyers into losing money. However, buyers respond positively to reps who can serve as a partner with them. You have to establish your credibility and industry knowledge, and then use that trust to actually help the buyer. Teach them about best practices. Stay open about other possible solutions. Focus on your buyer’s needs instead of your company’s solution. Be a sales guide, not a solution peddler. Remember, buyers rate trust as the single most important factor when purchasing products or services, ahead of experience and cost.

2. Build emotional bond

B2B buyers say that helpfulness is the most important quality of a sales rep. Despite the many new ways we communicate with each other, buyers still appreciate human interaction. You have to make a deep, heartfelt connection and build an emotional bond with your buyer. Again, this is about building trust. They want to know there is someone behind the pitch that relates to their needs and who they can trust to help solve their problems whenever they happen. Human interaction is not just about knowing the prospect’s name but also making sure you know their business.

3. Personalize sales content

When buyers say they want sales reps who are helpful, they mean helpful specific to their business challenges. That means your sales content needs to reflect, not just the industry, but every aspect of the buyer’s business. It has to show in specific terms how your solution will deliver ROI. And your sales rep needs to show up with a full understanding of the buyer’s place in the market. This is how trust develops. If buyers can see that you’ve done your homework, and your content is specific to them, it will be easier to see you as a partner to their success.

4. Map to their buying journey

You need to align your sales process steps to match your buyer’s journey. Just because you’re at the discovery stage in your sales cycle doesn’t mean your buyer is too. By mapping to your buyer’s journey, you can provide much more useful insight, which will lead to higher sales engagement. In order to do that, you should design and implement specific sales-plays that are truly buyer-responsive, and make sure you have content to match the whole buying journey.

5. Respond quickly

According to Aberdeen, the majority of B2B buyers need information in a day or less in order to make an effective decision, with 24% needing information within an hour or less. But unfortunately, many reps can’t respond quickly because they’re either too busy doing other tasks, they don’t know when the buyer is showing interest, or they don’t have the tools to personalize sales resources for their buyers. You might consider using a sales enablement software to solve this problem.

6. Show value

According to CEB, B2B buyers who see personal value in a purchase are 71% more likely to buy. Maybe that’s why you should stop focusing on features and start focusing on outcomes. How will your buyers benefit from this purchase? Will it make their jobs easier? Improve their standing among peers? By communicating value (see Harvard Business’ Value Pyramid) at the organizational and individual buyer level, you’ll be able to increase buyer engagement.

7. Support your evangelist

Most likely, your prospect is part of a buying team, which means that they have to convince the other members that your solution is the right choice. According to CEB’s whitepaper, reaching team-wide agreement on a decision is 81% harder than making up their own mind. So you have to make it easy for your evangelist to advocate for you, and they’ll make the selling process easier on you.

Today’s digital buyers expect you to deliver an exceptional experience. Now it’s your turn to take action!

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