The Buying Cycle Disconnect

Talk to salespeople about their process to engage with prospective buyers and you’ll hear all about the sales methodology and sales life cycle they use. Marketing also has a life cycle for designing, developing, launching and executing campaigns plus another life cycle for managing, nurturing and distributing leads. These life cycles are all necessary and important.

However, these are all inside-out processes on how you want to engage with prospective buyers or how they should engage with you. That’s an unrealistic perspective.

Prospective buyers have their own buying life cycle that they will follow. Whether or not it’s a defined methodology, all B2B buyers will follow a similar process for acquiring whatever product/service/solution they need. Customers want to go through their buying life cycle processes and will buy when they are ready. You can achieve much better results by understanding and connecting with your prospective customer’s buying life cycle. I’m not suggesting you put the customer in the driver’s seat – sales still needs to manage and control the process, but to better align your marketing and sales processes with the buying cycle and the outside-in perspective.

Although buying cycles vary by industry, product, service, solution, etc. there are common processes that most buyers want to step through. The diagram to the right outlines the major steps in a generalized B2B customer buying process:B2B Buying Cycle

  1. Sidelines – the vast majority of your prospective buyers are sitting on the sidelines, not actively looking to buy anything related to what you’re selling.
  2. Awareness – prospective buyers are aware of the general category or type of product/service/solution you are selling, but have not identified a need for it yet.
  3. Interest – the prospective buyer has identified a problem or opportunity that needs to be addressed and explores the issue in greater depth.
  4. Research – the prospective buyer defines their requirements and actively researches a long list of possible solutions for the identified problem or opportunity.
  5. Consideration – the prospective buyer finds suitable solution sources, gets more detailed information and does comparisons to compile a short list of possible solutions.
  6. Decision – the short list solutions are evaluated in various ways including customer defined demonstrations, tests, in-depth analysis and other methods to find the most suitable solution. The buyer could also decide not to buy anything. Marketing is usually disengaged at this point.
  7. Purchase – the purchase is made and everyone is happy for a fleeting moment. Sales usually disengage at this point.
  8. Implementing – the implementation process to get the solution installed and working for the customer in the manner they expect. Vendor or third party professional services usually assist customers with this step.
  9. Implemented – the solution is actively working for the customer. Vendor engagement with customers is primarily through support services from this point forward.
  10. Achievement – the customer (hopefully) begins to realize the benefits they set out to achieve from the solution.
  11. Loyal Customer – cultivating a satisfied and loyal customer has many benefits including additional purchases and referrals.
Although some of these steps in the buying cycle may seem beyond the interests of a marketing and sales discussion, I’ve specifically included them because they are frequently overlooked opportunities for marketing and/or sales to be engaged.

In the next several blog posts, I’ll delve into each step in more detail to explore how marketing and sales can engage more effectively and productively in the customer buying cycle to produce better results.

Your comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2009 The Marketing Mélange and Ingistics LLC.