Today’s buyers are overwhelmed with information. They have unlimited amounts of information about a company and a company’s competitors from websites, peer review sites, social media platforms, industry reports, trade magazines and multiple other sources. Most companies make the problem worse by organizing the buyer journey around their product and company story.
What buyers want most is not more information on your product or company: They want your help cutting through information overload to see how you can help achieve a critical goal or remove a key pain point. This gap, between the old approach of companies pitching their product and buyers wanting an authentic experience anchored on their goals, has been growing for years.
The challenge emerged first in the sales experience. Almost a decade ago, Forrester Research did a study that found 80 percent of executives believe meetings with sellers are a waste of time, and three-quarters said sellers are “not knowledgeable about their business” or “their specific business issues.”
Even as the information-abundant environment has changed buyer behavior, most sales teams have not adapted. Gartner’s research on the new B2B buyer journey shows an expansion of individuals contributing information and inputs in the buying process. The typical buying process now has more than seven people involved. Gartner also found that two-thirds of the time in the buying process was spent looking at product alternatives, with just 20 percent of the time spent with vendors. Yet, most sales people squander this narrow window of time to make an impact. Sales teams overshare product options and information, believing buyers need to “consider all options” and that “more information leads to better decisions.”
Your buyers have access to almost unlimited information about your products. They don’t want more product information from your team; rather, they want to quickly understand how your product helps achieve what they value most.
It is not just in sales but also in marketing and customer success where there is a growing disconnect between buyers who want authenticity and go-to-market teams who focus on product. Go-to-market teams have responded to the demand for information by doubling down on content development, but this content too often has an inside-out perspective, focusing on the company’s product and story rather than on the buyer’s journey. In fact, a recent article showed that while 91 percent of B2B companies use content marketing and 56 percent increased content production in the last twelve months, only 30 percent have a defined buyer journey that motivates their content strategy.
The drift back toward a company’s product and product pitching is strong across sales, account management and customer success teams. There are two reasons:
- Buyers and customers are often quick to ask for more details on a product or to insist that they need a product demonstration
- Go-to-market team members in marketing, sales, and customer success are comfortable with their product and standard product talk tracks. Conversations on a buyer or customer goals, by contrast, are fluid and can be unpredictable.
Investments in enabling an authentic buyer journey are well worth the return. The commitment to putting buyer goals first and product second accelerates growth at each phase of the buyer journey.
What Is the Authentic Buyer Journey?
Mursion vs. Salento: Two Growth Trajectories
To begin to understand how an authentic buyer journey can drive revenue growth, let’s compare the growth trajectories of Mursion and Salento (not its real name), another company offering immersive VR. Mursion is a client of my company, Winalytics; Salento is not. I analyzed both companies with the same go-to-market diagnostic I use when I begin a comprehensive review of a company’s commitment to an authentic buyer journey.
The diagnostic review starts with the website and screen captures of the home page, as well as any pages related to product and services, how it works, resources, content, community and about us pages. I sign up for the company’s newsletters and wait to start to receive prospecting outreach emails. I then use the website to book a demo. During the demo, I take screen captures of their sales deck structure and presentation, and I take notes on the structure of questions, product discussions and offers made in the call. I look at the follow-up email to the sales call. In all cases, I am comparing the weight of leading with a buyer’s goals and desired impacts that might result from a partnership with a new company against that of a focus on leading the buyer experience around the company’s product.
With Mursion and Salento, the comparison using this diagnostic was straightforward. Mursion and Salento both use immersive VR training to help companies deliver experiential learning at scale for soft skills like leadership, customer service, sales, and diversity and inclusion. Both have developed their immersive VR offerings to tap into a huge market for corporate training that is variously estimated to be between $87 billion and $142 billion. Some of that investment is to train and onboard new employees so they quickly understand their job roles, acquire new skills and learn the company culture. Other training focuses on existing employees the company wants to upskill to improve the employees’ performance, job satisfaction and career prospects, as well as the company’s own performance. Managerial training to make leaders more effective is also a common form of investment.
Traditionally, corporate training has been done in an instructor-led classroom environment. Classroom-based training builds consistency in the learning experience and makes interactive learning from peers and instructors possible. However, there is a very high coordination cost to getting all learners to the same physical or virtual space, and opportunities for an individual learning experience are limited. As an alternative, many companies have started to invest in self paced e-learning solutions, involving video or digital learning as well as coaching solutions. These newer forms of training allow each learner to move at their own pace and for instruction to be individualized, but they make it difficult to create a consistent learning experience, and they miss the social and interactive elements of learning that are so critical for skill and behavioral retention in employees.
While both companies offer the same category of product, their growth trajectories could not be more different. Each company first launched their immersive VR platform for soft-skills training in 2014. Nearly a decade later, Mursion has become the market leader for immersive VR, with around $20 million in revenue, a plan to become a $50 million company, and inclusion in the Financial Times’s 2021 list of the fastest-growing companies in America. In contrast, Salento has reached only a fraction of Mursion’s revenue.
It’s About Us vs. It’s About You
While there are many factors that shaped these two very different growth trajectories for Mursion and Salento, one of the important factors is a very different buyer journey.
Salento uses a very traditional, product-centric approach to the buyer journey. At the top of the company’s website home page there is a nod to experiential learning being linked to a superior workforce. However, after this mention of a potential buyer goal, the home page immediately focuses on Salento’s award-winning technology, followed by a section on the award they received, then a section called About Us and a section called Our Products. The product-centric focus continues in prospecting outreach to new potential buyers. Prospecting emails focus on their branded immersive platform as the ultimate training and development platform proven to improve business results. The emails focus on options for VR-only training packages and blended, instructor-led training packages that make training deployments turnkey and also offer a 100 percent unconditional satisfaction guarantee.
To build an authentic buyer and customer journey, you need to begin and end every conversation focusing on what matters most to that buyer or customer. Resist the temptation to drift back into product pitching mode.
Mursion’s website and initial prospecting emails to a new potential buyer are completely different. The header on Mursion’s home page focuses not on the company or the company’s product, but on a series of goals and challenges a buyer may be working on that Mursion can help address. The header rotates through a series of panels on “difficult leadership conversations,” “making inclusion a reality,” “becoming more empathetic” and “upleveling the customer experience through stronger customer success skills.”
Like the Salento home page, the Mursion home page continues with a list of top clients. Then it pivots to inviting the visitor to join its peer community. The peer community offers an opportunity to stay abreast of the latest trends and best practices in using virtual reality to build essential skills. The visitor is also encouraged to start the process of building their own custom simulation to reflect the reality of their specific workplace.
The focus on the buyer and the buyer’s goals continues into email outreach. Most of Mursion’s outreach to new prospects begins with questions like, “Are you working on scaling leadership training? Or building the soft skills in your workforce to create a more diverse and inclusive culture?” The prospecting emails continue by sharing names of other companies that are working on a similar challenge, and inviting the new prospect to a value-added mutual discovery call to share some lessons from these peer customers. Intentionally or unintentionally, Salento is communicating to potential customers, “This is about us, our product and our success.” Mursion, by contrast, is very clearly saying to potential customers, “This is about you, your goals and challenges and the learnings we can share from our work with your peers.”
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Excerpted from The Revenue Acceleration Playbook by Brent Keltner. Copyright © 2022 by Brent Keltner. Used by permission of Page Two Books.