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Mar 27

Win Business by Skipping the Customer Journey

businesswoman-pouring-sand-out-of-shoe_HKGEULArj-500Discussions of the customer journey make me think of a journey my late father once took. He was 20. It was January, 1945 and his B-17 bomber had been shot down over Austria. He was taken captive and placed in solitary confinement, sitting alone in a concrete cell with nothing to do. After two weeks, the guard knocked on the door of the cell and asked him, “Can you be ready to leave in three hours?” Yes, he thought. He could have been ready to leave the cell the second they opened the door. Why wait?

We might do well to think about this story when we map out our customers’ journeys. Some are much shorter than others. If our job is to tee up qualified leads for sales, shorter journeys are better. Much better. How do we shorten the customer journey? My recommendation is to skip it, when you can.

 

Yes, You Will Need to Do Some Nurturing

Some prospects need nurturing. They will be at an early stage of decision making. We love them, even if they aren’t whipping out their checkbooks. Nurture them, but don’t obsess about them. It’s better to find prospects who feel like my father in the prison camp: they desperately want to break out of their situation and they don’t need any encouragement to walk through the open door.

I first noticed this phenomenon years ago when I was working in enterprise software sales. My company introduced a mainframe version of its API management tool. For a lot of reasons, the mainframe tool was more urgently needed than its companion. Making sales calls for the mainframe product was completely different. The conversation went from, “Why are you so great?” to “When can we see it?”

 

Getting Beyond “Why Are You So Great?”

The “Why are you so great?” crowd is in for a long customer journey that may go nowhere. “When can I see it?” reveals a compelling, emotionally tangible and infinitely shorter journey to a buy. How can we skip the long customer journey and move right up to a ready-to-close transaction? Here are some thoughts, based on nearly two decades of experience:

  • Address the prospect’s needs and fears. Effective B2B content invades the buyer’s headspace and hits the critical emotional notes needed to create preference for our product or service. For example, try to complete the sentences, “I want…”, “I need…”, “I have to…” and “I fear…” from inside your customer’s head. What are the emotional buttons you can press? In this way, we might find out, perhaps, that “I want to earn ROI on my mainframe” is a lot more compelling than “I want to rethink my API strategy.” If our material isn’t connecting with the buyer’s emotions, we’re talking to the wrong people. Move on and find people who need to break out of their prison cells, so to speak.
  • Read the buyer’s mind and create content that addresses his or her personal, professional and organizational desires. Mind reading is easier than it sounds. If we pay attention, we will know what’s on our customer’s mind—because, most prospects have similar thoughts and feelings. They want to get ahead. They don’t want to have problems. They want to feel smart and successful. Our content and campaign can speak to those emotional needs.
  • Build competitive differentiation into the content. There’s a lot of not-so-nice talk from competitors going on behind closed doors. Painful as it might be, it pays to think about what our competitors are saying about us and respond to that FUD up front, in the content itself. There’s an art to this, of course. It has to be layered in, implicitly. But, if our competitors are saying, for instance, that our solution is too complex to set up, then we can place some testimonials about how our ease of installation right into the content.
  • Implicitly answer sales objections. We know there will be objections. Like competitive FUD, try to counter them in advance. The more objections go unanswered, the longer and more uncertain the buyer’s journey will be.

 

Tip: Ask Sales Why They Lose Deals

It’s a great practice to ask the sales team for input. They, more than anyone, want fast closes instead of long customer journeys. That said, they may be reluctant to share valuable insights into the customer’s mind. Doing so may make them look ineffective. However, if we can get the sales team to open up and explain why they have lost deals, we will learn how to help them avoid such situations in the future.

My approach is to reassure sales people in advance that we will be having an off the record conversation about problems they’ve had in the field—which I am only trying to solve. In that context, they usually open up and share the insights we need in order to create content that packs an emotional punch and short-circuits the customer journey.