Recently, I was speaking with an executive whose team was involved in a major purchase decision. I asked him to describe his buying process/journey. He looked at me with an amused/quizzical look. “We don’t think in terms of a buying journey. We just have something we need to get done, part of it involves buying…”
All of a sudden, it struck me: The buying process or buying journey is just an artifact invented by marketers and sellers to rationalize what we want to inflict on the customers.
Of course I’m being a little harsh here, customers do talk in terms of buying processes and journeys, but only because we’ve trained them in that—so they’ve adopted our language. But customers don’t really think in terms of a buying journey. Customers just want to get stuff done! They think in terms of projects, things they need to get done to achieve their business goals. Buying is sometimes a component of those projects.
Even if buying is the project, “We need to buy a…” they still think of it as a project, not a buying journey. (By the way, if this is how they describe the project to you, you are already very late in what they are trying to achieve.)
Several years ago, I was asked to speak to a group of procurement experts. As I listened to their discussions, the concept of buyer’s journey never came up. Here was a group of some of the most advanced thinkers in buying—people whose job was to buy, and they didn’t describe what they did in terms of their buying journeys!
Why is this important?
We are (or should be) trying to see things through our customers eyes, thinking the way they think, approaching things in a context that is meaningful to what they want to do.
In the “old days,” we were less sensitive, we focused on ourselves and what we wanted to do to our customers—we wanted to sell to them.
Then some guru came up with the idea, “Customers don’t want to be sold to, they want to buy…”
Immediately, we adopted the “buyers’ perspectives,” we translated our language from selling to buying, using terms like the buying process and the buying journey to make us appear to be more customer sensitive. But, too often, they are thinly disguised terms of what we want to do to the customers. We want them to buy, we focus on the things that make them buy.
What if we changed our perspectives?
Our customers have projects—these projects are things they want to do, goals they want to achieve, changes they want to make, improvements to what they do. What if we started talking to our customers about their projects and plans? What is we started looking at how we could help them with those projects, help them to better execute their project plans?
Why do we need to inflict our language, regardless how politically correct, on our customers? Wouldn’t we be more effective if we worked with them on what they need to get done? Wouldn’t we be more impactful if we looked at things the way they look at things?
Ask yourself a question, when was the last time a customer described what they wanted to do as a “buying journey?”