revenue operations

buyer journeys aren't linear!

by: andrew vojslavek -
5 mins read

Have you?

In my personal life, I have not experienced linear progress in the following: business acumen, rock climbing, parenting, learning a new language, weight loss, etc.

Working with startups and the Fortune 500 has shown us that most companies think about the buyer's journey like this:

This is just plain wrong.

For starters, it's a straight line in one direction.

Next, there's only a single journey (we'll cover that in another post...)

Finally, there's a definite beginning and end. At fsp, we think of it more like a mobius strip; never ending, overwhelmingly complex, yet undeniably elegant.

So what?

What's wrong with planning around a linear buyer journey? Much the same as my journey in rock climbing, learning new subjects, and weight loss I didn’t account for the challenges that were inevitably going to come my way, such as budget, time, motivation, other humans, cultural factors, and competition. To put it simply, you end up spending too much time "planning around" it.

Most companies enable their sellers (...and sometimes buyers) as though the journey is a stroll through the park.

It's actually something far more sinister...

In reality, companies should prepare for the voyage as a fellowship. Where buyers bear the burden of the One Ring as Frodo and sellers loyally support them as their personal Samwise.

There's probably a handful of other analogies here. Maybe Gollum is a really bad sales rep? I dunno, we'll work on that.

Why aren't buyer journeys linear?

To set the stage, here's a quick example of an individual lead's non-linear experience as it moves toward qualification:

As we've mapped it here, you can see that there are three primary stages in this lead's journey (each existing in both a positive and negative (-) state):

Solution Validation - lead stage, when a prospective buyer spends time assessing multiple solution(s) to qualify which meet the criteria to solve their problem(s) on a basic level

Solution Understanding - lead stage, when a prospective buyer gains understanding across their potential solutions to the degree that they can make an informed decision

Solution Exploration - lead stage, when a prospective buyer has determined that one (or multiple) solutions meet enough criteria to enter into a sales process and willfully engage in next steps (e.g. respond to a sales email, setup a free trial, schedule a demo, etc.)

The trick here is to simplify the buyer journey as best you can by promoting positive experiences (y-axis) and movement forward (x-axis). It is important to note that helping someone disqualify themselves isn't a negative experience. Rather, negative experiences are caused by unintended action as compared to an "ideal" buyer journey.

On top of this, we have business constraints, business culture, and human behavior to contend with. All keeping us from keeping on the fastest path between point A and point B.

Now What?

  1. Admit that you have multiple buyer journeys
  2. Accept that they are complex
  3. Ask your organization to help identify inefficiencies at a team level
  4. Interview customers to understand their challenges
  5. Gather supporting data across your tech stack
  6. Form hypotheses to test as you update your buyer journeys
  7. Set your controls and metrics as you iterate toward success
  8. Rise. Repeat.

"But, fsp, we don't have any customers yet. We're just getting started!"

That's totally fine. You can still create a dynamic customer journey:

  1. Conduct research calls across any potential ideal customer profiles (ICPs), industry experts, and those who have purchased similar products.
  2. Talk to the competition. Experience their sales process, get in touch with their previous employees, call their current customers.
  3. Survey proto-buyer personas. Post on Linkedin, Reddit, or a Slack channel where your prospects congregate. Make sure to capture their title so you can weigh the responses based on fit.
Important Note:

DO NOT TRY TO SELL DURING THESE ACTIVITIES. It might happen naturally, but that isn't the goal of these meetings. Go in with a set list of questions and set next steps as necessary

One does not simply walk to Mordor… Er, I mean creating a buyer journey isn't easy.

There's too much to unpack here in a blog post, but we hope this takes you one step farther than you've ever been from the blissful ignorance of the shire.

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