Commonly used in consumer marketing, analyzing and mapping the buyer journey is not a new practice. Despite tremendous benefits, it has not been widely adopted in the B2B professional sales space. Buyer solution mapping encourages you to look at the entire lifecycle of a client — identifying every point of contact between your organization and your buyers.
It’s a tool that allows you to identify gaps in your marketing, sales and service processes, and you’ll see where your tactics, online and off, may break down.
WHAT IS SOLUTION MAPPING?
Solution mapping is a process tool for idea creation, problem solving, knowledge sharing, and value and strategy processes. It’s a flexible tool that supports a process in which ideas, problems, and dilemmas are tested, solved, and discussed through the involvement of the desired stakeholders. It is a simple and intuitive process tool that allows for input and critique from several stakeholders — and makes documentation easy. The tool supports a process in which knowledge and ideas are continuously outlined, commented on, and documented. It makes it possible to gather all input — negative as well as positive — and make it visible to everyone in your organization. Solution mapping enables a process in which many stakeholders are involved and where knowledge is shared while reaching toward common qualified results.
The more ideas and solutions are challenged, the better they develop. Solution mapping supports the creation of better ideas by setting up obstructions that challenge the participants in their ability to find and gain new perspectives, ideas and solutions in problem solving. A good idea can always be made better and solutions mapping focuses on overcoming obstructions in the hunt for even better ideas.
THE BUYER JOURNEY DEFINED
Understanding the buyer (or “client” in the B2B professional sales context) journey involves researching and detailing the steps a buyer takes to move through the purchasing and use cycle. It’s a systematic and comprehensive view of their experience that you can summarize in a buyer journey map.
The buyer journey mapping process places you in your clients’ shoes, so you can understand their pain points and enhance their experience. Better client experiences are a critical ingredient to building your business case.
As buyers move back and forth between engaging with you or not, the root cause is that you most likely don't have a clear grasp of the buyer journey with your company. The buyer journey is the process by which a customer interacts with a company to achieve a goal.
You’ll be compelled to answer questions like what does your buyer think about before they launch an engagement with a new organization, how do buyers make decisions, or what factors impact client satisfaction. By wrestling with questions like these and doing your research, you’ll be able to improve the way you connect with prospective clients — and boost your chances of closing sales.
Unfortunately, many sales organizations end their solution mapping process at the point where a prospect becomes a new client. You should never think of closing a new client as the end of the process — after all, it could be the beginning of a years-long relationship. So, your solutions map should also explore what goes on during the client engagement, what happens between engagements and how you can help the clients when new or additional pain points arise within their organizations by deploying your solutions. Such a comprehensive, detailed solutions map helps you analyze your clients’ experiences and pain points to better communicate with them. But where do you start? We will introduce you to a simple model you can use to map out and enrich your B2B client’s lifecycle.
STAGE 1. PRE-PURCHASE EXPERIENCE
The pre-purchase experience begins when potential buyers realize they have a problem they can’t solve on their own. As they begin their research and start looking around for answers, they become aware of your organization. You’ve overcome the first hurdle — your prospects are aware you exist. Next, B2B prospects need to determine whether you can help them and how. Potential clients might talk to colleagues, look at your website or get on social media to find out how others have solved similar problems before they contact you. Ultimately, B2B buyers want to find out if your organization’s expertise and experience are relevant to their problems. Once your potential clients decide which organizations make their short list, they usually do further research, and meet with these companies to see the value of their offerings (how does it impact their financial performance, create value and help reach their goals). At this point in the B2B buying process, there are three possible outcomes:
- You have WON the deal!
- Not now. Frustrating, but not such a bad place to be. The buyer has good feelings about your organization, but the timing is not right.
- The deal was Lost.
Let’s look at next steps considering you have won the deal.
STAGE 2. CLIENT EXPERIENCE
During a client’s initial engagement, they find out what it’s like to work with you and the value your solution(s) provide. While a one-off engagement generates incremental revenue, repeat clients fuel long-term growth. So, it pays to build enduring client relationships and provide long-term solutions that will grow your clients top line. To win repeat business, you need to meet or exceed your clients’ expectations.
As you map out your B2B solutions, ask yourself some questions:
- Are your solutions living up to your promises?
- Are you easy to work with?
- Are you hitting deadlines and staying within budget?
During every engagement, you need to ask yourself how the project is going and what you can do to improve the client’s experience.
STAGE 3: AFTER THE FIRST ENGAGEMENT (The Between Period)
After you’ve completed your first engagement — especially if you’ve made a positive impression — the client may decide they want to use your services again. They may not have an immediate need, but you will be the first one they call when they are ready. Consumer marketers might call this a loyal customer or regular user. In the B2B buying process this stage is pivotal.
Currently, most buyer solution mapping models ignore the stage between engagements, but it’s a critical stage. It represents a significant opportunity — one that’s often missed. You can easily lose out on a future engagement that should be yours simply because the client doesn’t associate your organization with other services you provide.
As you map your journey, think about what it takes to avoid being typecast. It’s not enough to nurture leads — you need to nurture clients, too, educating them about everything you do. Stay on their radar, even after your initial engagement is over. The more they know about you, they more likely they will be to give you a call when the time is right.
Every phase in the B2B buyer’s journey is connected to others. So, you need to be able to step back and see how it all works. That’s where the solution map comes in. Begin by identifying how and when your organization interacts with clients during each stage. Then note these touch points on your map.
Having a comprehensive understanding of your customers is key to achieving core business goals. Whether you’re trying to build (or optimize) the customer experience, or increase sales. Knowing your customers better than they do is key. The late Steve Jobs said, “Get closer than ever to your clients. So close, in fact that you can tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.” This especially holds true in B2B sales.
What does an actual solution map look like? It can take a range of forms — from a highly visual infographic to a spreadsheet to a basic Word document. The tool you choose matters less than the quality of the data that goes into it. The goal is to recognize the critical decision points where buyers will either engage in your services or take another avenue. Only then can you see how you can meet their expectations with your solutions and tip the scale in your favor.
You can plot your own customer solution map with information you probably already have — client satisfaction surveys are a good source. Without detailed research into prospects and current clients — and without a clear understanding of how much clients at every stage know about your range of services — there will be significant areas of unknown or unexplained territory on your map.
To understand where the gaps exist, you’ll need to analyze each client stage. What proportion of clients experience each outcome? For example, how many prospects become clients? How often do clients move into the “between engagements” stage? And, of course, why? Most important, what could improve your clients’ experiences — and create better outcomes? If you can’t answer all these questions, you may need to conduct research to see the full picture and make the most of all of your opportunities.
Don’t overlook the importance of business research. Research gets to the core of what will resonate with your clients and prospects — and is an integral part of connecting with clients. By being able to show existing and potential clients the value of your services, you will be giving yourself and your organization the competitive edge in the market.
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