19 July, 2020

Enterprise Sales and the Customer Journey

Customer Journey

Rebecca White

The enterprise customer journey is often misunderstood, and the effect on enterprise sales can be massive. Any opacity regarding this process undermines the success of every rep in your organization.

In this three-part series, Databook shines a light on the customer journey, its impact on the sales cycle, and how understanding this can help you accelerate complex sales.


The Problem is the Point and the Beginning of the Customer Journey

(Check out the infographic)

There’s a big difference between a simple project and a complex one. Some projects are so complex that when you finally settle on a fix, you’ve forgotten the original problem.

But more likely you didn’t lose sight of the problem…you never had it in the first place. How many times have we all tried to fix or improve something, yet couldn’t, because we had no idea what was going on?

Lacking insight is frustrating, disruptive and costly. Anyone who exceeds their construction budget and timeline would agree.

It’s not enough to know you need to take action, you really need to know why and how. The actual problem is often obscured by symptoms, and it takes expertise to find the root matter. The problem is the point, and the beginning of the customer journey.

The Customer Journey Starts at the Top

First, let’s distinguish between the customer journey and the customer lifecycle. The simplest framework for distinction is this: the customer journey is your customer’s experience, and the customer lifecycle is your experience of their experience. The customer journey drives the customer lifecycle; it comes first and dictates the latter.

In large companies, the customer journey starts long before you know anything about it. It starts even before your decision maker or buyer know about it.

The enterprise customer journey starts when your customer’s C-level executive team realizes change is inevitable. It might be driven by an opportunity to build new products or enter new markets; or a competitive risk such as peers adopting new paradigms or technologies. The specifics don’t matter; what matters is that change becomes critical to the bottom line.

In enterprise sales, this is your customer’s true ‘problem’ and financial case for change—and all subsequent decisions flow from it.

The Sales Cycle Starts with the Buy Cycle

Like the customer journey versus the customer lifecycle, the buy cycle is your customer’s experience, and the sales cycle is your experience of their experience. It has the same time-lag too: the enterprise buy-cycle drives the enterprise sales cycle.

At its core the buy cycle has the same five essential stages whether you’re a consumer, a small business or an enterprise company: intention, discovery, comparison, commitment and purchase. Enterprise buy-cycles are much more complex, and subsequently, so are enterprise sales cycles. They take a long time to cultivate and close, involve swaths of people, and every concession or agreement must pass through a maze of internal approvals and paperwork.

More importantly, while information can trickle down, insights almost never do. The distance between your customer’s C-level executive intent and the person herding a contract is vast and growing.

The Enterprise Customer Telephone Game

There are so many layers to a large corporation that even most decision makers are at a great distance from the CEO.

What your decision maker knows is that she’s been empowered by her management team to solve an operational problem or exploit an opportunity to improve performance. What keeps her up at night is different from what keeps her C-level executives up at night, but they are nonetheless intrinsically tied—whether she knows it or not.

It’s your classic telephone game because while her CEO is concerned about profitability and share price, your decision maker is focused on relieving organizational pains, closing opportunity gaps, reducing costs–symptom relief. She might not even know what the C-level problems are.

Most organizations aren’t practiced or efficient at sharing insights from the C-level down through the rest of the company. A few team members might have the skills to dig deep and get an idea of what’s happening at the top, but not many do.

The Power of Controlling Buyer Discovery

Your buyer has even less understanding of the C-level problem than your decision maker. He experiences the pain differently, too.

Similar to your decision maker, your buyer is thinking about the things he experiences and can conceptualize: aging technology, changing workflow requirements or a new execution model. He’s also fielding one-off requests from the sales team.

What he’s not doing is thinking about SG&A, supply chain margins or top-line profitability.

Unfortunately, it’s the buyer who drives the active buy-cycle. During the discovery process he will control:

  1. Defining the problem
  2. Scoping the requirements
  3. Creating the vendor shortlist
  4. Disseminating information to the buying team

He controls the entire discovery process, and he’s not at all focused on the true customer problem.

Does Lack of Insight During Discovery Throttle Enterprise Customer Value?

Yes! We’ll tell you why in our next blog.

Thanks for reading.