The Buyer’s Journey

The Buyer’s Journey

The image below depicts the five phases a buyer moves through to recognize a need, assess alternatives, make a purchase, and promote that solution.

five phases a buyer moves through

Buyers move through these stages with no assistance.

Moving through the phases is like an element moving through changes of state, from gas, to liquid, to solid.

It is primarily an emotional journey. The changes of state are changes of emotional state.

An Example

Latent need: I am not looking at cars.

Trigger event: My CFO says the lease on my current car is expiring in 60 days.

Active need: I am now paying close attention to cars. I stop a fellow member of my gym and ask how she likes her new Tesla SUV.

Analysis: I ask my accountant if I should buy or lease. I research traditional engines versus hybrid versus electric.

Action: I buy a car.

Promoter: If the experience is good, I tell my peers, friends, and family.

Sales Bridges

Now let’s consider how salespeople can act as the catalyst to facilitate the change from one state the next.Trigger

Trigger: You can be the trigger that helps someone move from latent to active need via phone calls, webinars, proactive referral generation, etc.

If you lead a buyer to recognize the need to change, they will naturally see you as a valued advisor in the process.


Diagnose: There is a perfect storm that occurs as buyers rush to look at solutions and sellers rush to premature presentations and demos. Neither party does a solid diagnostic.

Buyers are reluctant to do a deep diagnosis because people tend to avoid the vulnerability that proper diagnosis requires.

Salespeople can add value by guiding the diagnostic process, yet many avoid asking questions because we fear that being intrusive might lead to conflict, and ultimately kill the deal.

Here’s some data to support this counter-intuitive concept…

The US Government Services Administration (GSA) released a report on federal purchasing, which stated that:

  • 83% of IT projects are late
  • 74% are over budget
  • 67% did not produce the desired goal

Before the reader leaps to the conclusion that this is unique to the government, Gartner reported similar numbers on the commercial side.

Lack of proper diagnosis frequently leads to poor outcomes, just as it would in medicine.

So, slow the process down to speed the sales cycle up overall. This rigor will also:

  • Increase the odds that a decision is reached (increase win rate).
  • Lead to a mutual agreement to disengage early, and decrease time wasted on lost causes.
  • Improve the outcome for the buyer.

ProveProve: One would think that the largest global organizations, like the US Department of Defense, Siemens, IBM, and Salesforce, know how they are going to buy. But the truth is that buyers do not know how they are going to decide until they decide.

Sellers can add value in the move from Analysis to Action by co-building a Mutual Action Plan that bridges the chasm of doubt and hesitation. The MAP provides a predetermined path to an informed decision by the buyer via a reasonable and respectful process for the seller. 

DelightDelight: As we move more toward the cloud and SaaS, the role of Account Manager and Customer Success Manager is becoming more important to top line growth.

Software and SaaS companies need a proactive process to ensure they provide a solution, not shelfware.  To do that, we have to understand their need exactly in order to satisfy their need exactly.

If you, or your sales team needs help optimizing this process, please contact Steve Kraner at (703) 966-0192.