October 20, 2022

Uncovering the B2B Buyer’s Journey

Written by Karli Stone

Making sense of the buyer’s journey can feel like trying to solve a puzzle that’s missing half of the pieces.

What are buyers thinking and feeling? What are they searching for? Who are they communicating with? When are they going to take action?

There are so many unknowns that make it difficult for salespeople to use the right messaging at the right time. While you can’t become a mind reader, you can become a more predictive seller by better understanding the buyer’s journey.

Stick with us to learn the three stages of the buyer’s journey and how you can leverage selling tools like intent data to break into the customer decision-making process at full force.

An example of the buyer’s journey

Before we dive in, let’s take a look at a typical buyer journey in action:

Emma, a pricing analyst at a small real estate company, spends too much time searching for important documents and client information.

As she enters the awareness stage, she casually searches Google for “file organization software for small businesses” and finds a few blogs on top organization tools for her company size.

As Emma does some reading, her problems become more apparent and she starts to recognize the need for better organization at her workplace. She officially enters the consideration stage and starts narrowing down her options based on her research. She starts using chat boxes, requesting demos, and having email exchanges with sales reps.

Emma eventually moves into discussions surrounding price, contracts, and scalability and reaches the decision stage. She chooses the vendor who provides her with the most value at the best price.

The three stages of the buyer’s journey (and how to engage in each one)

The three stages that Emma goes through—awareness, consideration, and decision—are the phases that typically define the buyer’s journey. Buyers have different needs and expectations at each stage, and understanding what they are can help sellers seamlessly move leads through their sales funnel.

Note: While the number of stages a buyer goes through on their path to purchase can vary, these three are the central stages most all of your leads will follow.

Stage 1: Awareness (TOFU – Top of the funnel)

In the awareness stage, your potential customers are experiencing symptoms of their problem and identifying their pain points.

More likely than not, they don’t know about your product yet (or your competitors’). They are shuffling around online trying to educate themselves on the issue surrounding their business. Their motivation is solving problems, getting answers, and/or meeting a need.

How sellers should engage

Without intent tools (we’ll get to those later…), it’s tricky for sellers to engage with leads in the early awareness stage because buyers are almost completely self-guided. They have yet to make themselves known.

When you are able to find and engage with top-of-the-funnel buyers (via intent data, marketing campaigns, etc.), you should focus on creating connections, asking questions about their needs, and making them aware of solutions.

The key is not to sell! Your message should always be customer-focused rather than product-focused.

A few effective strategies for engaging buyers at this stage include sending a personalized video or connecting with leads on LinkedIn.

Stage 2: Consideration (MOFU – Middle of the funnel)

Once buyers understand the basics of the market, their goals will change. They will move from familiarizing themselves with their problem and potential solutions to weighing their options.

Also known as the evaluation stage, the consideration stage is when buyers are committed to understanding all available solutions and start to narrow down which ones are right for them.

How sellers should engage

When your leads’ motivations change, so should your methods. As they consider their options, your brand will become a very influential factor. You want to position your product as the best fit for buyers.

Use your unique selling proposition (USP) to answer a lead’s most important question at this stage:

“What makes you different from the competition?”

Here are a few tips for navigating this part of the buyer’s journey:

  • Stay focused on what your customers value. Use what you learned about their pain points and specific needs in your discussions.
  • Be clear about your product’s unique benefits. Paint a picture of a customer’s improved reality after purchase.
  • Show the product in action. Visuals are powerful. Offer a demo or trial to allow the buyer to experience the solution first-hand.
  • Provide social proof. Sending a case study, highlighting positive reviews, or sharing a positive customer story is an effective way to move buyers to the bottom of the funnel.

Stage 3: Decision (BOFU – Bottom of the funnel)

In this stage, the buyer is ready to make a purchase. They will ultimately choose the product that offers them the most value at the right cost.

They are often looking for information on how your product works, how others have been successful with your product, and specifics on plans and pricing.

How sellers should engage

All the work you have done throughout the buyer’s journey will pay off here. Your prospects should already be very familiar with your product and its value and you can begin to move into product-heavy conversations, using closing techniques.

Sellers should begin to create a sense of urgency with buyers. Adding a deadline to your sale and including time-limited bonuses can ensure that buyers won’t stall. To maximize funnel conversions, you should also make sure that the process of becoming a customer is as simple and easy as possible (e.g. minimal paperwork, quick responses and offers, and support in implementation).

How to identify early-stage prospects

Did you know that 74% of B2B buyers choose the vendor who is the first to provide them with value? Getting in front of prospects early in their buyer’s journey is the key to closing more deals.

You might be asking the million-dollar question: “But how can sellers find prospects in the early stages of the buying journey? Aren’t they almost entirely self-guided?”

We’re glad you asked.

Break into the buyer’s journey with intent data

As we’ve learned, when buyers have a problem, they research to find a solution.

Intent data provides sellers with insights into buyers’ online behaviors and activities. This means you can identify who is expressing interest in your product or service—before any interaction happens!

Early-stage leads will often express intent signals around general keywords and educational topics about their pain point. For example, our pricing analyst from the story above expressed an early-stage intent signal when she performed research on “file organization software”.

As they move through their buyer’s journey, their intent signals will become stronger (aka. more product-specific and defined). LeadSift found that “action-based” intent increased by 60% from Stage 1 to 2 of the buyer’s journey.

Savvy sellers use the “strength” of intent signals to uncover where their leads are in the buyer’s journey and engage them with relevant content.

Tip: SDRs have even seen success with mentioning the intent signals they have seen in their cold calls and emails (i.e. “I’ve seen you researching for payroll software”).

Have more intent data questions? Check out this blog on intent data FAQs. You can also jump right in and give intent data a try today with Buying Intent from Apollo.

Karli Stone headshot Karli Stone