Banner for Selling Today involves understanding the Evolving Customer Journey

Dr. Scott Downey, Director of the Centre for Food and Agricultural Business at Purdue University, coordinates Purdue’s sales and marketing degree program.

Downey recently spoke about how selling is evolving, how buyers make decisions, The Customer Journey Map, and thoughts about serving customers in the future.

Farming has evolved. There are now bigger farms, more complex farms, and decisions made on farms have evolved as well. 100 years ago, the focus of how products were sold and marketed centered around explaining about the product. Today, the salesperson should know a customer base well enough using data to be able to predict their needs before they offer to solve a problem with a solution.

Buyer’s decisions can be understood by understanding three questions all humans have:

  1. Where are they right now?
  2. Where are they trying to get to? and
  3. How are they using their resources to get there?

All human behavior is based on the answers to these three questions. The resources used to achieve needs (where are they trying to get to?) are finite, and fall under four categories:

  1. Money
  2. Time
  3. Knowledge, and
  4. Relationships.

Humans, however, are by nature irrational, they might not always know where they want to be, and what resources to use to get there, so customers may elect to take shortcuts. Being a good predictive sales representative requires the ability to predict where customers will take these shortcuts. Downey used an example to demonstrate.

“If you ask me what my goals are at the beginning of the year, I’ll tell you I want lose weight. But at the very same time, irrational as though it may be, I like to eat pie. Being predictive is understanding when will I invest resources towards pursuing my goal of losing weight, and when will I invest resources towards my goal of eating pie… For you to be able to predict which one of those I’m going to do means you have to know me really, really well. Just asking me won’t be enough. That means you have got to know me better than me. It means figuring out what are those motivators that determine where I’m going.”

Nowadays, decisions about the value of a solution is not made based on the benefits of the solutions versus the cost. Buying decisions are instead made based on the perceptions of the benefits versus the perceptions of the cost. It is only after the buying decision is made when the perceived benefits are compared to the actual benefits. Customers understand that a sales pitch showcases what the benefits could be, as well as the best possible scenarios. The only thing they know for sure is the cost. The customer then must weigh the perceived benefits with the actual cost, which isn’t easy.

To predict the customer’s behavior, it is important to understand the Buyer Decision Model.

The model begins when the buyer recognizes a need, a gap between where they are and where they want to be. They then invest time to learn what their options are to close that gap. After determining possible options, each will be evaluated before the buyer makes a choice. After the choice is made (the most difficult part) the buyer will reevaluate to confirm whether a choice was the correct one or not. A buyer could be overwhelmed at any stage of this process, and if they are, they may elect to take shortcuts.

The Customer Journey Map is a process of understanding complex customers. A key is to not begin by mentioning any specific company or product to separate the process of looking for a solution and a sales pitch. It is important to understand the customer journey in a complex operation goes beyond just production (fertility, crop plan, seed selection, harvest, etc.), but includes operations (land, rent arrangements, offices, equipment, etc.), business (strategy, marketing, financing, etc.), and people (agronomy, hiring, supervision, etc.). In each of these areas, the seller can identify the buyer’s experiences in each area and record their pains and gains to prioritize those into a way to better serve them.

These techniques require the seller to be genuinely curious about the customer’s business, connect with the customer’s goals, understand how to measure outcomes that are important to the customer, draw insights from the customer to innovate, and express gratitude to the customer.

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