The diary entry for Louis XVI on July 14th 1789, (the day of the storming of the Bastille which sparked the French Revolution) simply reads: “Rien” or “Nothing.”  Now there was a guy that was out of the loop! You can’t really blame Louis – information was harder to come by back then and news travelled slowly so it’s no surprise he didn’t think anything important happened that day.

Today, there’s no excuse. Prior to the web, customers seeking business solutions had to ask vendors for guidance quite early on in the buying process. This is because the critical information they needed simply wasn’t available anywhere else. But today customers are better informed – more so now than ever before. By the time a prospect approaches a supplier, they not only have a clear idea about the problem they need to solve, they also know the range of most of the other solutions that are available on the market, and the price they are willing to pay for it.

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It is the customer who is in the driving seat. Sales organisations today must map their activities and touchpoints to the different steps in the buyer’s journey (Tweet this). And their sales people must be a source of industry expertise, behaving much more in the role of a trusted advisor – not just memorising and reciting the product brochure. Mapping to where the customer is in his or her buying steps requires a rethink about how you can harness the right insights at the right time, every time.

When we hear phrases, such as ‘buyer’s journey’ the sad reality for many companies is that they lift their respective sales stages straight out of their CRM system and then label it as a buyer’s journey. The world has moved beyond sales force automation. A journey implies steps taken over time. But which steps are buyers taking and where are they going?

The only meaningful way of answering these questions and acting on them in real time is through an insights-driven approach. (Think big data analytics, sentiment analysis tools, social media, and mobile delivery as a means of managing and tracking personalised customer engagements in real time et al). In fact, emerging technologies are the principal enablers of this new customer-centric thinking, as companies are striving to follow prospects as they migrate across different channels. Mobile and cloud-based applications are leading this trend, along with more intensive use of social media tools and connected products.

Realigning the sales function with the ever evolving customer journey means using data-driven methods of identifying and engaging with customers and prospects. But most of all, it means putting the customer, rather than your products, at the very heart of your sales strategy.

Take a look at the complimentary report below from Harvard Business Review on selling in a buyer empowered world.

Steve Hurn – Senior Vice President and General Manager Cloud and Line of Business at SAP.

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