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Facilitating the Buyer’s Journey: a definition

Submitted by on Sunday, 22 July 2012

In the 23 years I’ve been writing about and teaching Buying Facilitation®, I’ve come up with dozens of terms to explain my intent re ‘the buyer’s journey’ or ‘the buyer’s decision path’.

I originally labelled the trip through the behind-the-scenes issues buyers must contend with (those political, relational, strategic issues that will be touched when a new solution enters) ‘navigating the buyer’s decision.’

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN SELLING AND MANAGING OFF-LINE BUYING DECISION ISSUES

Historically, sellers have mistakenly assumed I focus on decisions related to the purchase and the need. In fact, folks have had a real hard time understanding my intent: some sellers, regardless of illustrations, or webinars, books or speeches, assume I mean what every sales person must do: help buyers

  1. figure out how to purchase the right solution for their need,
  2. get the funding to pay for it,
  3. understand all of the choices that would be a plausible solution,
  4. choose the right vendor.

Smart, savvy business folks and entrepreneurs still believe that’s my message or have just defined the term to fit their comfortable level. Regardless of what others say, it’s important for me that it’s understood that my work is not meant for the solution-placement end of the buying journey, but for the non-needs-related set of activities buyers must handle amongst themselves to

  1. find the right set of people for the Buying Decision team as they begin consideration to make a change,
  2. make sure that every department, job function, existing solution, and political relationship that will touch a new solution gets managed appropriately to ensure minimal disruption to the status quo,
  3. get the appropriate buy-in so folks work together to design a way for the new solution to fit.

It’s the stuff buyers must do before they buy. They do this without us. And we sit and wait, because sales doesn’t handle this portion of the buyer’s journey.

BUYING FACILITATION® AND SALES TOGETHER

Just to clarify: sales manages the needs assessment and solution placement end of the buyer’s journey – the last 10% of their activity. Because

  • if the tech guy doesn’t want the new solution and won’t free up people without a fight,
  • if the user group doesn’t want to take training,
  • if the company is going through an M&A,
  • if the regular vendor can handle a portion of the need,
  • if the tech person and the marketing person are having a turf war,
  • if anything that affects the status quo cannot make the necessary internal changes to handle a new solution,

the buyer will take no action, regardless of their need.

And that’s why 7% of your prospects buy now, and 80% of your prospects will buy within 2 years, and from someone else: the time it takes them to do this is the length of the sales cycle.

With my Asperger’s systems-thinking brain, I’ve actually coded the change management issues buyers must handle before buying: Buying Facilitation® is based on how systems work (and sales treats a ‘need’ as if it were an isolated event – it’s not), and how to maintain homeostasis as the system faces change. It teaches sellers how to put on the hat of a change agent and help buyers navigate through all of their idiosyncratic and people/policy issues. It includes using Facilitative Questions, Systems Listening, and Decision Sequencing, all designed to lead buyers through their internal issues to make the right decisions that will leave their system intact and better than when it started.

It’s not sales. But it collapses the decision cycle and helps folks come up with their unique criteria for buy-in so they’ll take action. It’s great for coaching, negotiating, leadership, and personnel issues. All marketing automation technology should add Buying Facilitation® to their contact sheets, and to their telemarketing scripts and lead scoring.

FACILITATING THE BUYER’S JOURNEY

Finally, around 8 years ago, I coined the term Facilitating the Buyer’s Journey, thinking that I finally ‘got it’.

Except the term is so terrific that it’s been co-0pted by the sales field which is REdefining it to fit into ‘sales’ and solution choice.

Now I’ve got a quandary: if the term ‘facilitating the buyer’s journey’ gets co-opted into the conventional sales thinking, we all run the risk of losing the intent, the model, the brand, the powerful methodology that actually helps the buyer manage change. If I start writing a lot about MY definition, I run the risk of being a johnny-one-note.

Of course, this is a journey of all new ideas: the originator finally learns how to say it, and then it gets stolen and co-opted by the mainstream. And the originator dies with one ear, in poverty. And the original idea gets subsumed. We don’t see many geodesic domes; thankfully impressionism was picked up by others besides Van Goch.

My biggest fear is that we’ll lose the original intent and fail to learn a new skill set.

So I’ll leave the choice up to you: would you rather sell? Or have someone buy. Because if you’d rather sell, you can shove ‘facilitating the buyer’s journey’ into sales, and probably not notice there is a far, far more successful way to help buyers buy. If you’d rather have someone buy….. have I got a term for you! :)

sd

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