The term customer journey reflects the reality that your customer’s relationship with your product is rarely love at first sight. The buyer travels a long and winding road to adoption that includes recognizing a problem, researching a solution, discovering that your product exists, sizing up its attributes, overcoming doubt, calming the naysayers who may have a stake in the decision, securing the funds, and ultimately getting to “yes.”
Because of this, companies are looking for ways to establish authentic, long-term relationships with customers.
One technique that can help accomplish this is using customer journey mapping to visualize how your customers develop relationships with your company. This practice helps your team understand and build customer relationships that generate recurring revenue—follow-on sales, maintenance fees, upgrades, and repeat purchases—beyond the original sale.
In flat organizations, customer journey mapping may draw in senior executives and could involve direct input from customers as well. But salespeople, right down to the individual reps, are crucially important players in capturing the customer’s journey for analysis since sales is the customer’s closest and most frequent touchpoint in your organization.
Keep reading to learn more about customer journey mapping and the roles of sales teams in mapping and enhancing your customers’ journeys.
The customer journey is the stages someone goes through as they develop their relationship with a company through their interactions with it, from first hearing about a company to becoming a customer and beyond.
Customer journey mapping is the process of creating a visual representation of the customer journey, including the interactions, thought processes, and decisions involved.
While the exact stages and what’s included in them differ from company to company, the customer journey is typically broken down into five key stages—awareness, consideration, decision, retention, and loyalty. Let’s take a quick look at each stage.
At the initial stage of the customer journey, your potential customers become aware of your brand’s existence. This is often the result of marketing efforts, advertising, or word-of-mouth. Your goal here is to make a memorable first impression.
Examples of activities in this stage include:
Once your audience is aware of your brand, they start evaluating their options. They consider your products or services alongside those of your competitors. Your role here is to provide valuable information that helps them make informed decisions.
Activities in this stage include:
This is the make-or-break moment. Your potential customers are now ready to make a purchase decision. Your job is to ensure that the process is as smooth and compelling as possible.
Activities in this stage include:
Congratulations! You’ve acquired a new customer. Now, it’s time to ensure they have a positive experience and keep them coming back.
Activities in this stage include:
At this stage, you’ve cultivated a loyal customer base who not only continues to purchase but also becomes brand advocates. This stage involves keeping customers engaged and satisfied with your brand.
Activities in this stage include:
Here’s a look at how to get started with mapping out your customer journey and how sales teams can play an essential role in doing so.
Sales’ first and most fundamental contribution to the customer journey mapping process is in helping define buyer personas—descriptions of your customers that are fictional but based on data. These descriptions include various demographic and psychographic characteristics, and your business may have several personas to represent different types of customers.
The premise behind personas is that there are a finite number of well-worn paths by which people arrive at the realization that they have a need and that your product is an effective solution for it. The premise assumes that among customers who fit a given persona, people are reasonably consistent in how they approach the problem and solve it.
In fact, there is enough consistency to allow you to draw a fairly reliable map of their process of deciding to buy your product or service—recognizing that along the way, most of them will have predictable moments of truth when they need a specific kind of information from you. Each of those moments of truth is an opportunity to deepen your relationship with that customer.
Depending on how different each of your personas is, you may need to create different customer journey maps for them. When first creating your map, focus on the persona that best matches your ideal customer profile.
The customer will experience an array of emotions along the buyer journey. Salespeople typically talk about “pain points,” and discomfort certainly gives rise to need. You hope to create elation at the discovery of your solution, but commitment to it will be punctuated by moments of skepticism, conflict, and fear of making an expensive error, all of which must be anticipated and dealt with.
Part of creating a customer journey map is identifying the pain points customers encounter at each stage. The customer journey map charts these emotional ups and downs, associating them with events in the sales cycle—some you can control and some you can’t.
Another essential element to define is your organization’s customer touchpoints—the interactions a customer has with your business throughout their journey.
Over a sales cycle that may be months or even years long, there may be many touch points—your advertising, social media posts, sales meetings, support chats, and many others.
Having a customer journey map allows your product management and sales organizations to analyze how their touchpoints handle each of these predictable moments. You can clearly see the points when and where the customer is going to lose her way and grasp for expert help. Your content marketing team will have provided materials that help prospects to recognize the problem your product solves, understand the range of possible solutions available, and frame your offering as the best possible position among competing alternatives.
Another important element to include in your customer journey map is the actions that customers take during each stage. Including these actions in your map helps you to optimize your touchpoints for conversion to the next stage.
For example, in the awareness stage, someone might read your blog posts or follow you on social media. In the decision stage, they might request a quote or start a free trial.
Once you’ve defined these elements and any others you want to include in your map, you can start mapping out the customer journey.
At each stage of the journey, list the pain points customers experience, the touchpoints they might have with your company, and the actions they can take to move to the next stage.
At the end of this step, you’ll have a visual representation of your customer journey.
Once you’ve mapped out your customer journey, you may spot opportunities for improvement. For example, maybe there’s a common question or pain point you could address with your website content. Or you might need to add to your sales team or provide additional tools to enable your team to reach out to prospective customers more quickly.
Of course, improving your customer journey isn’t a one-time thing. Continuously monitor your process and test adjustments as you go to improve your results over time.
One of the best tools for tracking and improving your customer journey is a customer relationship management (CRM) system. With a CRM, you can define your sales process, automate sales tasks, and track your sales results.
It should be obvious that salespeople should be guiding and enriching the organization’s understanding of the customer personas, as these personas inspire the actions that drive revenue. But what specifically is your role in this process?
Are attitudes and concerns shifting among your marquee customers? Are they influencing other buyers in a way that will affect future revenue? Are there shifts going on that affect entire market segments or that call for changes in the way your company views an important customer persona? As a salesperson, you generally will be the first to discover such shifts.
What really works is buyer-centric content, i.e., sales enablement resources that convey value, matched to the needs of specific customer personas. Buyers need you to help them understand how to solve a practical business problem or exploit an opportunity—not just explain features. If your content marketing team isn’t giving you these buyer-centric tools, you need to ask for it.
Insist on wide open channels of communication. Invite your marketing team to send a representative to your regular sales meetings to share campaigns and content that is under development or newly updated. Use those meetings to show marketing how you are personalizing the content they provide—the content itself and how you are delivering it.
Many companies have undergone a customer experience or customer journey mapping process and, ideally, are continuously updating and revising their maps. It doesn’t automatically follow that your sales team participated. You may not even know your company has such a map, but it’s worth your while to find out.
The first place to look is within your product marketing or product management teams. If those departments haven’t yet invested the time in creating a customer journey map, take the initiative and start organizing the customer journey mapping process for your company. From increased revenue to happier customers, your efforts will have a profound impact.
Want to improve your customer journey and sales process? Having the right CRM is essential. With an easy-to-use interface and powerful features like pipeline management, sales automation, and email marketing, Nutshell is the perfect tool for taking your customer journey to the next level.
Start a free 14-day trial to see for yourself what Nutshell can do for your business.
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