Sales

Collaboration in Buyer Journeys: The Secret to Success

Explore the power of collaboration in the B2B buyer journey with trumpet and Cord.

trumpet & Cord
October 4, 2023
February 24, 2024
Explore the power of collaboration in the B2B buyer journey with trumpet and Cord.
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Did you know that 90-95% of the customer buying journey is completed before a customer speaks to your sales team? More and more time is spent researching problems and evaluating solutions due to the plethora of information online.

The B2B buying journey, in particular, is getting much longer. That's not surprising, considering B2B buyers have read at least 3-4 content pieces before selecting a company.

The result is that sellers have less opportunity to influence customer decisions. Except, these statistics often assume sales teams behave the same way. Some innovative departments have implemented a collaborative approach to help customers at every stage in the journey.

In this article, we explore:

  • Quick overview of the customer buying journey
  • Why collaboration matters
  • How mutual action plans can boost collaboration
  • The top strategy for buying journey collaboration

What is a Customer Buying Journey?

The customer buying journey, or just simply the buyer journey, is a term to describe the process a customer goes through when purchasing a product. Beginning with their problem, it's a tool to understand how and why they make a particular buying decision.

Usually, it's described in three stages:

  1. Awareness: At this stage, the customer recognises a problem or need but may not fully understand it. They begin researching to grasp the issue better.
  2. Consideration: Once they understand the problem, they start evaluating different solutions, comparing products, and exploring assorted options.
  3. Decision: In the final stage, the customer has gathered enough information and is ready to make a purchase decision. They select a product or service that best fits their requirements.

As you can see, traditional sales tactics only apply to the decision stage – when the customer comes to you. Newer, collaborative approaches prioritise the first two phases, influencing how the customer understands their problem and the solutions available.

Why Collaboration Matters

Collaboration isn't just another buzzword. It has very real, practical applications, forming the backbone of successful customer relationships – especially in the B2B sector.

Here's why.

  • Informed decisions. The buyer journey should be a two-way exchange of information. The buyer learns about their problem and potential solutions; you learn about their needs and wants. Not only do you get to influence their buying pattern, but you can also improve your selling process for future customers.
  • Building trust. All customer decisions begin with trust. Delivering high-quality information – be it blog articles, videos, podcasts, email marketing, and more – transforms your business from just a seller to a trusted advisor. That's how you build long-term business relationships.
  • Shortened sales cycles. Sales cycles are lengthening due to an overload of information. Not knowing who to trust, customers must sift through endless resources to find what they want. Becoming an integral, trustworthy part of the 'Awareness' and 'Consideration' stages helps reduce the sales cycle and funnel customers toward a sale.
  • Beating your competition. Being a business that prioritises collaboration over the "hard sell" helps you stand out. People like businesses that are out to help them – it's a key deciding factor.
  • Meeting modern expectations. Prospects expect a personalised customer buying journey, whether B2C or B2B. These personalised, value-driven interactions can only be achieved through customer collaborations at every stage in the buyer journey.

In fact, we couldn't run Trumpet without collaborating with several different organisations. Together, we make the platform happen. Cord, for example, facilitates our collaboration features like the chat bar and on-page annotations.

Speaking to Nimrod Priell, the CEO at Cord, we asked why companies prize Cord's collaborative features. "We built the SDK with a vision that we should be able to collaborate in all software as easily as we do in products/apps like Google Docs, Notion or Figma," he said.

"When software is collaborative, the efficiency gains are immense. I can leave you a message in context – pointing at the exact words, figures, or pictures that I want to get help, feedback, approval or context on. I can see you saw the message, and you can drop a simple thumbs up."

What is a Mutual Action Plan?

A mutual action plan, or MAP, is a simple document that aligns the customer's expectations with the sales team's work.

Sometimes called the mutual success plan, mutually agreed action plan, go-live plan, joint execution plan, or close plan, it's all about working collaboratively with the customer as they look for a solution.

Think of it as answering three questions:

  • What does a buyer need?
  • When is it going to happen?
  • Who is responsible?

MAPs aren't solely about the customer or the buyer. It's both! It ensures either party identifies the milestones that must be met to achieve all of the customer's objectives. A well-written plan incorporates advice, suggestions, and other input from the sales team and the customer.

Little wonder it's such a valuable tool.

Except, there's no reason a MAP must only cover the final stage in the customer or B2B buyer journey. Consider that the average B2B journey lasts 102 days, and you can appreciate the need for speed.  

How to Create an Effective Mutual Action Plan

Why wait? Introducing the concept of the mutual action plan early can help collaboration occur from the beginning.

For example, in the 'Awareness' stage, creating a preliminary document alongside a resource database and an open channel for questions can form a roadmap for customer understanding.

Meanwhile, in the 'Consideration' stage, you can start plotting out the different solutions, listing the pros and cons of each.

Follow these tips to create a practical MAP:

1. Define the objective

What does your buyer want? Depending on the buyer's journey stage, that could differ substantially. It could include identifying a solution to a problem, achieving a set ROI, or any other specific milestone. This is your MAP's north star.

2. Outline buying stages

Using the buyer journey template, outline what your buyer needs to know to make an educated decision.

3. Set milestones

Setting tangible milestones ensures the buyer sees progress. No confusion. No aimless research. For example, you could include "develop a list of technical requirements" or "finalise budget allocation."

4. Determine responsibilities and timeframe

Every milestone should have a responsible individual and a timeframe for completion. These two items add accountability to the MAP.

5. Establish communication guidelines

Collaboration is a two-way process. Let your customers know how they should communicate and who they should communicate with. You could also define the tools, documents, and resources to be used by either party.

6. Contingency planning

No plan survives first contact with reality. To ensure a smooth buyer journey, plan for any hiccups you could encounter. Identify challenges and add redundancies.

Once you've completed the plan, get both parties to read, review, and sign off. As a mutual agreement, both parties should be aligned and committed to the plan.

Simple Solutions to Improve Buyer Journey Collaboration

Mutual action plans aren't the only way to add collaboration to the buyer journey. We have some simple yet reliable tips to supercharge your customer collabs.

Deliver Content Via Links

Forget PDFs. They might be the third-most common file type online, but as a static, digital paper, they're so 20th century. Your content should be interactive, up-to-date, and 100% trackable. (PDFs are none of these.)

Indeed, relying on PDFs to deliver important content, i.e., white papers or eBooks, means that once uploaded, you're done. That's a mistake; links allow for real-time updates. You could revamp a blog post with new information or correct errors you've spotted on a white paper.

Better yet, links ensure you can gather in-depth analytics about your customer's buying journey. Common metrics include time spent on a page, which sections were most viewed, and what links were clicked on. A PDF, on the other hand, delivers no metrics.

This lack of interactivity is most apparent compared to sharing cloud-based documents. PDFs must be sent back and forth to receive feedback, in contrast to the instant feedback, queries, and collaborative edits available via the cloud.

It's also less secure, reducing the ability to collaborate. Cloud-based platforms offer advanced permissions and security features (e.g., revoking access expiration dates) compared to the password protection of PDFs.

Create a Dedicated Communication Channel

Communication is key to collaboration. Don't rely on phone calls and email. Not when there are so many new communication platforms available.

Here are some platforms to try:

Cord

Your go-to toolkit to build chat and live collaboration features directly into your product. That could be adding an AI assistant to your docs, replacing a customer support solution, or implementing a chat bar.

Slack

A favourite for real-time collaboration. Channels can be created for specific projects, making it easy to keep track of different aspects of the buying journey. Direct messaging and file sharing make it a comprehensive tool.

Microsoft Teams

Part of the Microsoft 365 suite, Teams is more than just a chat platform. It integrates seamlessly with other Microsoft apps, allows video meetings, and has a robust set of document collaboration tools.

Trello

While it's primarily a project management tool, it can also be an excellent communication platform. You can create boards for each customer, list down tasks, set milestones, and discuss specifics in the card comments.

Zoom

Not just for video conferencing. Zoom's chat feature allows for seamless communication. Its breakout rooms and screen-sharing capabilities are ideal for presentations and collaborative sessions.

As Nimrod highlights the problems of using email to talk to clients, "Most of our business communication outside of the company remains in email.

We're stuck with a tool nobody likes, lacking the modes of expression everyone uses because we can't always have a Slack channel with vendors, clients, or partners."

Things are likely to change going forward with new platforms like Cord, Slack, or Microsoft Teams. There's also a generational aspect. "I'm excited for the next wave that comes with the newer generation," Nimrod continued, "They use WhatsApp audio messages a lot.

They'll help propel us forward into a (working) world that mixes text, video, and audio. That expressiveness will no doubt drive engagement and efficiency."

Launch Interactive Demos

No two customers are the same. Their needs aren't the same. Their industry isn't the same. So, why do they want a standard product or service demo?

The answer: they don't.

They want to test your product or service to see if it meets their requirements. Interactive demos allow companies to collaborate directly with customers as they explore their solutions (stages 2 and 3).

Customers can make apparent what features they want – a key insight helping businesses evolve their products.

This real-time feedback allows sales teams to pivot their presentation to the customer's reactions and queries. Not only does this build trust, but it also showcases a company's commitment to meeting individual needs.

Choose a Next Level Collaboration Toolkit

Looking to move beyond the standard communication tools? You're not alone. "Slack and Teams became the standard for any reasonable business for internal communications," Nimrod explains.

However, for customer communications, it's a second-rate option reserved for customers you've already converted. That's useful, but it doesn't generate new sales!

That leaves you with email, which is a "terrible medium to handle a long, complicated back and forth involving multiple people from different companies over different points." It's a headache we've all experienced at some point. Just trying to keep track of previous messages is a thread-fuelled nightmare.

And if you want to know who said what, it enters needle-in-a-haystack territory. Good luck finding it!

Cord is different. In just a few lines of code, you can add fully customisable live chat, commenting, and notification features. There's no third-party app. In fact, the user interface is 100% native to your product, so your customers won't even know anyone else is involved.

"Cord integrates the UX and SDK you've already built and sweated over to create the most advanced and rich version of the collaborative experience, integrating into your product in a couple of days of coding."

See Cord in action and develop a more collaborative buyer journey with our auto-personalised microsites and real-time customer tracking. We're industry experts in boosting the buyer experience! Book a demo today to learn more.