You’ve heard it explained multiple times in varying nuances: the buyer is now in control of their purchase process. The buyer is in the driver’s seat. Sales reps need to adjust to the buyer, not the other way around. It’s no secret that increased information, content and data has resulted in a power shift of sorts in B2B sales. Buyers no longer need to rely on sellers to relay information such as product specs, pricing and ROI; these insights are readily available through company websites and content, review sites and word-of-mouth. As buyers gain more control of their purchase process, salespeople have shifted to more of a consulting role, and in order to succeed they must have a deep understanding of buyers’ needs.
But what are those needs? B2B buyers don’t buy a technology solution just to buy a solution; a concerted effort has likely gone into defining a problem or inefficiency, and that problem’s severity is assessed before moving towards finding a solution. Salespeople often have difficulty understanding this process—and these needs—during interactions with buyers, which can be the difference between a won and lost deal.
At the SiriusDecisions Summit, Jeff Lash and Rachel Young introduced the SiriusDecisions Needs Aperture, a process that helps organizations identify, evaluate and prioritize their buyers’ needs. But before introducing the model, the two helped to clearly define a need:
A need is a desired outcome that has a business value for a persona.
This shared definition is important because “companies struggle to understand and act on customer needs because they lack a common definition of what a need is,” according to Young. The Aperture is structured around five phases, all of which help organizations move from a product-focused sales process to one that is customer-centric. Below are those five phases:
- Frame: This initial step requires organizations to agree on a standard definition of customer needs (or accept SiriusDecisions’ definition above as their own) and define the data elements that must be gathered to identify the best needs to target. Setting this framework is essential to understanding and standardizing the different levels of buyers’ needs.
- Focus: The focus phase includes defining the different market segments, personas and contexts where buyers’ needs will need to be identified. This widens the organization’s view to identify known needs as well as uncover needs that the buyer may not be aware of. This helps organizations avoid focusing only on short-term, straightforward and simple needs.
- Find: Organizations will then need to select the appropriate research methods, sources and activities that must be conducted to identify buyers’ needs in every segment, persona and context. This “investigative phase” is where different types of needs are identified and recorded.
- Filter: Needs data is then analyzed to determine which needs are highest priority. This is based on key factors such as highest potential for commercial viability. Organizations can use this phase to objectively prioritize customers’ needs, because it’s impossible to address all of them at once.
- Formulate: The final phase in SiriusDecisions’ Needs Aperture involves integrating prioritized needs into the go-to-market plan and addressing them appropriately. Organizations can create and execute plans to further investigate lower priority needs as well.
Catering to buyers’ needs is no new phenomenon. Sales and marketing leaders alike have been searching for the best way to gain insight into buyers’ needs and goals for years, and now with frameworks like this one and technology like marketing automation, content analytics and dynamic personalization, it’s much easier to do so. Use SiriusDecisions’ Needs Aperture Model to foster a more personalized, buyer-centric customer interaction along with the right personalization and analytics tools to gain a better understanding of what your buyers need and how you can help them reach their goals.