complicated map

Book review: How Customers Buy…& Why They Don’t by Martyn R. Lewis

Your company may have a sales strategy, but how well does it match up with how your target customers actually buy? And do your targets all buy in the same way, or are there differences? These are a couple of key questions addressed in Martyn R. Lewis’ excellent new book, How Customers Buy…& Why They Don’t.

The central thesis that runs through the book is that B2B businesses have to move away from traditional notions of a sales funnel and instead focus on discovering the process their target market goes through to initiate and complete a buying journey. Although the process different companies go through may seem random, particularly when selling a complex offering with a long sales cycle, Lewis posits that a defined target audience will share similarities in their purchasing process. If there are significant differences, then the author theorizes that you’re probably looking at different target segments, each with their own discrete journey.

Three-part buying journey process

The book is divided into three main parts. Part one is mapping the Customer Buying Journey, subdivided into identifying the Buying Journey DNA, addressing the 9 possible customer buying concerns and locating your company on the Four-Quadrant Buying Style Model.  This model divides customers according to whether they seek a defined product versus a more open-ended solution, and if they perceive the market to be made up of many interchangeable suppliers versus one that can solve their needs.

Part two takes the reader through developing their Market Engagement Strategy, based on the insights discovered in Part one. Part three maps the buyer DNA to the tools and resources the supplier develops to influence the purchase decision, a concept Lewis calls Outside-In Revenue Generation.

If all this sounds complicated, it is, although there is an undeniable logic that flows through the book. Some of the concepts are revisited several times, with the last three chapters serving as somewhat of a summation of everything that has gone before. The repetition actually made comprehension a little harder, as I found myself wondering if I had missed something along the way to warrant such careful reiteration.

A useful B2B sales strategy framework

Despite the restatements, I found this book to be very helpful as I planned my marketing and sales support activities for 2019. Locating where we are in the four-quadrant model helped me with how to position BroadJump in the marketplace. Surveying our sales staff gave us insights into the buying journeys they see, and the stakeholders that get involved. Those insights have led me to define a sales strategy and funnel that has more steps than the basic Awareness – Consideration – Decision, by uncovering the need for different types of content that should be developed as support.

How Customers Buy…& Why They Don’t comes recommended to both B2B marketing and sales professionals. It will challenge some assumptions, and provide a framework to tailor your organization to the needs of your market(s), as opposed to trying to fit prospects into your predetermined funnel. To get the most out of it, you need to set it aside periodically and work through what the concepts mean for your specific business, but the effort is well worth the time.