The buyer’s journey started as a framework for choosing tactics and we still use it for that purpose. It turns out though, it’s got a really big strategic impact as well. Let me share that with you.

Buyer’s journey

Let’s start with the buyer’s journey. The transition between gap and need turns out to be the most important transition, that is how you shape the buyer’s concept. I’m going to dive into that quite a bit and explain the impact that all of that has on your strategy.

The transition between gap and need is greatly impacted by strategy.

The transition between gap and need is greatly impacted by strategy.

You have a solution, that you designed to meet a clear need, and if somebody has that need they’re going to find your solution really attractive, because you designed it specifically to meet that need. What if they don’t? What if the need that your buyer has is a little different? Well, there’s probably some other solution that was also designed to meet that need, and if they find it, they’re going to find it more attractive than your solution. Can you still sell them your solution? Well, you can but it’s really hard. They’ve got a concept of what they need that’s different from what your solution offers, and they’re probably going to find the other solution more attractive.

We need to shape the buyer's concept to be aligned with our offering.

We need to shape the buyer’s concept to be aligned with our offering.

The better approach is to change the concept of what they need, and a good salesperson knows how to do that. They know how to change the concept of the need with good questioning and good information sharing. We need to consider things like: what gave rise to that need? Why did they have that need? Earlier in the journey, there’s some kind of problem. There’s some issue going on, some impediment. It might be real or imagined. It might be some future problem, or it might be something near and present, but it’s something that they need to fix.

If they buyer has the right problem, they’re probably going to work out that what they need is something like what you do, and they’re going to find it really attractive. What if they don’t? What if the buyer’s problem is different to the one that you’re really good at solving? Well, they’re probably going to arrive at some other conclusion about what they need, and we’ve already agreed that they’re going to find some other solution more attractive. Can you change the concept of what’s needed? That is, if they buyer’s got the wrong concept of what their problem is, can you still convince them that what they need is something like what you do?

Well, you can, but again, it’s really hard. It is easier is to convince them that the concept they have of the problem needs a little adjustment. Again, a good salesperson can do this, but we’re asking the salesperson to now mount a rear guard action to overcome, I think, the failings of marketing. If marketing failed to get the market troubled about the problem you’re uncommonly good at solving, then marketing has let us down. We do need salespeople with these skills, but we need marketing to understand the impact of this as well, so that they get the market troubled and educated about what their priority problems ought to be.

Trying to take the wrong market and convince them that they have the right problem can work, however it is more effective to focus on the market that is most likely to have the problem that you’re uncommonly good at solving. This way the job gets a lot easier.


The first strategic impact of this is that after we have chosen our problem, we need them to identify the market most likely to have that problem, and that should be our priority market. The second is that the solution had better be a great solution to that problem. If the solution only partly solves the problem, then we’ve got some work to do. The channel needs to be really good at talking to that market, about that problem, to sell that solution. What began with the buyer’s journey, what began as a framework for choosing tactics, has now become a framework for changing a-go-to market strategy as well.

What do we do now? Well, there are five steps:

  1. Choose your problem really well.
  2. Choose a problem that you can become the best in the world at solving.
  3. Do it together, and by together, I mean sales, marketing, operations, finance, anyone that runs the business. Choose the problem together, it is an important decision.
  4. Wrestle its impact on strategy.
  5. Stick to it. Become genuinely the best in the world at solving that problem by being the only one who focuses narrowly on solving that problem.

Funnel Plan gives you a number of tools to help to identify what problem you should focus on. It lists them, then you rate them, and you can have multi-user ratings. Based on all those ratings, on which problems would reward you the best, and which problems you’re best at solving, you choose one. Use Funnel Plan to choose what problem you’re going to focus on. Again, if you don’t have a funnel plan, get yourself one here. The free version is good enough for now. It will help you choose the problem. Then, having chosen the problem, it will help you identify the strategy that I just walked through and make all those decisions, then document them, and then communicate them.

In addition, there are lots of videos inside Funnel Plan that will help you understand all those details at the next level, and the specific steps to take to turn that into a great go-to-market plan.