Beyond Competitive Advantage

Updated: Apr 4, 2019

In B2B selling and marketing, the sales funnel model is quickly being replaced with the sales journey model. Today, buyers enter into a sales journey (or the sales funnel) with a completely different mind-set of preparation. Rather than relying on a sales rep, they are now equipped with tools to identify problems within their organization. Buyers then turn to the Internet and research solution alternatives.

This ‘buyer self-education’ is disrupting the selling techniques that sales reps honed to perfection. It is no joke, considering that:

72% of buyers turn to Google during awareness stage research; 70% return to Google in consideration stage research.


One of the main reasons why I achieved Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt status was the result of the quantity and quality of information that is accessible and available to buyers. The large amount of scholarly articles and YouTube videos can empower buyers to outsmart and outmaneuver the most seasoned sales reps.

So, what is the answer?

First, rather than trying to force a buyer into your sales process, define the sales journey by visually mapping the current process with the buyer (very important). This will be a mind-set change for most sales reps, but you need to think like a physician—ask, listen, document, repeat.

The key to value stream mapping (VSM) is ‘asking the right questions’ that start from point (A) when buyer first identifies a problem to point (Z) when all activities are complete, that occur well-beyond product delivery. A VSM of the buyers journey is divided into four sections:

Process or Step-by-Step Flow – mapping the activities in a step-by-step sequence.

Communication or Influence Flow – mapping information flow and other decision-makers. There may be 7-20 people involved in any given B2B purchasing decision.

Delivery Milestones, Timelines and Travel Distances – such as RFQs, design proposals, project reviews, prototypes, logistics, etc.

Metric Flow – what is the buyer trying to achieve, not only through-out the journey, but at the very end (e.g., ROI, % cost savings, % waste reduced, % on-time deliveries, etc)

In 2014, 51% of buyers conduct a more detailed ROI analysis before making a final decision, compared to 30% in 2012.

The vast majority of your buyers’ problems are identified and originate from variances in key performance metrics (KPIs)—this is a very important area in the VSM process—make sure you capture and record this data.

Once the buyer agrees the VSM is complete and accurate, you will most likely see areas for immediate improvement. At this point, you will move the buyer into solution mode and prioritize the KPIs.


The VSM goal is to optimize the total value stream (or sales journey) that your buyer’s engage in—to remove friction. The fact that suppliers that make buying easy are 62% likelier than other suppliers to win a high-quality sale (purchase at premium price).

The scale has tipped in the buyers favor.

In fact, 50-90% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer reaches-out to sales.

Your goal as a sales rep is to find customers (or decision-makers) and guide them through a VSM, so they can ‘visually see the financial gains’ by working with you.

Hartwig Consulting

© 2019 by Kurt  H Hartwig