Buyer’s journey, lifecycle stage, and deal stage all help your company understand where a prospect or customer is in their relationship with your company. But many companies fail to appreciate the differences between buyer’s journey, lifecycle, and deal stages -- and, as a result, underserve their prospects and customers.
Learn how to compare and contrast the differences between buyer’s journey stage, lifecycle stage, and deal stage, how to improve your segmentation strategy to capitalize on this information, and what implementation of each looks like to your go-to-market team.
Today’s buyers have incredibly high expectations.
Personalization provides an opportunity for your company to stand out from the pack. However, to personalize at scale, you need to know not only who the customer is (their buyer persona) but also where that person is in their research, decision-making, and purchase cycle.
The buyer’s journey stage, lifecycle stage, and deal stage each provide a different, nuanced way to understand how to best segment your leads and customers. And getting this foundation right has become even more important than ever because so many buyers now navigate a self-propelled, largely digitally-driven buyer’s journey.
The latest research from Gartner found that 83% of a typical B2B purchase decision -- researching, comparing options, and evaluating pricing -- happens before a potential buyer engages with a vendor.
McKinsey & Company has discovered that 70% to 80% of B2B decision-makers now prefer to make decisions digitally.
In its B2B Thought Leadership Impact Report, LinkedIn, in partnership with Edelman, concluded that “thought leadership remains critical to customer engagement but breaking through the noise is harder than ever.”
All three of these research findings drive home a crucial concept:
Personalization matters more than ever because your sales team only gets involved in a small sliver of the overall buying process.
Making this even more complex:
Different go-to-market professionals have different ways of determining where someone is in their journey with your company.
Marketing professionals use buyer’s journey stages as a buyer-centric way to segment leads based on where you can infer that each person is in the research and decision-making process.
Awareness stage leads have a goal they’re trying to achieve or a challenge they’re trying to overcome.
Awareness stage leads are nowhere near ready to consider individual products or brands or even how various approaches compare.
In today’s modern buyer’s journey, nearly all awareness stage leads prefer a self-service approach with little interest in interacting with a salesperson.
Moving onto the next stage of the buyer’s journey:
Consideration stage leads have given their goal or challenge a more defined name and category.
Consideration stage leads can compare the pros and cons of various approaches to achieving a goal or addressing a challenge.
In today’s modern buyer’s journey, most consideration stage leads prefer a self-service approach with little interest in interacting with a salesperson.
And now in the third and final stage of the buyer’s journey:
Decision stage leads have narrowed their research to a specific approach and are finally ready to look at content and offers that are brand- or product-specific.
Depending on the product/service complexity and price point, many leads may prefer a touchless purchase experience.
Companies are far more likely to encounter leads open to having a late-stage conversation with a salesperson at the decision stage.
So again, the buyer’s journey is the active research process that a potential buyer goes through between first expressing a problem that they are trying to solve, a goal that they are trying to achieve, a question that they are trying to answer -- and when that potential buyer makes their purchase decision.
And most buyer’s journeys have an awareness, consideration, and decision stage.
Now lifecycle stage is quite different than the buyer’s journey. How so?
Marketing, sales, and customer success professionals working together use lifecycle stages as a company-centric way of segmenting leads based on where someone is in their relationship with the company.
Lifecycle stages include
- Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)
- Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)
Because most startups, scaleups, and small businesses tend to be more company-centric, you’re more likely to see lifecycle stage being actively used in a CRM system than buyer’s journey stage.
Is there a relationship between the buyer’s journey and lifecycle stages?
The awareness buyer’s journey stage usually maps to the subscriber or lead lifecycle stage.
The consideration buyer’s journey stage usually maps to the marketing qualified lead (MQL) or sales qualified lead (SQL) lifecycle stage.
And the decision buyer’s journey stage usually maps to the opportunity or customer lifecycle stage.
So besides the buyer’s journey stage and lifecycle stage, when it comes to segmentation and personalization, the deal stage also plays an important role, but differently.
Buyer’s journey stages are inherently buyer-centric, and lifecycle stages are company-centric (how your internal team categorizes a contact's status).
Deal stages are even more company-centric --- almost exclusively used by sales and customer success teams.
Think of the deal stage as a subset of the opportunity lifecycle stage.
The deal stage provides a much more precise and granular way of understanding how far along a particular deal is as it progresses from initial contact to the closed-won or closed-lost deal stage.
While there tends to be relatively slight variance among the buyer’s journey stages and lifecycle stages used by companies, deal stages get very heavily customized.
Deal stages must match the verifiable and inspectable steps that an opportunity stage contact progresses through as that contact engages with one or more people from your sales team.
Deal stage reviews, also known as pipeline reviews, help sales directors understand where various opportunities stand with each salesperson.
By maintaining the deal stage CRM property, sales directors build more accurate forecasts:
- Deal amount
- Estimated close date
- Probability of closing associated with that particular deal stage
And if you’re serious about Comparing Buyer's Journey vs. Lifecycle vs. Deal Stages...
Learn more when you enroll now in our free 7-day eCourse: Go-to-Market Strategy 101 for B2B SaaS Startups and Scaleups.