This article is based on a presentation given by Tony Yang at #GTM23. Catch up on this presentation, and others, with GTM OnDemand. For more exclusive content, visit your GTM Blueprint dashboard.

When it comes to go-to-market strategies, there's a lot of talk about getting to grips with the buyer journey. 

But why is the buyer journey important? 

Well, let me give you a couple of scenarios.

Scenario number one: An account executive (AE) does a product demo with a prospect. She thinks it’s going great. She walks through all the key features, and the demo lasts a full hour, but at the end, the prospect says, “Looks good. Why don't you reach back out in six to nine months and we'll reconnect then.”

Scenario number two: A sales development rep (SDR) sends out hundreds of messages like this: “Hi, I'm John Smith from ABC Company. We work with top brands to do XYZ. What does your schedule look like next week for a quick chat?” Unsurprisingly, most of the time, there's no response. In fact, studies show the average response rate is only about 8.5% for these cold outreach messages.

Scenario number three: I don't want to just pick on salespeople here, so let me give you an example from marketing. Here’s something you might have heard from your CMO: “Why are our sales reps rejecting or, worse, not even following up on the leads that I’m passing over to them? I mean, these were hot leads from target accounts who downloaded our eBook!” 

Sound familiar?

Every single one of these frustrating and all-too-common scenarios comes from a lack of understanding of the buyer journey – specifically, a failure to understand buyers’ decision-making process as they evaluate solutions.

The sales funnel is NOT the same as the buyer journey

Before we dive any deeper, let me clear up one common misconception. The sales and marketing funnel is not the same as the buyer journey. I know we're aware of that difference logically, but in practice, we still execute go-to-market strategies as if they're one and the same.

Essentially, the funnel is an internal concept for companies to track growth metrics using indicators like marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) and sales-qualified leads (SQLs). It also helps us establish workflows between various go-to-market teams. The issue is that the funnel is very company-centric. 

On the other hand, the buyer journey looks at the decision-making process prospects go through before purchasing. This framework needs to be buyer-centric. 

Mapping out the buyer's journey creates a framework to align your go-to-market messaging. There's been a lot of discussion around crafting the right messaging for buyers at each stage. An effective buyer journey map serves as a messaging map – getting all go-to-market teams on the same page about communicating the appropriate messages to the right personas at the right times.

The buyer journey decision framework

Now we’re clear on why it’s essential to understand the buyer journey and decision-making process, let’s walk through the SiriusDecisions framework. In my view, this is the best of all the buyer journey decision frameworks out there because (unlike many others) it’s clear, prescriptive, and customer-centric.

Here are the key steps involved in this framework:

Step one: Loosen the status quo

Your goal here is to help your target audience recognize what’s wrong with their current situation, whether that's related to pain points, unmet needs, or challenges they face. You want to illustrate the contrast between the outdated "status quo" and show them the new world they could be a part of.

Step two: Commit to change

Once prospects are convinced their status quo needs to change, it’s time for you to instill a sense of urgency so they act now rather than putting decisions off.

Step three: Explore potential solutions

After getting bought into change, buyers enter the research and exploration phase to understand their options. At this stage, it’s vital for you to highlight how your solution can meet the customer’s needs or solve the problem they’re facing

Step four: Commit to a solution

Here is where your unique differentiation comes into play – demonstrating why your solution better meets the prospect's unique needs compared to the alternatives your prospect is evaluating.

Step five: Justifying the decision 

At this point, your prospect’s mind is made up – now they just need to make sure their stakeholders are on board, too. This is your moment to swoop in with a compelling business case based on your persona’s decision criteria.

Step six: Making the selection

Great news! The deal is in the bag. All that’s left is for you to confirm to your new customer that they made the right choice. You can do this through case studies and testimonials from their peers.  

Why it’s essential to align your funnel with the buyer journey

Earlier, I outlined how the buyer journey differs from the sales and marketing funnel. As go-to-market leaders, our goal should be to align those two frameworks as tightly as possible. A clear symptom of misalignment is low conversion rates across funnel stages.

Let’s refer back to those previous examples. When the AE finishes the demo, and the prospect says, "Come back to me in six to nine months," that deal likely won't progress beyond the initial funnel stage. 


Because the AE thought the prospect was already at step three of the decision-making process – exploring possible solutions. That means they skipped step one and didn’t do any foundational work to convince them that change was urgently needed.

The same issue applies to the scenarios with the SDR and the CMO. You can’t expect prospects to seriously consider solutions if you haven’t first sold them on why change is necessary and convinced them to prioritize addressing this issue.

The first buyer journey stages should focus on selling the “why” – why change, why act now. However, we often jump right into product capabilities (the “what”) and implementation details (the “how”) before establishing an emotional case for change. Start with why there is a burning need for your platform, then move into what you offer and how you uniquely deliver value.