The reason to understand where a buyer is in their process is so you have an orienting generalization, some idea about where they are in the decision-making process. But because decision-making is often a non-linear process, you want a deep understanding of what helps people make good decisions, and you want to forget that you know it, paying attention to what you are seeing and hearing and working to be valuable to them.
How could there be a buyer’s journey when there are multiple people with competing interests all at different stages of what looks like a linear process?
A sales process is a very similar orienting generalization. It helps you recognize lines that don’t exist, and in doing so, you have some ideas about where you are in the sales conversation and what you might need to do to succeed in winning your dream client’s trust and their business. You want to know where you are without slavishly sticking to the little check boxes that make up your process. You want to present enough to recognize what comes next and be resourceful enough to figure out what might come up that isn’t on the page.
Have you ever executed your sales process perfectly only to lose a deal? The perfect execution isn’t a guarantee of success, which is to disparage the sales process but to remind you that selling is a complex, dynamic, human interaction.
Methodologies also orient you and offer guidance in interactions with clients and prospects. They can give you a structure for asking questions, mapping stakeholders, asking for commitments, targeting your dream clients, prospecting effectively, and winning more profitable business (among countless other activities). However, a methodology is more like a recipe, providing you with the ability to add more or less of one thing or another to suit your taste—and in this case, what works for you and your prospect.
A methodology can help you do things more effectively, and it can also constrain you, sometimes for good, sometimes with poor effect.
Developing the ability to work from a higher level of competency requires that you learn how to recognize what you are seeing and hearing and make good choices. It also requires bad choices, which sometimes provide greater learning (no one burns themselves on the stove and then touches fire again just to make sure that was the cause of their pain).
The trick to being effective is to study and practice using the orienting generalizations like buyer’s journeys and sales processes until they fade from your conscious thought. Burn them in until you no longer think about what it is you are thinking about. Act because your subconscious mind knows what to do and does so reflexively.