Today I want you to think about your customers and their buying cycle.
Why The Buying Cycle Is Important
I am critical or marketing and sales approaches that scream out "me, me, me" and while we can only be responsible for our own actions, it has to make sense that if we are going to influence and persuade someone to buy, we must see things from his or her perspective.
Asking questions and clarifying needs before launching into a presentation - and even better using a tailored presentation rather than a canned standard presentation - is a great start.
It's certainly better than many sales presentations I have experienced.
But if you want to sell, the flip side is that your customer must buy.
There can't be a sale without a buyer.
So why not see your role as helping the prospective customer to buy?
And to do that, you have to know where they are in the buying cycle and then walk with them through the rest of their buying process.
Stages Of The Buying Cycle
In my coaching system, the buying cycle is split into 13 distinct stages but in this blog, I just want to focus on the main elements of the buying process.
- Search - the potential buyer has a problem and is looking for potential solutions. A small business owner may be concerned over performance and looking for advice on how to improve profitability. The problem is clear but the solution - whether it is a cost reduction consultant, a marketing consultant, a sales trainer or a business coach that is needed - isn't so obvious.
- A generic product buyer - at this stage the buyer has decided to buy the generic solution and is now looking closely at a few options. The business owner has decided that business coaching is the right solution but has to choose which coach to work with.
- The preferred supplier is selected - final negotiations are in progress but the deal isn't signed so poor performance can lose the sale.
- The contract is signed and the customer receives the product or service.
- The customer uses the product and decides whether to buy again based on the experience.
How Does The Buying Cycle Affect Your Selling?
I believe in the repeat customer model of business. The more customers buy again and refer, the better the business.
If you meet a customer at stage 1 of the buying cycle when they are looking for potential solutions, your task is to convince them that they have to take action - the problem is big enough to require an urgent solution.
See it as a gate that they have to pass through. If they don't get through the "I'm going to buy business coaching" gate, they don't care about the relative merits of the different business coaches.
If you meet a customer at stage 2 of the buying cycle and you treat him or her at stage 1 and you try to sell generic business coaching, you are out of sync and you are not delivering the key messages that your prospect wants to hear. At this stage the buyer wants to hear "why you" rather than "why business coaching".
Stage 3 of the buying cycle should be easy. You have become the preferred supplier and you just need to get the customer to sign on the dotted line and perhaps write the cheque for the payment in advance.
But the buyer can start to have second thoughts - it is called buyer's remorse. It happened to me on my very first business consultancy "job". A prospect responded to a direct mail letter and we had a great meeting. Rapport was strong and the MD agreed to a small consultancy assignment that could lead to a much longer relationship.
I was thrilled - looking back I now see I was young and naive - so it was a terrible shock when I followed up the proposal letter for the next two weeks and finally got told that the MD had changed his mind.
I learnt that in stage 3 of the buying cycle, you need to keep the buyer focused on the pain of the problem and gain of the solution. Close is not good enough.
Stage 4 of the buying cycle marks the transaction of the buying process from promises to experience. Sales people can walk away thinking that they have done what's necessary and just hand the problem over to operations.
But it's often not true - either because of over-promises or under-delivery.
The sales person needs to keep up to date and involved if stage 5 is going to be satisfactorily reached where the customer is happy and eager to buy again.
Other Information On The Buying Cycle
I found this nice video on the Buying Cycle from Dave Bulger of Eric Mower and Associates.
Redefining the Buyer Cycle for faster response
Are You Concentrating On Your Selling Cycle At The Expense Of The Buying Cycle?
It is easy to be focused on your own agenda but you need to meet the buyer and adapt your selling process to the buyer.
If you would like sales training, I strongly recommend that you look at Mitch Axelrod and his New Game of Selling.