The buying process has an order

How do you know where the customer is in the Buying Process? Ask, and he'll tell you.

Nobody likes to be sold.  Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m thrilled the salesman sold me a new car!”?  Or, “I’m delighted the sales clerk sold me this new outfit!”?  Nah, me either. 

We like to buy.  You’re much more likely to hear, “I’m thrilled with the new car I bought!”  Or, “I’m delighted with the new outfit I bought.”  Business people can foster their own success by stopping selling and helping buy.   

Giving credit where it’s due, years ago Steve Duea taught the Buying Process.  He also taught the Selling Process; however in practicality, intimately knowing it is not too awfully important.  Understanding the Buying Process, judging where the customer is in the process and customizing your approach to the customer are much more important.  Back in the day, sales instruction was based on presentations or pitches to the customer.  The structure was something like this: Opening (small talk, ice-breaker), Presentation (product description, how it might help the customer), Closing (ask the customer to buy), Objections (customer would avoid buying).  This approach is uncomfortable for both the customer and the seller.  Why?  Vendors are trying to sell rather than helping buy. 

Business people may feel compelled to tell about their products and services, make presentations.  It’s a chance to demonstrate vast knowledge.  Nevertheless, customers will pay attention to information they want to know about, and not much to information that business people gratuitously decide to spout off about. 

The Buying Process occurs in this order: Attention, Interest, Understanding, Desire, and Decide.           

  1. Attention is simply some sort of positive impression about a product or company.  Advertising and word-of-mouth are common methods.  Positive interactions (aka effective, professional conversations) with company representatives is another tried and true method. 
  2. Interest is the customer thinking he may need or want a product or service.  "May" is the key word in that sentence. 
  3. Understanding is the customer checking it out and satisfying himself that the product or service will do what he needs or wants.  He comprehends what it is, what it does, and how it works for his particular situation. 
  4. Desire can be a difficult step for the customer.  Issues may include completely changing the way he does things, affordability, discontinue business with a long-time provider and other potentially emotional issues.  Doesn’t it make sense that even for typically fact-based decision makers that an emotional component is finally involved? 
  5. Decide is pulling the trigger on who to buy from and when.     

Purchases are not made without a completed Buying Process.  The process can progress quite rapidly or very, very slowly.  For any given person considering a product or service, the process may never be completed.  No purchase.  For items that are used or consumed over and over again, once a decision is made the buyer is forever in the Decide phase until a change is needed or wanted.  Then the process begins again.  Why does it begin again?  A safe bet is the customer’s Attention was tweaked by something else.

Customers dislike high pressure selling.  This can occur when the seller is ahead of the buyer in the Buying Process.  What if the seller perceives, for instance, a customer is in the Decide phase when in reality the customer is in the Interest phase?  The seller could easily be perceived as high pressure.  Conversely, what if the seller is lagging behind the buyer in the process?  There’s a fair risk the seller will be perceived as a bit incompetent.  Anytime the seller is working in a different phase than the buyer in the Buying Process, a poor outcome can occur. 

So, you’ve got yourself a good customer?  There is a strong case to be made for some sort of ongoing or regular customer interaction.  Reason: To be alert to a Buying Process underway that could displace your product or service.  From the customer’s perspective, he may conclude your company’s indifference to him means taking his business for granted.

How do you know where the customer is in the Buying Process?  Ask, and he’ll tell you.     

Pat Whidden has enjoyed a 40-year career in animal agriculture-related agribusiness, with experience ranging from the dirty boots to the boardroom.  He is a consultant specializing in strategy development and execution, as well as sales and customer service coaching, seminars and corporate events.  Visit Whidden on the web at http://pbwhidden.com or contact 615-719-2447

or [email protected]

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