We’ve all been in those situations when a salesperson is trying to build your interest after you’ve already decided to buy. If the salesperson would just stop talking you could place the order. Then there’s the times when you’re not ready to consider buying and you’re being asked when you would like delivery. In either case, the salesperson is not recognizing which stage of the buying process you’re in and is actually working against the sale. Staying in tune with your customer is key to having an enjoyable and more often than not successful selling conversation.
As a salesperson, it’s easy to believe you don’t market since that’s for another department; but you do. How aware are you of when you’re marketing or when your selling? It’s important to know because selling should never happen until a buyer is qualified and is serious about making a buying decision. Marketing is focused on generating interest in your product or service, and selling is helping someone who’s already interested make a purchasing decision. If you’ve read any of my blogs you know I believe selling is simply helping people make purchasing decisions. Marketing on the other hand, is about looking for people who want to know more or would like to consider making a buying decision.
Three Stages of a Buying Process
If you want to stay in tune, you need to know what stage the buyer is in with their buying process. We as salespeople have a selling process and every buyer has a buying process. I see the buying process being broken down into three stages. Of course, there could be sub stages for more complex sales, but in general most of us work through a buying process this way:
- Interest – Our curiosity is peaked and we want to learn more.
- Consideration – We begin contemplating or qualifying if we should invest the time to make a decision.
- Decision – We begin the decision-making process of making a purchase or not.
When you tailor your conversations around these three stages appropriately, your buyers will enjoy your selling process and won’t feel like they’re being sold at. Why is this important? When people enjoy your selling process you will more likely than not be referred to others. Think back to the opening paragraph describing times when a seller was out of step with your buying mindset. We still might buy, but it’s not what we call a great experience. On the other hand, when a seller is right there with you, understanding where your mindset is, they become a help rather than a hindrance, and that’s a pleasant experience. That’s the type of experience we enjoy referring our friends and colleagues into.
Dos and Don’ts in each stage
The first step in staying in tune with your customer is realizing which stage they’re in. The second is knowing what to do and what not do in each of these stages. Below are a list of dos and don’ts for each buying stage. Use the list as a self-assessment or to help you strategize upcoming conversations.
Do share information and insights that help a buyer easily identify if your product or service is something they should learn more about.
Don’t talk about features, benefits or “how” you solve their problems.
Do simply imply or state that you can solve their problems.
Do lead them to how they can learn more (web site, report, webinar, seminar, meeting with you, customers)
Do ask the question, “Would you like to learn more?” if they are not being obvious.
Do qualify them ($$, decision power, agreed on need) to make sure they are a good fit to consider buying your offering.
Don’t talk them into considering.
Do explain your selling process or how you help them make a decision.
Do have them clarify their concerns or issues they identified in the interest stage.
Do ask and confirm if they would want to invest the time to make a purchasing decision and work through your selling process. Allow them to say yes or no.
Don’t answer for them by pushing a next appointment.
Do allow them to get back to you with their choice to move forward if they need time to consider or discuss with others.
Do allow them to experience your work, product or service if possible.
Do work through your selling process.
Don’t take short cuts.
Do get all appropriate people involved in the process (users, influencers, financial powers).
Do have your solution be clearly connected to their issues, concerns or goals.
Don’t rush a decision.
Do confront the buyer with clarifying questions if they are procrastinating or hesitant.
Do let them ask to buy.
I enjoy allowing people to buy. One way this is crystal clear to me is when they ask to buy rather than me asking for a decision. When this is happening, it’s a good indicator that you have stayed in tune with the buying stages and communicated (both listening and conveying) very well. This will lead to more referrals and very happy buyers.