Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Buyer’s Journey

The Sales Cycle is dead. It has out lived its usefulness. Why? Because the sales cycle is all about us and our interests and not about the customer or his/her interests. The sales cycle is something that we do to the customer and not for the customer. We have all seen sales cycles that were driven by internal factors such as making the end of the quarter number or additional discounts designed to stimulate demand to offset a short fall in sales. This is about us and not them.

Consider the various steps of the sales cycle: Prospecting, Qualifying, Needs Identification, Proposing, Negotiating and Close. This language describes where we are in a series of actions that result in ‘closing’ the prospect.

The world has changed, things have moved on. Today, success in sales is all about understanding how people make buying decisions. The Sales Cycles has been replaced by the Buyer Decision Process. The good news is that there are 5 simple steps in the Buyer Decision Process and they always occur in exactly the same sequence. So then success in sales today comes from understanding where your prospects and customers are in the Buyer Decision Process and helping them move to the next decision step. Success in sales today means helping people to buy. ie. Put yourself on the same side of the table as them. This means replacing our traditional selling-centric paradigm with a buying-centric paradigm.

The 5 steps of the Buyer Decision Process*:

1. Person: You must always start here to create trust and personal credibility. The buyer won’t go the next decision step until you have successfully completed this step.

2. Company: ‘Sell’ your company before you start to ‘sell’ your product or service. Over look this step at your own peril.

3. Product: Many of us start here and spend most of our time on this decision step. Why? Comfort factor, probably. We understand our products and services, and we want to show our people how knowledgeable we are. In reality, most buyers today have done extensive research online. They know exactly what they are looking for and often they know as much or more about a specific product or service than we do.

4. Price (Value): Most buyers have done their homework and know exactly or have a very good idea what prices are and which products and services fit their budget and which one don’t. Help buyers navigate this step by validating their product choice and advising them on different options, packages, service bundles that will deliver superior value to the bottom line in their usage scenario.

5. Why Now? This is where you can be of real service to your prospects and customers. How often have you seen a prospect fly through steps 1 through 4 of the buyer decision process only to arrive at this step and suddenly get stuck in ‘inability to make a decision’ or ‘indecision to take action’. Your role here is simple. Create a sense of urgency by pointing out all the reasons why the buyer needs to take immediate action and more importantly help the buyer to calculate the cost of indecision or delay.

Remember. Everyone goes through exactly this decision process when making a buying decision. All you have to do is determine where they are in the process and provide the required information by asking insightful diagnostic questions that will help move their thinking to the next decision step in the process. Do this and you will add value by helping your prospects and customers make logical, rational buying and investment decisions. Use the Buyer Decision Process and your prospects and customers will reward you with more and higher value buying decisions.

*based on ideas from the book: Action Selling by Duane Sparks, The Sales Board, Inc.