Customer Experience News & Trends

Generate more sales by understanding these 4 buying stages

Research has proven that buyers go through a formal and sequential decision-making process when deciding whether or not to make a major purchase. And it’s important that a seller quickly identifies the right stage the prospect is in.

Salespeople who employ the wrong strategy with the right buyer because they misread the buyer’s stage lose many good sales opportunities.

All sales strategies and tactics should be based on the buyer’s psychological decision-making process, and where the buyer is in that process. Understanding the following four-stages will help you craft appropriate strategies to align with the buyer’s psychology and behavior:

Stage 1: Satisfaction

Prospects in this stage are not yet ready to buy from you. They may have problems your product or service can solve, but they’re not committed to taking action. Some of them are satisfied with their current situation, while others are strongly discontented.

In either case, they are not ready to act.

Questions they ask themselves:

  • Do I have a problem?
  • How serious is my problem?
  • Is my problem serious enough that I need to do something about it?

Prospects in the satisfaction stage are usually not entirely dissatisfied with the problem you can solve with your product or service. They probably feel that solving the problem isn’t worth the cost, time or energy it would require.

Until prospects reach a psychological state of strong dissatisfaction, they’ll usually not move to the shopping stage. But you can help move them by identifying the existence of problems, the severity of problems, the implication of those problems and whether immediate action should be taken to address them.

Salespeople who routinely move buyers from the satisfaction stage to the shopping stage usually do two things well:

  1. Creative disruption. They help buyers see problems that they may not have even been aware existed.
  2. Consensus building. They practice creating disruption among prospects who will form a coalition toward change internally in the buyer organization.

Stage 2: Shopping

Prospects in the shopping stage are actively shopping for something that meets their needs and removes their problems. They’ve already decided their problems are serious enough to warrant change.

Shopping stage buyers are driven to become more sophisticated in terms of how to make the best decisions for their needs.

Shopping stage buyers ask, “Which solution is best for my needs and how do I make the right choice?”

Salespeople dealing with a customer in the shopping stage will usually find themselves shoulder-to-shoulder with competitive salespeople. If the buyer calls you, he or she more than likely called your competition, too.

Buyers want you to help differentiate your offerings from competitors at this stage. They want alternative offerings to have recognizable differences so they can rank them and choose between them.

Stage 3: Apprehension

In this stage, buyers have a tendency to become nervous about making a final commitment. And they won’t make a formal commitment until their apprehension is reduced.

The primary question for buyers in the apprehension stage is, “What if I make a mistake?”

Even the slightest negative can freeze buyers in the apprehension stage and lead to frustrating delays toward gaining final commitment.

The best strategy is apprehension prevention by the salesperson. This can be accomplished by building the proper value-based business case, complete with an ROI determination.

It requires constant alignment with the buyer and gaining an in-depth understanding of the buyer’s situation, constraints and goals. Once a business case has been built effectively, the buyer’s apprehension will remain low.

Stage 4: Execution

The driving psychological factor here is “Let’s start generating the desired results ASAP and receive the expected ROI.”

In this stage, buyers vary greatly. Some have unrealistic expectations, while others are more reasonable, expecting bumps and bruises along the way during implementation.

Unrealistic expectations may be the result of the salesperson not managing expectations properly in the earlier stages.

Adapted from the book “Selling is Dead,” by Marc T. Miller and Jason M. Sinkovitz. Miller is the founder and CEO of Sogistics Corporation (Twinsburg, Ohio), a sales productivity improvement firm specializing in the large sale. Sinkovitz is the director of Sogistics Learning Solutions.

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