Customer Experience News & Trends

Why customers buy & why they don’t: The latest research reveals …

Companies increase their chances of closing sales by understanding their customers’ buying processes and the major factors that affect buying decisions. But it’s equally important for them to avoid the mistakes that most customers find objectionable. 

A recent survey asked customers to identify what salespeople do that helps their buying process.

More than 80% of the responses mentioned these practices:

  1. Listen and respond to my needs. Don’t sell me your product. Solve my problem.
  2. Present solutions honestly and simply. Don’t try to dazzle me or make your product look better by putting down the competition.
  3. Follow up faithfully. Stay in contact; return phone calls and emails.
  4. Respect our buying process. Get to know my company as well as you know your product.
  5. Persistence/regular contact. Be persistent without being pushy.
  6. Demonstrate value. Understand the difference between features and benefits in order to effectively demonstrate your product’s value.

Biggest turnoffs

The same survey asked customers to name the practices that hinder sales.

A majority of customers named the following factors:

  1. Failure to follow our buying process. Not understanding who the decision makers are. Failing to understand my business.
  2. Failure to listen to my needs. Not effectively relating what you’re selling to what I need to buy. Failing to explain solutions adequately.
  3. Failure to follow up. Not focusing on after-sale service. We want salespeople who will follow through without having to be prodded.
  4. Acting pushy/aggressive. Fast-talking or fast-selling; pushing too hard for a sale. Customers are turned off by salespeople who care more about their commissions than trying to help a customer solve a problem.
  5. Failure to explain solutions adequately. Inability to answer all questions. Making exaggerated claims.
  6. Tendency to call too often. Harassing customers.
  7. Lack of preparation. Customers don’t like salespeople who waste time by calling without clear purposes.

Warning signs

Here are five red flags the survey pinpointed that warn salespeople when the customer’s buying process goes off track:

  1. Customer becomes disengaged. Customer stops returning your calls.
  2. Competitive threats. You learn that a customer is talking to competitors.
  3. Unclear fit between solution and need. Your solution doesn’t solve a specific customer problem.
  4. Price shopping. The customer only wants to talk price, not value.
  5. Complex or disorganized buying process. Unexpected new roadblocks appear, when everything appeared clear before.

Trust and credibility

The theme that emerges from these responses is that customers value salespeople who focus on their needs and act in a way that builds trust and credibility. They expect salespeople to listen carefully to their problems, offer solutions and follow up to ensure that commitments are kept.

Here are recommendations based on the survey results:

  • Establish trust. Trust is a selling cornerstone. You may manipulate a customer into buying once, but you won’t establish a customer partnership until there’s trust. One slip on your part — a broken promise, a false claim, a breach of trust — and you risk losing more than a sale. You may have lost a heard-earned customer. If customers trust you, they’ll tell you their needs and what they really want.
  • Know where the customer stands at all times. This allows you to plan and control the next phase in the buying process, by addressing issues important to the customer.
  • Recognize that customers buy solutions, not products or services. They are interested in what your services can do to help solve their problems or make life easier for them. They care less about the details of your product or service than how its superior features will benefit them and their company.
  • Differentiate. Customers will always find ways to determine differences between your services and your competitors. Price is one differentiator. But so are convenience, quality, timeliness and dozens of other factors. A more appealing, well-thought-out sales approach may also be considered a differentiator in the decision-making process.
  • Remember that the act of buying is a series of decisions. Salespeople should concentrate their efforts on learning which decision is currently atop the customer’s mind. When they do that, they’ll be able to provide the information that will move the sales process to a successful conclusion.

Make problems go away

Prospects decide to buy on the basis of expectation. They buy what they believe your product or service will do for them. They don’t care what your product or service is — they buy to make problems go away.

Your first task is to help prospects understand how much better their lives will be with your product or service compared to the way it is now.

These are the things customers hope to achieve and avoid most:

  • Gains, profit, productivity, performance, convenience, quality and safety.
  • Less pain, hassles, back orders, waiting time, breakdowns, mistakes, and downtime.

Motivated by fear

Prospects are afraid of making a buying mistake, of getting stuck with something they don’t want, don’t need or can’t use. A recent study showed that desire for gain has a motivational power of 1.0. Fear has a negative motivational force of 2.5.

That means that prospects are more motivated to buy if they feel they’re going to lose something by not buying than they are in anticipation of the benefits they will enjoy if they do buy.

The best sales presentations show prospects how much better off they will be if they buy and, simultaneously how much worse off they will be if they don’t. In other words, customer problems and acceptable solutions are at the heart of every sales presentation.

Adapted from: The Customer-Driven Sales Organization: Customers Describe How to Win, Keep and Grow Their Business, by The Forum Corporation ( and The Psychology of Selling, by Brian R. Tracy, a sales consultant.

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