In this article, we’ll discuss how to help your buyer through the sales process–without undermining yourself in the long term.
When you do your job right in sales, the prospect wants to buy. You’re not tricking them into the purchase, you’re not wheedling and conniving and manipulating; it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. Under those circumstances, the buyer wants to move comfortably and quickly through the sales process and get whatever product or service you’re offering. Your job is to provide them with a quick trip through the sales process without forsaking anything: there’s more to being a successful salesperson than closing a particular sale. You want to consider the quality of the relationship you’re developing. In this article, we’ll discuss how to help your buyer through the sales process–without undermining yourself in the long term.
Your sales process isn’t the only cycle being worked through when you engage a prospect–they’re working through a buyer’s process at the same time. You goal should be to align your moves with theirs, so that you both move forward steadily together to a sale. The Buyer’s Process in its entirety consists of Problem Recognition, Information Search, Evaluation of Alternatives, Purchase Decision, and Post-Purchase Behavior, but a given sale can skip several steps or hit them in odd orders, with the exception that problem recognition always comes first. We’ll discuss moving through the sales process in terms of buyer’s process stages.
Problem/Need Recognition. The buyer realizes they have a need. Perhaps a problem has newly arisen, or perhaps you’ve made the problem known via advertising or a cold call. Whatever triggers the recognition of a problem, this is the vital starting step of any purchase. How your prospects typically recognize their need can greatly influence your optimal sales process and how you move forward.
Information Search. In this stage, the buyer seeks information on potential solutions to their problem. If you’ve introduced the problem yourself, you might have the opportunity to control the information-gathering phase as part of your sales process; thoroughly satisfy the prospect’s desire to investigate with an extensive knowledge of your field and product. You’ll lower the desire to seek information elsewhere and make inroads on a lasting relationship with the prospect.
Evaluation of Alternatives. After gathering information, buyers consider their options–different brands, different products. If your sales process has put you in control by this point, you want to again feed this desire and satisfy it. While some purchases may skip this or any other step in the process except ‘Need Recognition’ and ‘Purchase Decision’, the best sales satisfy at all stages.
Purchase Decision. The stage where the decision to buy becomes finalized (or aborted). In some situations, your sales process only begins at this point, when the prospect reaches out to you as a representative of a product they’ve evaluated positively. The buyer wants to buy at this point–your goal’s to avoid dissuading them through poor customer service, a convoluted purchase process, or allowing doubt to take hold. Negative word-of-mouth is a big problem at this stage, if the buyer shares their intention to purchase your product with friends–who will either confirm the purchase or raise doubts.
Post-Purchase Behaviour. After a purchase, a prospect will compare their experience with the product with their expectations at the time of the purchase. If your sales process adequately and accurately developed the buyer’s expectations, they’ll be satisfied–if you overhyped the product, or rushed the process, they’ll likely end up disappointed. Disappointed customers go to competitors or give up on the product type entirely, so if you want to excel you MUST value this final stage of the buyer’s process in how you develop your sales process.
Framing your sales process in terms of the buyer’s process improves the ‘relationship developing’ aspect of a given sale. Other framings often focus too much on the purchase decision, favoring the closed sale over the satisfied customer. But dissatisfied customers don’t buy again, whereas satisfied customers build sales empires.
Claire is a Western University graduate with a background in recruiting, sales and customer service. As a Recruitment Consultant, her goals are to place the best people in the right roles resulting in satisfaction for both the candidate and client.