Define The Customer Purchase Process
The Most Important ProcessThere’s really only one process that matters in sales, and it’s actually not your sales process. It’s the customer’s purchase process. In effect, your sales process needs to map to the customer’s purchase process, whether in a quick, same-day type of sale, or whether over the course of months or years in a longer-term B2B sale. Remember that there’s no “best product” out there. What there is instead is a best product for a specific customer at a specific time and at a specific price. It’s this level of specificity that is required to understand the buyer’s specific purchase process in order to make more sales.
Identify the Goal or ProblemWhat’s the first step in the customer journey? Typically, they have a problem or they have a goal. For the sake of simplicity, let’s focus here on the case in which they have a problem. Not only do they have a problem, but they might not even recognize that they have a problem yet. They may instead be so accustomed to fighting through the pain point and thinking that the problem is “just the way it is,” that they have not taken a step back to realize the value of eliminating the pain point. Regardless, this is an opportunity for you to provide a solution. In the case that they are aware of the problem, you can get right to the heart of the discussion. In the case that they are not yet aware, you’ll need to go through the process of helping them to realize they have a problem and the value of a solution.
Define the ConsequencesThe next step in the prospective customer’s journey is to feel that there is justification for spending time, money and resources in fixing the problem. Not every issue is a showstopper, and in fact many are typically left unresolved in a prospect’s workday due to the lack of return on any type of investment in fixing the problem. For example, let’s say that someone thinks the coffee served in their office is just OK. If they drink only one cup a day, perhaps it’s not worth their time to worry about finding a vendor who would supply them with better tasting coffee, given that they are comfortable enough with the status quo. Make sure you are focusing on problems that are worth their investment in solving. Put the problem and solution into numbers, if possible. By fixing the problem, how much money would they save, or how much time would they save, or how much more revenue could they make, etc.? A problem is not only defined by time and cost savings, but also by how the solution will impact the business overall, enabling greater growth. By putting the situation into business terms and showing real ROI (Return On Investment), it makes it much easier for the prospective customer to justify the expense and move ahead with the purchase.
Evaluate AlternativesChances are that no matter what you are offering, another set of companies is offering the same or similar products/services. And so it’s natural that your prospective buyer is going to stop and look around at alternatives prior to making a decision. This is one reason why search engines like Google and Bing are so popular, with more than 19 billion monthly searches in the U.S. alone. During the prospective clients’ due diligence, make sure that you have clearly articulated your differentiation in the market and why such differentiation matters to each particular prospect. One alternative that a buyer can always resort to, and one that is often forgotten by salespeople, is to do nothing. Instead of making any purchase to solve the problem, perhaps they find the cost to eliminate the problem a poor value and unjustifiable given other higher priorities. And so it’s always important in your communications with prospective customers to articulate the cost of doing nothing, in the same way as you may communicate why your offering is the best choice for them among the competition.
Define the Decision CriteriaAt a certain point in the process, the prospective customer is going to define the various criteria upon which they’ll make their purchase decision – whether to purchase at all, and if so from whom. It’s critical that you learn their decision criteria. Cookie cutter sales often do not work. When contrasted against customized pitches or solutions that directly address the prospective customer’s pain points, it’s difficult for a cookie cutter sales approach to have the same level of impact. Therefore, whenever possible, uncover the decision criteria for the purchase and customize your sales approach accordingly.
Determine the ValueEvery solution comes with a price, whether free or very expensive. When your prospective customer has decided that the problem is worth solving, has looked at various options and has figured out how they’ll make their decision, they are also going to calculate a price in their minds that they see as bringing value to the situation. Above that price, they will think of the offering as not cost-effective. Going back to “Define the Consequences” above, it’s critical that you shape the purchase decision in terms of value to the prospective customer. Your price may be higher than other options, but perhaps your ongoing total-cost-of-ownership numbers are half of the competition’s. Or perhaps you provide better after-sale customer support that you know they will need in order to be successful. Or perhaps you will help them make more money longer-term. A price is not just a number, and it’s your job to make the prospective customer fully understand the relationship between a price for an offering and the value they will receive in return.
Final DecisionFinally, the prospective customer is going to make a final purchase decision, based on all the factors listed above. It’s your job to help frame the problem, the positive outcomes from solving the problem, the consequences of selecting the wrong solution or of not solving the problem at all, the price, and the value. By methodically covering all the bases presented here, you greatly increase your probability of winning the business.
Customer Purchase Process Definition