Buying and selling have changed over the last few decades. From the once universal sales approach to a more customised process, buyers and sellers need to be connected. A structured sales process is needed to match each stage of a buyer’s journey to ward off miscommunication, which can hamper sales deals. Essentially, focusing on how the sales rep can maintain alignment with the buyer’s steps towards finding a solution means personalising the sales operation.
Why is the buyer’s journey important? Its capacity as a visual tool mapping out the path taken by buyers before making a decision can help identify the stages of interaction with your business – important for sales teams and sales strategy coordination. Marketers can also gain a clearer picture of a customer’s experience with the brand, including valuable insight and a better understanding of customer expectations, helping predict and change customer behaviour. The collaboration of sales and marketing in creating a customer journey is important and can be examined further in this blog How to align Sales and Marketing using marketing automation.
A typical 5-step buying decision process outlined below (initially introduced by John Dewey in 1910), gives an overview of each stage from both the buyer’s and seller’s perspectives – what buyers are involved in and the approaches salespeople can take in order to influence at each stage.
5-step buyer’s decision-making process:
- Discovery and awareness of need
When a potential buyer notices an issue or challenge, acknowledgement and recognition lead to diagnosis and assessment of how the issue can be resolved. This, consequently, provides the seller with the ideal opportunity to draw the customer into the buying process. Here, the seller will be involved in educating the buyer on their own products and services and highlighting their benefits by demonstrating the firm’s industry expertise and experience.
Initially, the salesperson’s role is to engage with the potential buyer, ensuring that they are receptive to the prospect’s needs and able to demonstrate why they are the best solution.
- Research available options
At this stage buyers begin to research the various options available with a view to narrowing down to the preferred choices. They carry out an information search, evaluating online and offline resources influencing the important purchase decision and initial enquiries lead to personalised demos by sales reps as buyers contemplate their options.
Therefore, it’s crucial the seller convinces the buyer the benefits of their solution, establishes trust with the buyer and provides confidence in their solution. This form of trust-building will help develop a strong business relationship.
- Evaluation of alternatives available
As the buyer focuses on the specifics of the most appropriate solution, it’s here that as a sales rep you can be influential, i.e. prove your worth and convince the buyer that your solution is the best.
Armed with a shortlist, elimination of some of the vendors means that the buyer is ready to purchase. They need to be assured that (a) the solution meets their needs and (b) implementation will be quick and easy. Salespeople can help buyers convince their internal stakeholders. Focusing on value and how your solution is superior will be a main part of the conversation and key in persuading each member of the decision-making team.
- Purchase decision
After reviewing all the options based on the information collected, marketing of the solution and experience, the buyer now makes a final decision, the most important stage of the entire process. But the emergence of new requests and requirements for reassurance means that procurement and compliance will be involved, so it’s no longer just about the solution purchased. In order to eradicate any concerns, negotiation takes place with reference to the inclusion of contractual and commercial terms ahead of final approval.
As the seller you want to ensure that you are doing your best to respond to the buyer’s requests, eliminating any element of risk and negotiate winning terms as you commit to delivering the best possible justification to the buying team. Once the contract is signed, you can safely say that you have won the deal.
- Post-purchase behaviourAfter the purchase has been made, the buyer will assess their decision and determine whether it has met their expectations. This will bear a great deal of influence, not only on their intention to buy other products or services from the same firm, but also on the purchase decisions of others if sharing their opinions via word-of-mouth or online reviews.
It is important for the seller at this closing stage to engage their customers after their purchase, creating positive post-purchase communication in order to guide future purchases.
Through the achievement of an aligned sales process and buyer’s journey, the sales rep can build a strong and trusting relationship. They will have an insight into the buyer’s decision-making process and make judgements on suitable prospects and business.
Creating engaging, compliant sales presentations is an essential skill for all sales professionals. You can download a free copy of this tipsheet, 7 tips for creating compliant sales presentations for advice and time-saving suggestions here.
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