If you have been in sales more than a month, (or watched the movie Glengarry Glen Ross) you have heard these steps to selling; Attention, Interest, Desire , Action. A.I.D.A.
But what is far more valuable is knowing the steps customers go through to buy. The money is in understanding how people buy...the mental process they go through.
I'm sure there have been books that outline this process, and they may have different words to describe each step, but here's mine....
Coming into focus, Gathering information, shopping, rationalizing their choice, and defending their purchase
Coming into focus. This is them becoming aware that they are interested in something that can be bought, or a problem that can be solved by buying something (any service or product). Maybe they saw an ad, got a direct mail offer, had a friend bring up the subject....something brought the idea of what you sell to their mind.
Gathering information. This could be anywhere from just sending in a postcard for information, a few seconds scanning an ad (some people consider reading an ad as gathering information), talking to friends for an opinion, reading a consumer magazine...all the way to spending a year reading online reviews until their eye's bleed. We all gather information differently, and we all satisfy that itch at different levels of research.
Shopping, This is where they start thinking about individual options, and start narrowing the field...comparing alternatives available to them. This is where they actually view options. And if they are shopping for a retail item, this is where they are in the store generally.
Rationalizing their choice. At this point, they have subconsciously chosen what they are comfortable buying. They just aren't aware of it yet. At this stage they will start giving reasons why one option is better than another....why they don't need certain features. They may say "Well, we need to do something". At the end of this step, they bought, although they may take time talking about it...before they are aware that they have decided to buy.
Defending their purchase. This happens right after they bought, and for a time afterwards. This is the process of telling their spouse, friends, relatives, and themselves....why they bought, and why it's a smart decision.
One thing that most consumers need before they buy is the feeling that they have "shopped around". Let's cover that now.
How do you give them the feeling that they have shopped?
First you have to know why they feel that need to shop...you may be the 3rd life insurance agent that had called them, the fifth retailer they talked to, the fourth company they called for information.. They may have sent in 5 info request cards. Remember, we each have our own definition of "shopping". Some people feel they have "shopped around" because they saw two ads...or two items in the same ad. Some people feel they have shopped when they have seen two items (out of hundreds available)...and some people don't think they have finished shopping until they have seen every single item made that could possibly help them.
But we are talking about feelings here. They need to feel they have shopped. They need to feel that they no longer need to "look around". Let's talk about what you can do, while you are talking with them...on a sales appointment, or in your store...to satisfy that itch.
At the beginning.....when they are first meeting you. You can say.....
"There are several different programs out there. I can get any of them for you, if you like... May I ask a few questions to make sure we are talking about the best one for you?" or
"There are about 100 different options available. I can get any one of them for you, but may I ask a few questions to narrow the search, and find the best options for your situation?"
See how you positioned yourself? Now, you are doing the shopping for them.......but that isn't enough. We want to make absolutely sure, at the end of the sales call (or store visit) that they won't feel the need to shop any further.
Next, you want to ask several qualifying questions that narrow the search.....for example;
"What are you using now?"
"What do you like about it?"
'What don't you like about it?"
"What have you seen up until now?"
"What has been your experience with (whatever you sell, of who sells it)?"
The reason you ask these kinds of questions is two fold;
1) You are genuinely looking for the best product or service for them. And...
2) You are furthering the idea that you are choosing the exact offer that fits them the best.
And when you are actually showing your offer...your product or service....Here is what I do to further cement the idea that they have shopped.
What I'm going to do is show two very similar offers with two similar price points. Either one of these offers would be very beneficial to the buyer. Simplify it by making them very similar....so the difference is maybe one or two features. Maybe talk about two different programs or two options in the same program. Just make sure they are very similar, or you can confuse them. It can be two different companies...or two offers from the same company (or brand).
And my next addition to these two offers is very advanced.
I'll start with three or even four choices. The main two...which fit them well, and one or two others that could work, but are not ideal. Why do I have these other two offers? I want to have something I can recommend that they not buy. For example, in my retail store, I may line up four vacuum cleaners together. The first thing I do is list the prices (to give them time for the price to soak in). Then I may ask another question or two..."Did you say you have carpeted steps...Hmmm..Then I don't recommend this model, because the hose won't reach all your steps".
You want anything to be able to say "No" to an offer. and it cannot be the lowest priced offer. If you tell them you can't recommend the lowest priced offer (of the three or four), they will think it's because you want to sell the higher priced items/offers. You want them to accept that one or two of these offers is not right for them...because you recommend they not buy those offers.
Then I take those other offers away (physically, if possible) and now I have two very similar offers to show them. I want them to be similar enough that only one presentation is needed. Just one or to features are different.
And after you;
1) Offered to be their personal shopper (at the beginning)
2) Asked questions to narrow down the options to just a few.
3) Recommended that one or two options not be for them.........
Now you just have the two options to compare. Rarely will you compare three options (unless they are truly almost identical). Never show four or more options with a serious presentation. You will overload the prospect with information and choices...you will be literally forcing them to not buy today because they "Need to consider everything they learned today". Two options, side by side (even in print, if needed). At the end of this step, they will be deciding which one to buy...not whether to buy. Don't skip a step, every step of the process is needed, to almost guarantee a sale right then..on that call.
Tomorrow (I think) I'll cover the next section of the buying process...rationalizing their choice and defending their purchase... It's right after they see your two real options...and they start the decision making process. A little too lengthy to add to this post. And you'll learn how to use these steps in buying to make sure they get the right thing for them... they get it from you...and they get it right now.
But in my experience, this is where most salespeople (that have got this far at all) blow the sale.
See you then.