Understanding the new buyer process

by Shannon F.

sales buyers process

As you have likely experienced, today’s business decision-makers rarely turn to salespeople first when they need to make a purchase. They rely instead on the information, guides, and product comparisons they find online. Be honest; you’d rather research a need online instead of first talking to a person who is going to try and sell you their solution. There are some positive benefits to this new level of buyer independence (buyers are savvier and better-informed, so by the time they get to you, they are ready to have a high-level conversation about your product; buyers may find you online and give you a call—that’s a lead you didn’t have to work for!) But in general, salespeople must work harder than ever to compete in this new buyer climate.

Here are the cons to buyer independence:

-Buyers form strong preferences and requirements in the early stages of realizing a need, defining the need, and researching options. If you are not involved in this discovery process, you will have zero chance to influence the buyer’s vision.

-Forrester Research reports: vendors that are involved in the early phases of the buying process (1 through 3 in the graphic above) will get the deal 65% of the time. The problem is: many salespeople are powerless to get involved in the early stages, since buyers purposely exclude them.

-By the time the buyer finds you online and contacts you, you’re reduced to a bidder. It’s too late to get in as a consultant, help the buyer write the RFP, and name your price.

Understanding the buyer’s process is essential to overcoming the challenges created by buyer independence. In the three earliest stages, buyers do the following things:

-Ask if there is a need.

-Confirm the need.

-Research various solutions.

-Learn about innovations and new products in the industry they are buying in.

-Begin to develop specifications.

-Evaluate different vendors.

That means that you must play a specific role in the buyer’s early stages if you want to help shape their vision. You must:

-Introduce the need or confirm the need early on.

-Help the prospect to develop priorities.

-Create awareness of problems and challenges.

-Deliver surprising facts.

-Challenge the prospect’s assumptions.

-Establish your role as an expert and build trust.

-Help the prospect to see the big picture; how does the purchase impact multiple areas of their business, over time?

-Establish differences between you and your competitors.

The key to playing the role of a consultant rather than a bidder is simply getting in early. How do you insert yourself into the early stages of the buyer process? By introducing a need in advance of a trigger event, such as an office move, when business decision-makers are evaluating their options and requirements. It should be your goal to get that decision-maker thinking/saying, “Oh, right! I DO need that product/service,” or, “Hmm, that sounds like an interesting direction to take. I’d like to learn more about that product/service.”

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