Until recently, the sales process gave direction to the salesperson’s actions and determined their effectiveness. Today, clients are taking control of the sales process, and at which stage the salesperson makes their appearance determines how great their influence will be. Understanding the client’s purchase path and matching the sales process to it provides a distinct competitive advantage and allows you to manage the sales funnel more efficiently.
A wide-ranging survey by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) found that before even conversing with a salesperson, clients have already gone through 57% of the purchasing cycle. They conduct their own research, looking for objective information from other clients and via social media before returning to the salesperson.
What’s your role? Although the client has unlimited access to information, they have a problem deciding what’s most important and finding the best option. Even when clients are in a more advanced stage of the purchasing cycle, you can offer your professional knowledge, your assessment of the situation, or your ideas that will change their way of thinking and influence their purchase decision in a direction beneficial for you. To do this effectively, you need to know where the client is in the whole process.
A typical decision-making process
The standard purchase path the client takes is as follows: the client designates the business objectives, identifies the barriers on the road to success, and looks for ideas on how to overcome these difficulties. When that means making changes, they start looking for information and available solutions. Throughout the whole process, they go through the next stages of the purchasing cycle, which you as a salesperson should understand.
Awareness – the beginning of the road
The client’s purchase path begins by identifying an obstacle that makes it difficult to achieve their set of business goals. This may be an inappropriate management style, competition, declining product quality, excessive production costs, or low sales. Sometimes the difficulty concerns a specific department, or the whole organization. At this stage, the client assesses how serious the obstacle is, and when there is more than one, establishes priorities. Some problems are long-term, others appear unexpectedly. The client focuses on those that require immediate attention.