As a sales professional, it is important to recognize that just as you are navigating your prospects through the sales cycle, they navigate through a cycle of their own. It is called the buying cycle, which encompasses a series of emotions and evaluations that will drive their decision. There are 7 different phases of the buying cycle, and as a sales professional, it is important to be able to clearly identify what phase your prospects are in.
- Status Quo: In this phase, a lot of prospects are comfortable with their situation. They haven’t yet recognized the need to change and are in no hurry to try anything different. This phase is the biggest challenge for the sales professional because your prospect is not yet actively engaged. Take this opportunity to educate your prospect on why they need to work with you and the direct benefits of such a partnership. When you are able to expose flaws in their current process and ways to fix them, you will have gained their full attention.
- Recognition of needs: At this stage in the buying process, your prospect has started to experience some discomfort in their current situation. They realize they have a problem that needs a solution. The sales professional needs to play the role of detective, working with the prospect to discover the true source of their discomfort and viable solutions.
- Evaluation of options: The prospect has acknowledged that there is a problem and has decided to make a change. They have officially moved from the passive mode to the active mode in seeking out a solution to their problem. This is when they are usually meeting with several vendors to find the right fit for their challenge. The sales professional must take their time to carefully evaluate their prospect’s challenges and begin to work up customized solutions to fit their needs.
- Resolution of concerns: After talking with several vendors and carefully reviewing their options, the prospect decides on a vendor to partner with. But, this is not the end of the road for the sales professional. At this time, it is important for you to prove yourself to your new customer. Show them that you will be able to resolve the concerns that have been the source of such grief and discomfort.
- Decision: Your partnership is made official with a signed contract. At this point, your new customer is confident in your ability to solve their problems and they are trusting you to see them through this process.
- Implementation: The sale is made and you have started to put your solution in place. Many sales professionals make the mistake of resting on their laurels during this period. The sale is complete so they are ready to move on to bigger and better things. But, I urge you to stay with the process. Don’t forget to continue to nurture this relationship because at this phase in the process, your new customer is waiting to see if you’re going to make good on your promises. Don’t let them down.
- Changes over time: Companies are always in a constant state of flux. As a result, you will see changing staff throughout the tenure of your relationship which may include your primary contact. Companies may also change strategies and processes which may directly affect you and the solution you’ve developed for them. For this reason, it is highly important to remain engaged with your customer long after the sale. One of the biggest mistakes sales professionals make is neglecting their customer after the sale is complete. When you stay actively engaged with your customer on a regular basis, you stay ahead of any upcoming changes they may experience so that you can respond in kind and preserve your relationship.
Be alert to these phases your prospect is going through as they consider buying your product or service. As you become more familiar with these phases, you will be able to better understand your prospect and efficiently guide them through the buying phases to becoming your new customer.