of a unsync. estate ?
From the moment your buyer or prospect has clicked on your website the buying/selling wheel has started to revolve.
One of the most noticeable consequences of this is the danger of dis- synchronisation of the Buying and Selling Cycles.
The Buyers Views of Salespeople survey (below) confirms the first choice for sourcing information on suppliers is Google. This means that sales needs to respond to this first contact as soon as possible.
If 'click' activity is under the responsibility of marketing - the information needs to be processed, qualified and transmitted to sales as quickly as possible.
The Buying Cycle can be broken down into 5 basic stages:-
1. Need recognition and Problem awareness
2. Information search
3. Evaluation of Alternatives
5.Post Purchase Evaluation
This model helps the salesperson to consider the whole buying process rather than simply the purchase decision stage (when it may be too late for a business to influence the choice!)
This model shows that customers pass through all stages in every purchase.
However, in more routine purchases, customers may often skip or reverse some of the stages.
For example, if I want a chocolate Mars bar I recognise my need (hunger) and go right to the purchase decision, skipping information search and evaluation. I don't need to search candy bar .com. However, this model is useful when it comes to understanding any 'considered purchase' that requires more thought and deliberation in say B2B situations.
The buying process starts with 1. need recognition. At this stage, the buyer recognises a problem or need (e.g. Need to do the same advertising activity with a reduced budget, need to update our software , need to communicate the company's corporate responsibility initiative) or responds to a marketing stimulus (e.g. passing a trade exhibition stand, responding to a trade advert, reading a white paper).
Any customer whose attention and interest has been obtained then needs to decide how much information (if any) is required. If the need is strong and there is a product or service that meets the need close to hand, then a purchase decision is likely to be made quickly. If not, then the process of 2. information search begins.
A buyer can obtain information from several sources:
- Personal sources:family,friends,neighbours etc
- Commercial sources: advertising; salespeople; fellow buyers; dealers; packaging; point-of-sale displays , exhibitions , seminars, conferences
- Public sources: web search,newspapers, radio, television, consumer organisations; specialist trade magazines
- Experiential sources: handling the product, examining, trialing the product
- The Internet: Search Engines e.g. Google, Social Media e.g. LinkedIn, webinars, forums etc.
The usefulness and influence of these sources of information will vary by product/service and market and by client category. Research suggests that customers value and respect personal sources, peer group referral more than conventional commercial sources. Word of mouth and reputation is key as can be seen from the Buyers views survey
The challenge for the sales team is to identify which information sources are most influential in their target markets.
In the 3. evaluation stage, the customer must choose between the alternative brands, products and services.
How does the customer use the information obtained?
An important determinant of the extent of evaluation is whether the customer feels “involved” in the product. By involvement, we mean the degree of perceived relevance and personal importance that accompanies the choice.
Where a 4. purchase is “highly involving”, the customer is likely to carry out extensive evaluation.
High-involvement purchases include those involving high expenditure or personal risk – for example buying a house, a car or making investments.
Low involvement purchases (e.g. buying a soft drink, selecting a box breakfast cereal at a store) have very simple evaluation processes.
Why should salespeople need to understand the buyer's evaluation process?
The answer lies in the kind of information that the sales team needs to provide buyers in different buying situations from their DVP.
In high-involvement decisions in complex sales, the salesperson needs to provide detailed information about the positive consequences of buying. The salesperson may need to stress the important attributes of the product as communicated in their DVP, the advantages compared with the competition; and maybe even encourage “trial” or “sampling” of the product in the hope of securing the sale.
- The final stage is the 5. post-purchase evaluation of the decision. It is common for customers to experience concerns after making a purchase decision. This arises from a concept that is known as “cognitive dissonance” or the experience of 'buying a lemon'. The customer, having bought a product, may feel that an alternative would have been preferable. In these circumstances that customer will not repurchase immediately, but is likely to switch brands next time.
To manage the post-purchase stage, it is the job of the salesperson to persuade the potential customer that the product will satisfy his or her needs. Then after having made a purchase, the customer should be encouraged that they have made the right decision.