The second phase deals with the buying process and factors affecting this process. There are four main factors affecting the buying process. These factors are;
1. The Five Buying Stages
2. Social Proof
3. Why B2B Companies Buy
4. The Five Influencers
Today I am going to discuss the Five Buying Phases in detail, and what you need to know, so that you are moving your prospect through these stages properly. The graphic shows the initial four stages.
Making contact with a new customer is much like driving a car that has a clutch. And if you sell new methods or processes, or new technologies, or new ways of doing things — moving too fast stalls the process. Even if you are not selling anything new, you still need to follow these steps to ensure success, and to save yourself a lot of time and stress.
These are the steps for a successful B2B sale.
Phase One: The customer must agree with you that he has a problem. If for example, you sell inventory management software; your customer must acknowledge that he’s got an inventory management problem.
For most sales people, this is the most difficult step in the process. Almost all sales people, who are looking for new prospects, spend most of their time in phase one. However, instead of asking what the problem is, these sales people try to sell a solution first, by trying to tell the prospect what business they are in. They then leave it up to the prospect to figure out if they need their help or not. This is not only the wrong approach. This is also a terrible waste of a salesperson’s time!
Let’s look at the process here for a minute. The sales person receives, or builds, a list of prospects to call. Many have had no training on how to approach a prospective customer. Most have been taught by the “Stuff against the wall method”. This method stated that the more calls you make, the more sales you will make. This outdated and incorrect methodology has been used for far too long. It was a method invented by uninformed sales people, who didn’t know any other way of calling prospects.
So, they pick up the phone and start calling. Most sales people are terrified of this process. They know that over 95% of the people they call will not be receptive or hospitable to their call. The sales call will receive rejection, and most of these sales will people take it personally. I know, I’ve been there, done that!
We need to educate sales people on what they should be doing when they first approach a prospect. Many companies do not know how to do this properly. This is a subject for another time. But, if your sales people are struggling with this exercise, then do not blame them. Get them the proper training and coaching on how to perform this important part of the selling process.
In actual fact, phase one is a marketing issue, not a sales issue. It is marketing’s responsibility to build leads. Depending on the size of your organization, you need to ensure that marketing and sales work together, to make this the driving force behind your revenue generation machine.
Now let‘s have a look and see what you need to do as you move into phase two.
Phase Two: The customer agrees that there is a problem. Now, he has to agree that he “wants to solve” his problem. This can be a very difficult phase to overcome. However, again, this should be a marketing issue, not a sales issue.
You have to convince the prospect that he will only gain by solving his problem. As you know, some people realize there is a problem, but they believe the solution will be more hassle to them than the problem.
As an example, a controller knows that budgeting software will help him in his budgeting process. He also knows that he will have to train all of his staff on the software, and more importantly, how to do their job differently. In the short term, it will be very disruptive to the whole organization, and he does not want to get involved. He has heard the horror stories from friends in other companies.
You need to show him that you are interested in solving his problem, and that if he doesn’t solve his problem, he will be much worse off than he is now. You do not want to make the mistake of trying to sell him something in this phase of the selling process.
What you have to do here is show the prospect that you are knowledgeable about the problem. You can best demonstrate this knowledge in two fashions. An excellent way to show your expertise in this area is through a white paper, a newsletter, or a technical review you or your company has written.
If you (your company) have a white paper describing how to fix this problem through sound business practices, you will start to build trust with the prospect. Remember that someone will not buy from you if you have not developed a certain degree of trust with him or her.
They want to know that they are buying from someone reputable. The best way to demonstrate your reputation is through your knowledge of your prospect’s business, and consequently the problems they have been experiencing.
The other, and better, way to show him that you can solve his problem, with the minimum amount of disruption to his business, is by a referral or through references. In fact, referral selling is the best way to sell.
Phase Three:The customer recognizes the value of your particular solution to his problem. Your inventory management software tracks all of the things that are important to him; it runs on his computers, talks to his barcode readers, and fits within his budget.
Here, you can solidify your reputation with other customer references. The best way to sell of course is through referrals, and the second best way is through references. If these references are in the same industry as your prospect, you will gain trust even faster. If they are with one of his competitors, you will put the emotion of selling into motion. This should help your prospect decide even sooner. They do not want their competitors having any kind of advantage on them in any respect.
A good way to gain trust, and to show your ability to perform, is to let the prospect try out your solution for a short period of time, if this is feasible. If you are selling software, let him try it for a month. If you have a service or other products you are selling, give him an iron clad guarantee.
If you are absolutely sure that your product and/or service will solve his problem, then you should give some kind of guarantee. If you have agreed upon why your product is the best solution for him, and you have shown how it can save him time, money, or generate income, then guarantee a minimum level of results. Let him know that you will ensure these results through your engineering group, or whatever, but let him know that you are there for him.
Phase Four: The customer has come to know you; he likes you and trusts you. He knows that you will do what you say. He knows you are going to perform, and he is willing to risk his career credibility, (maybe even his job) by cutting you a purchase order.
Once you have established yourself as trustworthy, you will now be able to complete the sale. You must also keep gaining his trust by showing your professionalism. You need to have a contract that he can sign. You need to show him all of the steps that you and your company will go through in order to ensure a successful installation.
You also need to demonstrate how you will guarantee his success. This can be done by educating his staff on the system. You can give him and his staff a 24-hour hotline to call with issues. Show him that you have thought of all contingencies, and that you are there to help him look good.
Phase Five: This is the renewal stage, where you sell more to now existing clients.. You will gain more revenue, and easier revenue from an existing relationship than you will from trying to establish new relationships. So, renew your past customers, and keep your current customers abreast of what you are doing.
Please watch for the remaining three factors, coming soon in future posts over the next few days.