Maybe you have seen this picture before. It is called “The Young Old Woman.” Go back and take a look at the picture again. What do you see? Do you see an old woman with a large nose, looking downward with a feather in her bonnet? Do you see a young woman with a fur around her next looking away from you? The lesson learned from this picture is it really matters how you look at something. What is your perspective?
As a sales professional, you have been trained on a sales process. Every organization has one. It is the steps needed to move a prospect to a client. Your company may follow Solution Selling, The Challenger Sales Process, Strategic Selling, Insight Selling, Spin Selling or some other methodology to get someone to buy. If you look at every encounter through the lens of a sales process, you are looking at this and seeing the old woman. But you are missing the young woman. In every sales process, there is another process that is taking place: The buying process.
The difficult part of the buying process is that much of it starts before the selling process begins and your prospects do not create nice neat migration plans to show you where they are in the buying process. The top sales performers learn to understand the stages a buyer goes through. The good part is this is true in the Business to Consumer (B2C), Business to Business (B2B) and Business to Government (B2G) sales arenas.
I found an unlikely source for an interpretation of the buying process. In Tom Zanzig’s book The Transformed Heart: Spirituality, Religion and the Struggle for Integrity, He discusses what he calls The Spiritual Growth Cycle. In this cycle, a person goes from a Hunger about a dimension in their life to a search for answers. From the search, they reach an awakening and finally come to a response. Buyers go through a similar cycle when deciding to buy.
They first need to feel a hunger. The hunger could be, at least in sales terminology, a need or a pain that they perceive in their life. The hunger could also be a goal they are trying to obtain. Hunger does not need to be a bad thing, it can be a positive feeling that leads them into a buying cycle. Once the hunger sets in deep enough, our buyer will go searching for something to satisfy the hunger.
The second phase of the buying process is the search phase. Much like when you are hungry and go looking for food, our buyer does the same thing. They may search the preverbal pantry (internet) for a way to satisfy their hunger. If you have an existing relationship with them; they may call you to ask for assistance. But they are going to go search for a solution.
Once they have searched long enough, they will find the “food” that satisfies their hunger. This is the awakening phase. Back to the pantry…this is where you spot the food your stomach is looking for. If a sales professional has not been brought into the buying cycle in the search phase, they most definitely will be during the awakening phase. Our buyers may have multiple options that could satisfy their hunger and want to make sure they chose the best option. Once the best option is determined the final stage of the buying process will begin.
The response phase is where the back half of the sales cycle begins. This is the proof of concept, delivering of pricing and negotiation all take place. This step of the buying process is where most of us feel most comfortable. But if you do a poor job of working with a buyer through the first three phases of their buying process, things can get derailed very easily and your buyer will head back to the pantry too and find something else to satisfy their hunger.
SO WHAT BO!!
So you understand how your buyers buy now. So what? How can you take this bit of information and go sell more product? There are five steps you need to take today.
- Align your process with theirs
You need to match your process up with theirs. Your sales efforts need to fall in line with where they are in the buying process. You need to be able to pick up on clues to where they are in their process, so you can take the following four steps to help them buy.
- Create Hunger
How many times in the above text did you read “satisfy their hunger” and think of the Snickers ad campaign:
I know I did. In fact, I wanted to stop on a number of occasions and go out and buy a Snickers. I didn’t! I swear! Your job, marketing’s job and/or your Sales Development Rep’s job is to help prospects find out they are hungry. Sharing insights, asking questions, presenting white papers and case studies. Those are all ways, much like Snickers commercials, to get you to realize you are hungry.
Here are 3 minutes worth of Snickers’ commercials to help you realize you are hungry: https://youtu.be/QFjWoM36TXM.
- Partner in the search process
During the search process, if you are good/lucky enough to be in the buying process at this stage, is when you need to act as <insert buzzword here> Partner, trusted advisor, consultant, etc. Your discovery process needs to help flesh out all of their needs. You need to help them realize what is really causing their hunger. The guy that was being portrayed as Betty White in the football ad for Snickers is the personification of helping in the search process. Snickers is implying that he just needs a little pick me up.
- Allow them an opportunity to be awoken
There is the old saying that you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. Same thing with our buyers. The awakening phase needs to happen internally to them. They need an Aha! Moment where their eyes are opened to the possibilities. Trying to jerk them out of their bed of comfort like an early morning alarm clock is not always the best method.
- Helping them follow-through with a response
As mentioned above, this is where the sales process really merges well with the buying process and where you are most comfortable. This is the step where we are going to take what they would like to do and demonstrate how we can solve their hunger.
Your perspective on the sales opportunity in front of you will look different than the buying opportunity sitting in front of your prospect. You see an old woman, they see the young woman. But you are both looking at the same picture. Shift your focus, adjust your eyes to look at the picture from their perspective and you will open yourself up to being a better rep.
Good luck and happy selling.