The buzz in sales and marketing circles lately has been about the “buying cycle”—and more importantly, how the customer buying cycle has shifted. Today’s customers no longer buy the same way, which is forcing the hands of many sales people and marketers. They have to adapt or risk dying out.
But in order to adapt effectively, you need to understand just how customers buy. You need to understand your buying cycle.
The Cycle of Buying
The idea of the buying cycle goes hand in hand with the sales funnel. Essentially, customers are now perceived as being at certain “stages” within a cycle of purchases, or within a funnel.
The beginning stage consists of potential customers who aren’t yet looking for a solution. They’re interested, but they don’t have the resources or need to purchase just yet. The second stage is when these potential customers begin actively looking for a solution; they do research and seek out answers, but still may not be ready to buy.
The third stage consists of customers who are ready to buy. They’re seriously gathering information; they want demos, pricing information and package deals. Finally, you have the post-purchase consumer. This customer has bought the product and now requires support to implement it, learn to use it, and potentially upgrade it later on.
Customers at All Stages
Not every customer will come to you at the beginning stage. Some of them will be late-stage entries—they’re already primed and ready to buy. Some of them might contact you to gather additional information even though they’ve already decided to buy something else.
Another new feature of the buying cycle is that customers can spend a long time in the first and second stages of the cycle. They’re taking time to research their options.
Adapting to Individual Customers
A key thing to understand is customers at different stages of the cycle want different things. Customers in the beginning stages are interested, but they don’t want to be pitched at. They aren’t even ready to learn more about your company. They’re just scratching the surface. Customers in the second stage might be interested in more information about your company, but they don’t want to talk to a sales rep yet.
Similarly, customers in the post-purchase phase need to be supported. They will appreciate you taking the time to troubleshoot their new program with them.
Sales reps may have a difficult time adjusting to the idea that not every customer is ready to buy immediately, and not every lead they get is going to be a good one. Understanding the buying cycle will help them better understand each individual customer—and tailor their interactions to suit the customer’s unique needs.
Getting More Insights
Understanding your buying cycle—how customers move through the various stages of a purchase in your company—and even understanding where each individual customer stands within that cycle is aided by technology.
Using the right tools, you can gather data and collect statistics, such as how long it takes the average customer to close the deal or how many interactions your sales reps have with certain customers. You can also track leads and maintain information about potential customers.
Keeping track of leads and customers, along with their preferences and interactions, will help you tailor your interactions—and better understand the people who are most likely to buy from you, both now and in the future.
Posted By Author Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist
Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.