Ask almost sales professional today and they’ll likely tell you the same thing: The buying process has changed. Today’s customers don’t make their purchases the same way.
Technology has driven many of the changes sales professionals are reporting. If you want to make more sales more efficiently, you want to understand the new customer buying cycle.
A Longer Process
One of the most notable differences in today’s customer buying cycle is that it’s a much longer process than it used to be. Customers today take more time to move from the initial identification of the problem to the actual purchase of a solution.
With the trend towards faster technologies and easier communication, many people thought this would go in the opposite direction, speeding up the buying process. Sometimes, this might even appear to be the case. Another thing that has happened is customers now make it most of the way through the buying process without even talking to a representative. Once they reach out, the sale can be closed relatively quickly.
This gives the illusion of a much quicker buying process, but in reality, it’s become a more drawn-out cycle.
Identifying an Issue and Starting Research
The buying cycle begins with the identification of an issue. The customer has a need they want to fulfill. Maybe they need a solution for payroll in their company, or perhaps they want a marketing solution to increase brand awareness.
Once an issue has been identified, the customer begins to research potential solutions. Initial research is often vague and slow-moving. The customer may research ways to improve their payroll process or they might seek out new marketing tactics. They haven’t zeroed in on one particular type of solution, however.
As time goes on, research becomes more specific. They decide on one type of solution, such as outsourced payroll or marketing rather than DIY, for example.
Finding the Right Solution
Now the customer begins to determine the available solutions on the market. They’ll compare different companies and different solutions they could invest in. They’ll research which ones fit their needs best. They’ll look for offers and prices.
This happens anywhere between half-way and two-thirds of the way through the customer buying cycle. At this point, the customer has now exhausted the answers they can find themselves. With questions in hand, they finally reach out to your sales representative to get answers. If the customer is interested and the sales person provides a compelling solution, the sale follows relatively quickly.
After this point, you’ll need to continue offering support and incentives for the customer to remain with you.
Engage Customers at Every Stage
Whether the customer is “just browsing” or has just completed their purchase of your product, the challenge for you is to keep them engaged and convinced this is the right solution for them. You want to make contact with them at every stage of the buying cycle.
For customers just beginning their journey, you hope to form a relationship by offering your expertise and informative content. This will help the customer as they continue their journey and help you build a reputation as a reliable and trustworthy source of information.
As the customer begins to narrow down the field, you’ll want to provide information about your own products and services, including what you do differently from your competition. Think about the questions your customers often have. Try to address them.
Finally, you’ll want to equip your sales people to make customized offers and provide answers to the tough questions these knowledgeable, self-sufficient customers ask of them. Once the sale is complete, think about how you can continue to offer service and assistance to your customers.
Understanding your customers’ buying process will help you reach them with the right content and offers at the right time, every step of the way. In turn, you can sell smarter and faster.