Isn’t it great when you’re contacted by someone new and the conversation opens like this, “Your customer told me you can help me like you helped them.” There isn’t a sweeter lead than a referral. Everyone likes referrals, but only the best salespeople work at receiving more. One way to improve the number of referrals you receive is by aligning how you sell with how people buy.
There are two processes happening concurrently during a sale. The sellers selling process and the buyers buying process. When we can tune our selling process into our prospects buying process, we can move the needle toward more referrals as well as win more business.
We’ve all been in those situations when a salesperson is trying to build your interest after you’ve already decided to buy. If the salesperson would just stop talking you could place the order. Then there’s the times when you’re not ready to consider buying and you’re being asked when you would like delivery. In either case, the salesperson is not recognizing which stage of the buying process you’re in and is actually working against the sale. Staying in tune with your customer is key to having an enjoyable, and more often than not, successful selling conversation.
Marketing or Selling?
One key to staying in tune is knowing when you should market and when it’s time to move on to selling. Marketing should be focused on generating interest in your product or service, and selling is helping someone who’s already interested make a purchasing decision. A buyer doesn’t think in terms of marketing and selling, they just want to buy. It’s our job to be in tune with the following three buying stages to know what we should and shouldn’t be doing in each. Let’s take a look at these three stages and lists of do’s and don’ts within each stage.
Three Stages of a Buying Process
There could be sub stages to those listed below for more complex sales, but in general most of us work through a buying process this way:
- Interest – Our curiosity is peaked and we want to learn more. Usually some feature or statement has connected with possibly solving a problem or attaining a goal. Other times something just sounds cool or attractive, but we will dismiss the notion and never move to Consideration.
- Consideration – We begin contemplating or qualifying if we should invest the time to make a decision. Today this usually happens with some light online searches and reading. We might even test our notion with some people we know that might be using the solution we’re considering.
- Decision Making – We begin the decision-making process to purchase or not. We get serious and ask for trials, schedule meetings and invest in deeper research or sales conversations.
When you tailor your conversations around these three stages appropriately, your buyers will enjoy your selling process and won’t feel like they’re being sold. Why is this important? When people enjoy your selling process you will more likely than not be referred to others. It’s a joy to work with someone who is focused on us and what we need just when we need it. It doesn’t feel like they are selling a thing. It feels more like they are supporting our decision. Of course you don’t have to be in tune to make sales. I’ve bought from sales people out of tune, but I didn’t refer them to anyone.
Dos and Don’ts in each stage
The first step in staying in tune with your customer is realizing which stage they’re in. The second is knowing what to do and what not do in each of these stages. Below are lists of dos and don’ts for each buying stage. Use the list as a self-assessment or to help you strategize upcoming conversations.
- Do share information and insights that help a buyer easily identify if your product or service is something they should learn more about.
- Don’t talk about features, benefits or “how” you solve their problems.
- Do simply imply or state that you can solve their problems.
- Do lead them to how they can learn more (web site, report, webinar, seminar, meeting with you, customers)
- Do ask the question, “Would you like to learn more?” if they are not being obvious.
- Do qualify them ($$, decision power, agreed on need) to make sure they are a good fit to consider buying your offering.
- Don’t talk them into considering.
- Do explain your selling process or how you help them make a decision.
- Do have them clarify their concerns or issues they identified in the interest stage.
- Do ask and confirm if they would want to invest the time to make a purchasing decision and work through your selling process. Allow them to say yes or no.
- Don’t answer for them by pushing a next appointment.
- Do allow them to get back to you with their choice to move forward if they need time to consider or discuss with others.
- Do allow them to experience your work, product or service if possible.
- Do work through your selling process.
- Don’t take shortcuts.
- Do get all appropriate people involved in the process (users, influencers, financial powers).
- Do have your solution clearly connected to their issues, concerns or goals.
- Don’t rush a decision.
- Do confront the buyer with clarifying questions if they are procrastinating or hesitant.
- Do let them ask to buy.
I enjoy allowing people to buy. One way this is crystal clear to me is when they ask to buy rather than me asking for a decision. When this is happening, it’s a good indicator that you have stayed in tune with the buying stages and communicated (both listening and conveying) very well. This will lead to more referrals and very happy buyers.