When customers make a purchase, they typically go through a few different stages. As a seller or marketer, your job is to help shepherd the customer through these stages quickly and efficiently.
Based on our experience, here are the four most common stages of buyer purchasing behavior, plus the tools you can use to advance the sale to the next stage.
1. Customer assesses the problem.
In this stage, the customer is trying to assess the problem and figure out how their performance compares against benchmarks. At this stage, a simple assessment tool can help customers get a feel for how they’re performing in the market.
(To capture more leads from your website, provide visitors with an assessment tool.)
2. Customer quantifies the value of the problem.
At this stage, the customer is saying, “This solution looks interesting … but is it worth it to me to implement it?”
This is when sellers and marketers must quantify the value of the problem for prospective buyers. In other words, if the prospect were to solve this problem, how much money will they either be able to potentially make or save by doing so?
It’s important to note that when customers quantify value, they’re simply trying to figure out how big the problem is. Is this a two million dollar problem, or a 10 million dollar problem? (Note that you’re not yet discussing how much investment it will take to fix the problem -- that happens at the “justify the cost of making a purchase” stage, explained further below in this list).
(To capture more leads from your website, provide visitors with a value calculator. )
3. Customer compares alternative solutions.
Frequently (but not always) customers reach a stage where they want to compare offerings. Essentially, at this stage you’re trying to show the customer why this company should buy from you and no one else. Your Company has one offering; XYZ Company has a similar one: which one is best?
At this point, we advise using a TCO (total cost of ownership) tool, which will provide calculations showing the value of one solution over another, over the same time period.
(To close more competitive deals, provide your sales team with a TCO tool. )
4. Customer justifies the investment.
One of the final questions a customer will ask is, “Is there a cost justification for me to make this investment?” In other words, the customer wants to know what the return on the investment will be if he or she buys your solution.
Unlike the stage above in which the customer assesses value of the problem, this stage identifies the cost involved in investing in a solution to that problem. In other words, the problem could cost $5 million, but if the solution requires $10 million to solve, the company should probably address another area or spend resources elsewhere. On the other hand, a problem that costs $2 million and only would cost $150,000 to solve would be worth doing something about. (A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself whether or not you’ve made a case that will cause any Chief Financial Officer to sign off on a major expenditure.)
(To close more deals rather than losing to "no decision" provide your sales team with an ROI tool.)
Many sellers and marketers won’t have to use all of these tools -- very commonly our clients end up using just two or three tools in combination. For instance, a TCO tool is not really of interest unless you’re losing lots of bids to competitors. Similarly, if you’re losing business to “no decision,” or only have a 10% close rate on a large funnel of opportunities, then you need an ROI tool to help you justify the cost of investing in your solution.
Also, not all customers go through each of these stages. Some customers, for example, go straight from “quantify value” to “justify investment.” (In fact, a value calculator plus an ROI calculator is what we most commonly deliver for our clients.)
What’s your biggest selling/marketing challenge, and what tools are you using to overcome it? Share your thoughts in the comments section.