Guide your client through buying decisions

Before your prospect buys your product or service, they make five buying decisions in a precise, psychological order. These five buying decisions are the buyer's "hidden agenda." However, even though your prospects are following a precise pattern of decisions, they may not even be aware this pattern exists. But you know it exists, so you can gear your presentations to help your prospects move smoothly through their five buying decisions. Knowing this will make your presentation more effective and successful. Your prospects' first buying decision will be about you, the salesperson. Do they like you? Do they think you have integrity and good judgment? If you've got the only game in town, people will buy from you whether they like you or not. However, they probably do have a choice of another salesperson, who represents the same or a competing product, whom they can buy from. The more they like you, the more willing they'll be to buy from you. The simple secret of helping your prospects make this first buying decision positively: Let them do the talking. You simply ask your prospects good, open-ended questions to keep the conversational ball in their court, and listen intently and sincerely to what they have to say. After your prospects have made a positive decision about you, their next decision will be about your company. Is it honest? Will it back its commitments? Does it have a good reputation? Does it have the capacity to perform as promised? Suppose you were going to hire a contractor to construct your $300,000 home. Would the degree of competence and integrity of that contracting firm cross your mind? Of course it would. You would most likely spend a great deal of time checking the contractor's references, finding out how well that company had performed for its clients in the past. If you found that the company didn't have a good reputation and didn't honor its commitments, would you still be interested in hiring the contracting firm? Of course not. Well, your prospects are no different from you. They too make buying decisions about your company, and these decisions are both real and highly influential. After your prospects have made positive decisions about you and your company, their next buying decision will be about your product or service. Does it fill a genuine need? Does it solve a genuine problem? Your prospects will not ask you if your product or service will fill a need or solve a problem. In fact, your prospects may not be aware that a problem or need exists. They may be perfectly happy with things just the way they are. Let your prospects do the talking so you can gather important information that will allow you to fill their needs precisely. Ask open-ended questions to encourage your prospects to express their thoughts and opinions freely. If you want to find out how important this information is to your prospect's own buying motives, you could continue by asking questions designed to elicit a reaction, such as:
  • "How would your employees feel if you set up a system that would free them from these tedious, repetitive tasks?"
  • "How would it affect your profits if you could lower your turnover rate in the bookkeeping department?"
  • "How much more time would you have if you didn't have to deal with all those unhappy customers because of billing errors?"
  • "How do you feel about being able to accomplish all of this for less than you expected to pay?"
The fourth buying decision in your prospect's "hidden agenda" is the price of the product or service you sell. Note that this buying decision is No. 4, not No. 1. Many salespeople believe that their prospect's buying decision is based primarily on price, but this is not so. People don't buy price. They buy value. Consider the old adage: "You get what you pay for." Or: "You can't spend a little and get a lot." Or: "If the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is." Your prospects won't object to paying more if they feel they are receiving good value for the money. Therefore, when you quote a price, you will want to first summarize what the prospect will receive for that money to remind him or her of the value of that purchase. I recommend that you memorize and use the following statement: "For your (summary of features), the price is (quote the price)." Also, when you quote the price, I strongly suggest that you avoid the word cost. It has a negative impact. Instead, use words like investment, fee, price, and annual premium -- anything but the word "cost." Many salespeople believe that if their product or service is expensive, it is more difficult to sell, or that people balk at high-priced items. This is not necessarily true. It may not be fair, but people do equate high price with high value. People expect to get what they pay for. Your product's or service's higher price can actually draw business to you. People expect to get what they pay for. If you're selling an extremely low-priced item, compared with others of it kind, you may find that that low price is an actual disadvantage. There is no need for you to be apologetic to your prospects if your product or service is high-priced. Your prospects may tell you that your price is too high -- it's their responsibility to their company to buy as low as possible -- but they won't want to sacrifice value for low price. The English writer John Ruskin once wrote: "It is unwise to pay too much, but it is worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money, that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing you bought it to do."   Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.