What makes people decide to buy?
It's a mystery that anyone who wants to sell a product, service or idea must solve if they want to be successful.
It's my belief, however, that the only way to crack the code of the buyer's decision-making process is to understand the "hidden agenda" that every buyer has.
Most salespeople think they understand how people buy. This thought process usually reflects the reasons a salesperson thinks a buyer would make a purchase, not the actual reasons the buyer would.
People buy for their reasons, not yours.
This is an important distinction because at the heart of your prospect's decision-making process is the question: "What will it do for me?"
A salesperson should imagine this question emblazoned across the forehead of every prospect, because it is this question that must be answered satisfactorily for a sale to take place.
To effectively answer the "WWIDFM" question, salespeople must first understand the five factors that influence a customer's decision to purchase - the Five Buying Decisions. These decisions are based on the idea that people buy emotionally and then justify their decisions logically.
Therefore, to be an effective salesperson you must learn to appeal to your prospect on an emotional level.
Earlier, I wrote about the Seven Steps of the Track Selling SystemTM to guide a prospect through a comfortable selling process without pressure.
The Seven Steps dovetail with the Five Buying Decisions because each one is addressed in the precise psychological order in which prospects make their decisions.
Here are the Five Buying Decisions:
1. The salesperson.
Logically, you would think the first buying decision would be about the product, service or idea you're trying to sell, but remember, the prospect's buying decisions are emotional, not logical. In this first contact, your prospect is deciding how she feels about you. Can she trust you? Do you understand her needs? Will you be of service to her? Prospects want to buy from someone who is a helpful, valuable consultant. They want you to understand what they need as much as you understand the product, service or idea you're selling. This decision fits into the first three steps of the Track Selling SystemTM - step one: approach, where you open the sale with a positive first impression; step two: qualification, where you ask open-ended questions to gather information; and step three: agreement on need, where you demonstrate an understanding of the prospect's needs.
2. The company.
In addition to liking you, if you represent a company, your prospect will need to be assured it's dependable. While you make an obvious distinction between yourself and your company, your prospect does not. As long as you are a representative of the company, then the company is who you are in her mind. If you demonstrate that both you and your company have integrity, your prospect will be more open to your presentation. This decision is addressed in step four of the Track Selling SystemTM: sell the company, where you highlight past successes of the company to build your prospect's confidence.
3. Your product, service or idea.
Once your prospect has determined that she can trust you and your company, she will then evaluate your product, service or idea to determine if it suits her needs. The challenge of this step is for you to recognize that if it is not a fit for her, it's your responsibility to graciously back out of the sale.
Trying to persuade her to buy something she may later regret will destroy the trust you worked so hard to build with her. This decision is addressed in step five of the Track Selling SystemTM: fill the need, where you answer the "What will it do for me?" question positively.
Price may seem like it should be the first buying decision because most of us assume a prospect's decision to buy would be based on cost. Prospects buy because of value, not price. Until your prospect is convinced your product, service or idea is valuable and that she will derive benefits from it, no price will be right. Furthermore, discounting your price only cheapens the quality of your product, service or idea in her eyes. Sell value, then present the appropriate price. "For your (summary of features), the price is (quote the price)." This decision is addressed in step five of the Track Selling SystemTM: fill the need, as well.
Now is the time to ask for the order and give an implementation date. Your prospect will decide whether your timetable fits with her requirements. No one wants to spend money before it is necessary, but if you can give sound advice on why she should buy now, she'll want to hear it. Above all, remember that people buy because it is clear to them that the seller truly believes in his product, service or idea. This conviction is worth more to your buyer than all the facts in your presentation. This final decision fits with step six of the Track Selling SystemTM: act of commitment, where you summarize your areas of agreement and then ask for the sale.
If your prospect doesn't like you, doesn't feel comfortable with your company, doesn't understand the value of your product, service or idea or feels rushed in any way, that prospect will not be in the right frame of mind to purchase - even if what you're offering, the pricing and the timing are perfect.
This is why handling your prospect's Five Buying Decisions effectively is critical.
The better you understand the Five Buying Decisions and how they work integrally with the Seven Steps of the Track Selling SystemTM, the better you can design a presentation that identifies and meets your prospect's needs.
By effectively completing this process, you can build a solid relationship and become a trusted partner with whom your customers feel respected, understood and secure in their every purchase.
Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.