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Know the 6 Steps in Your Customer's Buying Cycle

Do you have a sales process? Unless you're just winging it, you likely track your sales prospects through a series of steps until they purchase - or not. Perhaps you call it  a sales funnel, lead nurturing, or have another name for it. When you built this process, did you consider that your customers also have a buying process? Does your sales process mirror the buying process?

A buying process? At Domino Theory: Smarter Business Communications we coach our clients to mirror the buying the process rather than force your buyers through your sales process. Let's take a look.

Forget about your customers for a minute and think about yourself - we're all making buying decisions all the time. What is the process your buying journey takes?

Whether we're buying a new pair of shoes, a new car, or a new backpacking tent, we generally will travel the same path. If you keep this path in mind during your sales process, you'll be able to lead your customers through the process, helping them with the right information at the right time leading to the decision that fits their needs - a purchase of your goods or services!

It could very well be a new watch, pair of shoes, bottle of wine, or a skateboard for your son, the process is typically similar. To simplify this, let's look at the 6 Steps in a typical car purchase.

Your lease is up, your car is spending too much time in the shop, or you just want a shiny new car with all the latest technology. Whatever your reason, you have developed an interest in buying a new car (new car, used car, it doesn't really matter, the process is the same). This stage can be short (your lease is up, your engine seized, etc), or longer (you want to replace your vehicle, but have no urgency). Whatever the reason, you have developed an interest in purchasing a vehicle.

The next step on our buying path is to educate ourselves. With so much information available online, the Internet is the go-to place where most of us begin to research. Some people check the car sites, some read safety information, others want to know about performance, reliability, or fuel efficiency. We look at pictures, color options, interiors finishes.

We also seed advice from friends, family, and even strangers. We ask questions of people who own a similar make and model. perhaps we visit bulletin boards online or post questions to our Facebook friends. How many people does it seat? How comfortable is it? How much does it cost? What are the advantages of buying new versus used?

Ultimately we visit the dealer or a private seller. Here we continue to educate ourselves. We inspect the car, get brochures, ask more questions, and more likely than not get hit with a sales pitch that makes uncomfortable (because we're still educating ourselves, we're not ready to make a decision yet!!)

Have you noticed how long and and extensive the education process can be? This is why Domino Theory is such a strong believer in Content Marketing! Ultimately, though, we are ready to move to the next step.

Finally, we're ready to get behind the wheel for a test drive. Ownership has been transferred, at least temporarily. This is the same thing as when we try on a new pair of shoes or listen to music sample on iTunes. When you try the free samples at Costco, the seller knows you are one step closer to making a purchase decision.

While that 5-minute test drive around the block gives us information about the car, it also allows us to take ownership of the vehicle and see how it feels to own it. Some people want to crank the stereo, others step on the gas and give it a go, while others just want to get a feel for how they look in the car - do people check it out?

We've reached the 5th step of our purchasing journey. Can we justify the purchase? Do I really need a new car? Can I really afford it?  Should I be buying used? Should I be buying a new car? Do I really want an SUV with gas prices where they are? Can I fit all my stuff in this little hybrid? Do I really need all the performance? Is red too flashy? Will silver look clean longer? Can I buy a used car from someone I've never met before?

A lot of times our purchasing process ends here. If we can't justify the purchase, it's time to go back and Educate ourselves further and cycle through the process again. Think about how man pair of shoes you've put back in the box and handed back to the sales person, how many boxes of cereal you've put back on the shelf, how many restaurants your didn't walk into after reading the menu outside. You couldn't justify the purchase even though there was a product that potentially satisfied your needs.

If you are able to Justify, you finally move to the final stage.

You're ready to buy. No one "closed" you with a hard sell - or if they did, you were still able to justify your purchase. You drive home in your new car, and you immediately become part of someone else's Education process as they check out your new car and ask you questions about it and where you got it.

This sounds familiar, doesn't it? Now apply this process to your customers and their purchasing process. What can you do to Interest them, Educate them, to get them to sample your offering, to demonstrate the ROI, and ultimately to Decide that your product and service is just what they were looking for?

When you align your sales process with your customers' buying process, you are able to hold thier hand  and pull them to the next step. If you know they're interested, help educate them. If you know they are educated, give them a way to sample try out what you're offering. Once they've tried it, validate why your service meets the criteria they've shared with you.

Then, close the deal!


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