If you understand your customer, you can map out their decision making process, and help them make the right choice. 

Think about the last time you bought a new car, computer, or engaged a designer to renovate your bathroom.

What was your decision making process? What went well, and what caused endless pain?

Every customer goes through decision making process before they finally decide to buy what you are selling. Understanding that process provides a wealth of information in terms of future sales, marketing, and developing your service.

If you are selling widgets, or “impulse buy” items, the decision process is rather short, usually based on immediate needs or an emotional reaction.

In a more complex sale, where you are selling a solution to your customer’s pain, the process of coming to a final decision can have multiple stages, each with their own pitfalls and side issues – to drag the customer away from purchasing from you.

Understanding these different stages is key to nurturing leads – particularly where multiple stake holders are involved and the sales lifetime consists of several engagements.

Most people who have worked in a sales environment have heard of AIDA – Awareness, Interest, Decision, Action.

Where there is a more complex customer decision making process, a few more stages are needed, broadening out AIDA into a longer series of engagements.

Although the following “Sales Stages” are generally true for B2B sales, where multiple stakeholders are involved, they can be used just as well in a B2C sale – where your customer needs to think carefully about whether the solution you provide will match their needs.


Stage 0 – Satisfied with Status Quo

We aren’t talking heavy metal oldies here – few of us a satisfied that Status Quo are still “rockin’ all over the world”.

Your customers, though, can be dinosaurs, and can happily continue in their old ways, unaware that new ideas/ technology/products can transform their lives or the way they do business.

Influencing the dinosaurs is difficult, it’s always easier to suggest change to go-getters – those who are interested in trends and issues that affect them. But if you want to upsell to your customers, or seek out new customers who need to change, then it’s important to find ways of introducing new issues and fresh perspectives to the dinosaurs as well as the go-getters.


Stage 1 – Open to Change

It’s usually after seeing the fresh perspective that your potential customer realises that they might need another option. Sometimes it is a trigger event – everything stopping working etc. Sometimes just the realisation that something new is on the scene. The status quo no longer looks as attractive, so they are beginning to cast their eye around to look at options.

It’s important, here, to be able to shape how your potential is thinking. Supply them with ideas around a solution to the trigger event. If it was your influence that pushed the trigger to start looking at change, follow it up with some solutions that will appeal to that customer’s needs. Even at this stage, avoid the broad brush approach, your potential will be more likely to stick with you through this process if they feel you understand their need and their current pain.


Stage 2 – Deciding Whether to Act

By this stage, your potential knows they need to act. The stakeholders are usually involved now, assessing the situation and looking at whether there is a compelling case for change.

Your influence here is crucial. If the decision involves a number of stake holders, don’t be surprised if your potential flits between stages, as the war of needs vs finance is waged.

Keeping top of mind at this stage involves some nifty thinking, and gentle coaxing.


Stage 3 – Planning the Solution

If everyone is happy – the needs have been clearly established and all the stakeholders are bought into the idea of change – then your potential is turning into a qualified lead.

At this stage, they are thinking: process, timing, criteria etc.

You can be actively involved in their decision by answering their questions and helping them plan the implementation of your solution. Provide them with guides, templates and helpful content that will mean they can see the vision of your solution clearly and also see that it perfectly fits their needs.


Stage 4 – Selecting The Best Option

Once your potential can see a vision of their solution, it’s time to look at the options. Your competition will be looked at and seriously considered. Accept this fact now.

Don’t worry unnecessarily, though. If you’ve been involved in the earlier stages, your potential will already have a clear vision of the solution that best matches their needs – which, of course, will be yours. But don’t be surprised if others are asked to bid. If you have done your nurturing well, and fully understand your potential’s needs, you stand the best chance of being picked from the multitude who will be clamouring for your potentials attention.

If, on the other hand, you only join the process at this stage, your chances here are slim, particularly if another seller has been involved in stages 1-4. If you are asked to bid for tender at this stage, but have had no involvement up until now, you are in danger of being column fodder for a decision making team. Avoid this at all costs.

To win the recommendation, reinforce how your solution is the perfect match, and the need to take action in the first place.


Stage 5 – Confirming the Decision

Your potential is now a client. They have decided on their preferred solution, which happens to be you, but are now going to re-affirm their decision, and eliminate any remaining risk, by negotiating the best possible contractual terms.

They can still decide not to go ahead, even at this stage, so have the answers ready to any questions they may have, and make the integration/implementation of your solution as easy and transparent as possible.


Stage 6  – It’s Time To Go Ahead!

The decision is taken. The signature is on the dotted line. The client now wants to make sure that they are going to successfully achieve their goals with their new solution, provided by you.

Make sure they have chosen wisely and take note of all the decisions and questions they raised. When the next potential who looks just like them comes along, you will be able to refine your approach to them even further, and make sure you are winning every time.

For more information about understanding your customer, and building a lead generation and nurture programme for your business see our InboundON Training programme. Providing a platform for growth for small businesses.