Good horsemanship is built on solid basics…so is good business!
We don’t sell our stuff in a vacuum. It’s not a one-sided transaction. Though our time is consumed developing expertise and subsequent programs, services and products, we often don’t spend enough time understanding the other side of the transaction. It’s funny too, because we are consumers in other realms, and yet as a “seller” we tend to lose the perspective of what it means to be the buyer. Instead of starting with what you have to offer, dissecting it for features and benefits, setting your price, determining how you’ll let people know, let’s start the other way around. Let’s start with our buyer in mind and what’s going on for them. Then, coming from that perspective, we’ll return to these other elements in following blog posts.
When money is spent, it connotes trust. Think about that for a moment. It connotes trust: trust that our expectation will be met; trust that we will be satisfied; trust that our problem will be solved or our pain relieved; trust that our life will in some way be better.
Let’s take a look at the buying decision process.
Five stages have been identified:
1) Need or Problem Recognition
Not all needs are created equal! There’s a lot to be said for examining Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs when trying to decipher individual priorities for making a purchase. In a very simplistic interpretation, this basically states that our needs must be met at the lower levels first before we will move to the next level of needs. The levels are: 1) Physiological needs, 2) Safety needs, 3) Need for love and belonging, 4) Need for esteem for self and from others, 5) Need for self-actualization. There are other ways to classify need/problem recognition, but they usually contain the elements of this hierarchy organized differently.
2) Information Search
This may sound like it’s based on research, and it can be. But information search refers to both the internal and external process. The internal process is based on what the buyer is already familiar with, from personal experience and/or opinion of the product or brand. External information is the stuff the buyer gets from family and friends, as well as from researching reviews and the company website. Interesting to note that the internal research carries more weight. Which is one reason that social media can be a game changer.
The buyer next takes into consideration and evaluates the alternatives available to him/her. This stage is where the internal and external information are blended, along with the offerings attributes. Each buyer has their own individual weighting scale for which attributes and elements are most important. The stage results in the buyer determining two sets of offerings: those which will be included for final buying decision, and those that won’t. This stage involves greater buyer involvement when the purchase is more important and more costly, eliciting more alternatives. On the other hand, frequent, less costly, and everyday purchases typically yield smaller alternatives.
4) Purchase Decision
The buyer now moves into the actual purchase. The final decision comes down to overall perceived value in addition to the offerings features, capabilities and benefits. The key concept here is “perceived value.” The bottom line is that customers expect and trust you to deliver what they think they bought.
5) Post – Purchase Behavior
The buying decision process does not end with the purchase. When the buyer uses your offering, he/she continues to measure whether it fills the bill or not. This in turn informs and influences future buying decisions, as well as can become a source for other buyers’ external information. At this point, buyers usually also include the purchase experience in the mix: how easy or hard was it to complete information gathering; what were interactions with the seller like; was it easy to transact the purchase; guarantees/warranties that come with the purchase.
Phew! There’s a lot to take into consideration here! Food for thought (and subsequent action!), ask yourself these key questions:
What is the buyer’s need that you fill, problem that you solve, or pain that you will ease? How do you know? Have you conducted market research to verify, or is it your hunch?
What is your brand reputation? How do you know? Have you conducted market research to verify, or is it your hunch?
What is your entire purchase process like? Is it easy to navigate for the buyer? Can you make it easier? If so, how?
Do you offer a guarantee or warrant of some kind? Why or why not? Is there a way for you to do so?
In future posts we’ll take a look at different selling styles, your sales tool kit, and your sales funnel. Until then, please post your comments and share your ideas here.