Jordan asks, “What is a buying cycle?”
A buying cycle is understood best if you think about the times when you yourself are a buyer. See, we have this advantage. We are all buyers as well as sellers. Our buyers don’t have the same advantage. They might not have sold. So they can’t possibly understand our sales process. That’s why we need to understand their buying process. And depending on who you work with, there are different buying processes out there. They all have the same essential ingredients.
When you’re a buyer, you go through these very same steps too. The first one is that you can’t possibly buy something until you’re aware that it exists. Second step, once you’re aware, you have to develop some interest. You’re not going to buy it if you’re not interested in it, and your interest then has to grow to a place where you desire it, you want it, you are determined somehow to figure out a way to get it, and only then will you go in the fourth step, which is taking action.
I’ll give you an example that everybody can relate to. I was in a grocery store not that long ago, and I noticed a new package of chewing gum, and it was by a brand that I liked, Orbit, and it was a flavour I had never seen before, pina colada, and I thought that sounded interesting. I went immediately from awareness of something I never knew existed to interest because, hey, pina colada, and then I wanted it, so I immediately took action and I put it into my cart. That’s an accelerated timeline, but it’s exactly the same no matter how complex the purchase or how long the buying cycle might be, the exact same steps.
A buying cycle? The customer go through a buying cycle in the following stages. First, they go, “Ah! I have a problem.” The second one, they go, “Aha. There’s a solution.” The third one they go is, “Wow. This is exactly the solution I was looking for.” The fourth one, they go, “Yee-haw! Onboarded, on time, as promised, delivered within budget.” The next one, they go, “Yeah! Finally, I got what I wanted.” And the last cycle they go through is, “Oh my gosh. What a great experience. Why didn’t I know about this before? I should share this with others.”
Now, the reason I use those in this vocabulary of experiences because for a customer, a buying cycle is a series of experiences. It’s not a series of stages or phases. It’s experience that you go after, and we use those funky experience names to describe what each need to do. For example, in this case I can tell marketing, “Hey, give my customer the, ‘Ah! I have a problem,’ experience, and sales, you’re responsible to give the customer the, ‘Wow,’ experience. Customer success, you’re responsible for the, ‘Yee-haw,’ experience.” It gives everybody a clear focus to give the customer the right emotional feeling as everyone interact with your company.
As salespeople, we are obsessed with the selling cycle, the selling process. There’s loads of different acronyms. There’s loads of different systems to [inaudible], but essentially we need attention. We build rapport. We build trust. We pitch. We close. We look after them after the fact. We get referrals. We manage the accounts after that. That is the selling process.
What we don’t take into account often enough is the buying process, and this is what the buyer has to do to get our product or service in the doors, in the team, in their organisation. That is completely different to what we do as sellers. So the buying cycle is essentially what they need to do, the signatures that they need to get, the process, where they need to go to tender, whether there’s extra paperwork, whether they have to get 15 quotes no matter how obvious it is that they’re going to come work with us, whether they’ve got to get five quotes, whether they’ve got to bring in other people to do presentations to the board. Whatever they’ve got to do, we’ve got to uncover it because we’ve got to make that process as seamless, as easy for them as possible so that they stay with us along the selling, along the buying process without having to even look at anyone else.
I think the buying cycle of a company is in part set, unfortunately, more frequently by the organisation itself. They’ve got certain stipulations as to how they have to be qualified and what kinds of RFPs or purchase departments and etc. The bigger the deal, the bigger the sale, which is what I specialise in, the more people that are involved and the more steps that that has to take.
Now, how do you jump that, which is really what I like to specialise in? Get to the higher level. What the higher level says is this. It’s fascinating that we have that process, and that process is for 95% of the things that we buy. This is an exception. The whole issue of the buying process is creating this sense that what you’re doing is an exception to what they have typically done. [inaudible] you don’t argue about it. You say, “You know what? I think that your buying process is phenomenal, whatever it is that you’re doing. This is an exception. We need to go into the fast lane, and here are the three reasons why or two reasons why this is a fast-lane exception.”
I think you have the opportunity, if you can craft a good argument, to change the buying process. What increases buying processes? Urgency. The second thing is creating this sense of pain and the pain being, as I said before, it’s coming around the corner. It’s not right in the immediate, because they’re already dealing with that, but it’s like one of those roller coasters where you’re coming right past a point of no return, so you’ve go urgency. You’ve got the pain that’s going to happen. Those kinds of things will create the need for a faster lane.
I think in my mind I look at three ideas. There’s certainly an area around needs, so the buyer is thinking about, “What do I need,” and the salesperson has to understand that. Then the buyer goes through what I call a proof buying cycle. “Who do I trust? Which product or service is going to do my job, and who do I trust, again, in that proof cycle?” The last area of the buying cycle is risk. Now, some people have a three-stage buying cycle. Some people have a seven-step buying cycle. Some people maybe have a 10-step buying cycle. But emotionally, the buyer goes through three stages, need, proof, and risk.
The salesperson has to be in alignment of that buying cycle during the sales cycle, and so it’s important to understand where you are in that buying cycle because if you’re selling risk reduction at the early stage, you’re out of sync with your buyer. And so the salesperson has to be in sync with the buyer’s buying cycle, and that’s why it’s really critical to understand by discovery, asking questions, reading body language, understanding where the buyer is in their emotional stage of the buying cycle. So those are the things that I like to stress, I guess, in talking to people.