Where’s Your Prospect in the Buy Cycle?

blog147_whycustomersbuy-1I just finished a new chapter on buyer personas for my next book, MERGE 2.0, for publication later this year. And I began thinking long and hard about how to find prospects on their buyer journey, and what trigger events move prospects into a buying mode.

When you learn to use trigger events to your advantage, you can help prospects move through their buying cycle with greater confidence, which makes your sales and marketing approach far more effective.

Master the Buy Cycle

As you build your go-to-market strategy, remember the three stages of the buying cycle for B2B complex sales. We define B2B complex sales as involving multiple decision makers, where the buyer holds many options, and your offering represents a major purchase.

By framing your sale via the three stages, you’re more naturally going to ask the right questions, qualify the prospect, and tailor your approach to where the prospect’s thinking has evolved.

What’s more, framing by stage allows you to advance a prospect through the buying cycle to a decision. Your prospect must be ready to receive the information you are ready to share. If you leapfrog stages in the buy cycle, you risk losing the sale─one of the biggest mistakes salespeople commit. Wrong information at the wrong time scares prospects away.

Slow down to succeed.

Master Three-Stage Buy Cycle

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1. Awareness. In the Awareness stage, prospects realize a problem or opportunity exists, and they want to solve or fulfill it. This awareness influences the prospect to move towards his buying mode. And you can trigger this awareness.

Examples include the need to improve productivity, lower operating cost, increase revenues, or retain key talent. In business, these examples are limited only by the imagination.

2. Consideration. Once prospects recognize their need, they begin to think about what type of solution they should consider. They often review a wide variety of alternatives to understand what’s available and what best fits their wants and needs.

At this stage, prospects may find potential solutions that could work, though they’re still not ready to decide on one of those solutions. Prospects may visit with vendors, observe product demos, whatever they need to do to determine which solution holds the greatest appeal. They may also return to the Internet to expand their initial research, looking to confirm their initial suspicions.

I often use the statistic from the Corporate Executive Board that B2B prospects are 57 percent through the buying process before they ever contact a salesperson.

Some of the 1,900 respondents in that statistic report being as much as 70 percent complete with the decision-making process before reaching out to a vendor.

I use this data because it points to extraordinary new sales opportunities for us to engage in with prospects and shape opinions. But not every salesperson does. The Consideration stage demands careful attention from salespeople because it’s make or break time.

3. Decision. At this stage, prospects build their vendor list because they are ready to make a decision to buy the product or service they believe will fulfill the need. It’s almost too late for a salesperson to enter the opportunity at this stage and expect a sale. But clever salespeople can pull out the stops and close the deal at the last minute.

blog147_whycustomersbuy-3Let’s bring this home to our daily lives. 

Have you ever gone to a mall and decided to go into a store and just browse? You’re not shopping for a particular item, just browsing. Then along comes an aggressive sales person, hovering over you, asking persistent questions. “Are you looking for anything in particular?” You brush him off with, “I’m just browsing.”

When you call the CFO of a target company and pitch your product or service to him, assuming he has the need, is there much difference between you and the store clerk?  Can you see the parallel?

Imagine you walk into that same store at the mall. Only this time you need to find a pair of black pants to match your jacket so you can look sharp at your good friend’s wedding.

You don’t have much time. The purchase is urgent. The wedding is tomorrow. You arrive at the store after window shopping samples online, ready to decide.

In our CFO example, his initiative seeks to improve corporate cost and earnings. He has identified the need to outsource janitorial services as his solution and intends to reach out to many vendors.

In the first situation, the buyer is early in his process─the Awareness stage. In the second situation, the buyer is up against a purchase─the Decision stage.

In both situations, buyers expect different sales treatment. Those early in the cycle want to be left alone to browse and educate themselves. Later in the cycle, buyers look for sales responsiveness to help them complete the purchase.

Too many B2B salespeople use a wrong-headed, poorly timed approach which does not take into account the prospect’s buy-cycle status. As a result, you’re unable to book that first, critical appointment or, worse yet, you get a no-decision from your prospect.

Simply put, when you open new sales opportunities, what you say must resonate with what your prospect thinks at the time. Read my eBook, How to Secure Executive Appointments Under Favorable Conditions for a complete process on how to identify trigger events and secure critical meetings under favorable conditions.

Find the Right Trigger Event

You can pinpoint a triggering event with ease. As we discuss in MERGE, take out your magnifying glass and look deep into your research.

Find a fact, an event, trend, a competitor move, whatever you need to prepare your triggering event message.

Make it clear, compelling and actionable to gain the initial meeting and increase your chance of a second meeting.

Ideally, you are already established with a prospect who enters the Awareness stage. If not, do what you must to raise his awareness about you and your company. Content marketing works well here.

By all means, you must grasp the prospect’s thinking by the time he reaches the Consideration stage because this is when you can help shape his vision for a solution.

To stay alert to trigger events, use the Internet to fine-tune your research antennae. Learn everything you can from the prospect’s website.

I have found an amazing tool to help me master trigger events and better control my entry into the buy cycle.  InsideView (www.insideview.com) has made my job much easier. InsideView finds and alerts me to triggering events which drive my prospecting strategies. It monitors a wide range of data sources and alerts me such trigger events as a management change, earnings announcement, press release or a contract award. Right now, I am monitoring 18 triggering events.

Here’s a partial list:

  • Expanding operations (hiring, opening new offices)
  • New offerings (product launch, FDA approval)
  • Acquisitions
  • Leadership changes
  • Underperformance (missed earnings expectations, sales growth below competition)

Take it Further:  Create The Triggers

When I nurture leads arriving at my website, I may wait for a time until some external event triggers the lead into active buying mode. Learn to work closely around trigger events because the more you understand them, the higher the odds you can actually create the trigger.

Ah, a subject for an upcoming post.

See you on the upside,

Bill

For more information, go to www.pleinairestrategies.com
Or call William L. MacDonald in San Diego at PleinAire Strategies LLC at 760.340.4277 or 213.598.4700

News Alert

MERGE 2.0, read my latest book, now released by the publisher and available on Amazon to purchase.  Learn everything you need to know to book revenue in the new realities of B2B professional selling.

And, if you’re not a reader and prefer interactive learning, take our MERGE 2.0 online learning course.  Go here for more info.

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