Any sales training methodology should be grounded in a thorough understanding of the customer’s experience from the point of his or her discovery of a need or desire to the point of becoming a new customer. This process, the customer buying cycle, is broken down in diverse ways and numbers of steps by various sales training experts. Familiarizing your sales staff with any reasonable configuration of it should well serve your customer and your company.
The objective is to ensure that information about the competitive value of your products and services is communicated to your prospective customer by a sales professional who fully appreciates the fundamental point. And, that point is that your prospect is going through a natural sequence of predictable changes in cognitive condition with respect to purchasing. We will consider the most basic version of this typical process—a framework upon which all more elaborate accounts are built.
The prospect becomes aware of an emerging need or desire, and she identifies your company and others as those that offer potential solutions.
The prospect weighs the various alternatives provided by your company and your competitors and makes comparisons between the available choices.
On the strength of your company’s marketing and reputation, the prospects elects your company as her preferred solution provider and takes action to connect with your company.
The consumer weighs the features, benefits, and purchase terms of your company’s offering against the negative aspects of purchasing (spending money, losing other opportunities) and takes decisive action to make a financial transaction with your firm.
Your new customer considers the positive and negative aspects of her experience as your customer. Based on the relationship that is developing due to the success of your company in satisfying her specific need or desire, your customer chooses to repeat purchasing from your business.
Sales and science
Identifying with the prospective customer’s experience as she moves through this series of elementary phases can help sales personnel relate to the thought processes that he/she is most likely to be going through. The process may seem simplistic, or too regimented and impersonal. Nevertheless, these are cognitive steps we all take—sensing our needs and desires, exploring our options, feeling ambivalent about choosing and about spending, being excited or anxious about decision-making, feeling a bit of relief in finalizing, enjoying ownership, and sensing security in having an adequate supplier.
The sales representative who fully relates his own experiences of these emotional transitions as a consumer to his prospect’s current situation lends himself to more effectively connecting with the customer and his or her motivations during the inevitable turns on the road to buying. This insight further reveals the buying process and selling process not as routines characterized by a natural tension between prospect and seller, but as commensurate systems of seeking and providing information and fulfillment of purposes. Such a view promotes the best possible relationship between your customer and your company.