Want to sell more? Start with understanding how people decide to buy

Is this what you picture when you think of sales person?

The first thing that comes to mind for a lot of people when they think about selling is the “pushy used car salesperson.”

However…most people are happy and excited to have purchased a new car.

Why the paradox?

People love to buy…but they hate to be sold.

One of the most effective things you can do for your marketing is to consider everything from your potential client’s perspective and match your sales and marketing process to their buying process.

When you do this, you won’t feel or be perceived as “pushy” – instead, you’ll come across as helpful, knowledgeable and respectful.

Let’s start with looking at how buyers buy.

The 4 stage buying process: AIDA

When making a decision to purchase, we all go through a 4 stage thought process. (Remember this article next time you buy something!)

1. Attention

If we don’t know something exists, we can’t make a decision to buy it.

Things come to our attention either because we have an urgent need for it (my printer broke, so now I have to replace it) – or because we’ve been made aware of something through the marketing efforts of a seller.

2. Interest

Interest is the second stage. Lots of things catch our attention – or try to catch our attention – but we’re only interested in some of them.

AIDA as a marketing acronym has been around almost as long as the opera. (One of my adorable colleagues sings A-I-D-A to the tune of YMCA – with dance moves.)

In the interest stage, you’re curious – you want to learn more. You have questions. Interest causes you to click on a link to read more, to pick up a package and read the label – or to engage the person you just met at a networking event in conversation.

The interest stage is simply interest. Just because you’re interested doesn’t mean that you’re going to buy.

3. Desire

Desire is the third stage. In this stage, you move from “hey, that’s interesting” to “I want this.”

This feeling of wanting something springs from seeing yourself owning the item or hiring the service. Perhaps you read a case study where someone with the same problem you’re struggling with got the kinds of results you’re looking for. (Before and after stories and images are great for stoking desire.)

Desire does not mean imminent purchase. Many of us have things that we want on a “wish list” – which means we’re staying at stage 3 for the time being.

4. Action

Action is the fourth stage. This is where you pull out the credit card, click the “buy now” button or pick up the phone to call.

We can move through all 4 stages in a matter of seconds…

They had me at chocolate. What do your clients want as much as I want chocolate?

I noticed this one day while I was at the grocery store. The sign on the shelf spoke to me: “salted chocolate caramels.” Attention.

I picked up the package. Interest. I wanted to know: are they decent quality? What are the ingredients? How much do they cost? (Important to note: I did NOT have any interest in the “calorie count.”)

This stage is about determining fit: if the price was too high (or low!) – or the ingredients too “chemically” – I wouldn’t want them.

Seeing that both met with my approval, I decided I wanted them. Desire.

Then I put them in my cart. Action.

Attention -> Interest -> Desire -> Action. All in less than 30 seconds.

(Although….technically, this Action did not become a sale until I paid for them a few moments later.)

Or sometimes it can take years

This looks very much like my actual car. I went to Canadian Tire the other day and said “I’d like a set of headlights for my 2006 Hyundai Accent.” He said “that sounds like a fair trade.”

My car is on its last legs. It’s over 10 years old now. The engine light blinks on and off as it struggles to climb steep hills and I have to put down my Flintstone feet to help it.

Replacing the car has had my attention for over 2 years now.

I’m somewhat interested. I’ve checked out a few possible makes/models and have a pretty good idea of what I’ll eventually purchase.

Except I don’t have a strong desire for a new car. So I’m in no hurry to take action. It’s on my “wish list.”

The day my car needs significant repairs will be the day desire kicks in and I take action to replace it.

The stages are the same – the timeline is just different.

Which brings us to the next thing to consider in “how people buy.”

People buy when they are ready

He loves them…then he leaves them. A new one every 3 years or so.

Every person is different. Someone else might need to pass by those chocolates several times before deciding to purchase.

The time frame isn’t necessarily dictated by price either.

I may be dragging my feet over buying a car – yet I’ve paid thousands of dollars for courses, coaching and consulting with only a day or two of thinking.

My Dad, on the other hand, loves buying new cars. He once bought a fancy new truck from a colleague over lunch. The sales process started when they met in the parking lot:

  • My Dad: Nice truck! (Attention.)
  • Colleague: I’m selling it.
  • My Dad: Really? Tell me about it. (Interest.)
  • Colleague: Shares info over lunch, offers to let my Dad take it for a test drive.
  • My Dad: Grabs the keys. (Desire.) Returns from test drive and writes a cheque. (Action.)

(This is why it’s important to have an Ideal Client Profile: if you sold cars, who would you rather have as a potential customer? Me or my Dad?)

Which brings us to another important point…

People buy what they want – not necessarily what they need

I do not want your magic cream. I like my wrinkles just the way they are, thank you.

Nothing will frustrate you more or burn you out faster than trying to persuade or convince someone to buy something they don’t want. Even if (you think) they need it.

I am reminded of this every time I attend a networking event and listen to introductions. I notice that a lot of people really struggle to explain what they do in the short period of time they are given. This is one of the things I help my clients with – so it could be easy for me to believe that there’s a roomful of clients there.

But just because I see that they “need” my help, doesn’t mean that they want it. They might be unaware of the ineffectiveness of what they’re doing (or in denial) – or maybe this problem simply isn’t important enough for them to address at this time.

I might get their Attention – but if there’s no Interest or no Desire – they are not potential clients. Not even for my free offer. (Which you can get here: how to answer the dreaded what do you do question.)

Perhaps you’ve been in a situation where someone is trying to sell you something you may need, but don’t want?

I’ve been cornered more than a few times by people wanting to sell me makeup, makeovers or in one case, wrinkle cream. They take one look at me and see clearly that I really NEED some help in that area! And they will be wasting their time (and mine) trying to convince me. I’m simply not interested.

If you’ve had a bad sales (or attempted sales) experience – your buying experience wasn’t respected

We should get together so I can try to rope you into my business opportunity. Oh wait…no…I mean: we should get together for “coffee”

When I deliver a presentation on this topic, I’ll ask my audience to tell me about their bad sales experiences.

Their responses tend to fall into these categories:

  • Feeling “pounced on” when entering a retail store (especially if the staff are paid on commission) – if you’ve just entered a store, nothing has your Attention yet! Sales people become helpful at the Interest stage.
  • Being led into a sales presentation under false pretenses – meeting someone for “coffee” only to walk into an MLM demonstration, being offered free tickets to an event and discovering you have to sit through a time share presentation first. It’s a “bait and switch” – they got your Attention with one thing, then switched tracks to something you have no Interest in.
  • Not taking “no” for an answer (something that many sales trainers still teach) – trying to push for Action when there is no Desire yet. (This often feels like a violation. Imagine having a “never take no for an answer” approach to dating.)
  • Pressure, false scarcity and urgency – trying to incite Desire and Action through psychological manipulation. Often this springs from the seller knowing that if the prospective purchaser has time to think, they’ll decide not to buy. (If you’re selling something of value, you don’t have to do this.)

You get to decide how you treat people in your business

Marketing is much harder when you have trouble facing yourself in the mirror afterward.

You may be able to pressure some people into buying before they’re ready by applying these tactics. (As long as you don’t mind developing a reputation for being pushy.)

When I started this business, I made a firm commitment that I would NOT resort to pushy sales techniques or questionable marketing tactics.

At the time, I assumed this would mean that I would be “leaving money on the table” and I decided to be OK with that.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that most of the people who told me they weren’t ready yet – or needed time to think about it – came back to me. Sometimes almost immediately, sometimes months or even years later.

I also know that at least a few of these people would have been turned off if I had tried to apply pressure. I’ve since come to believe that being respectful of their timeline and buying process is more effective over the longer term.

It also feels “easier” and puts less pressure on me.

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