The STEPS Of The Buying Process
In our Fortune 1000 example managers must follow six key steps to gain purchasing approval. These logical and self-explanatory steps, ranging from Initial Requirements Capture to Launch and Review are shown below.
The 6 Steps of the Buying Process
These steps can take place over anything from three months to two years, and are likely to involve dozens of people along the way. Clearly making the right buying decision is not going to be left to the discretion of the buyer-manager, and it is definitively not going to be unduly influenced by the salesperson.
Interpreting the Steps
Looking at this diagram immediately sets sellers thinking about the steps in their own customers’ buying process. Our model makes this easy – at a high level it is very easy to overlay onto how any customer is likely to buy. To see this we will re-label the diagram as shown in the diagram below.
Overlaying labels such as ‘needs analysis’ and ‘define solution’ on the six steps of our Fortune 1000 model demonstrates the universality of that buying process.
Re-labeling the Buying Process:
All our customers are likely to progress through the generic stages of needs analysis, solution definition and acquisition, or implementation. However, regardless of whatever labels are used, the implications of such a step-wise approach to buying are what matters most. So, let us examine them now.
Understanding the Implications
As we will see it is the buying process that now dictates the pace of buying, as well as selling. The process ensures decisions are not rushed, but made in a careful and step-wise manner. For the buying organization this should mean better buying decisions, but for the salesperson more steps means more costly and unpredictable sales cycles.
It sounds obvious, but what happens with respect to the purchase decision depends on the step in the process the buyer is actually at. As we will see, the issues, the priorities, the people involved and so on vary from step to step.
It follows therefore that the salesperson must know where the buyer is and adjust their sales approach accordingly. For example, buyers at Step 1 should be sold to differently than those at Step 3.
When Does The Process Begin Or End?
Most salespeople know that sales cycles are much longer than they used to be. But, if sales cycles are long, then buying cycles are even longer. As our model buying process shows today’s buying decisions start earlier and finish later.