As freelancers or agency owners, we’re very often concerned about our sales cycle. How to make it shorter, how to make it faster, how to make it more efficient.
But a neglected area is the buyer’s buying cycle. Once you understand the buying cycle you’ll massively improve your effectiveness as a salesperson. And you’ll understand why using benefits may actually lose you sales!
Your Buyer’s Buying Cycle
Just like you go through a systematic process of selling (which we call your selling cycle), your buyer also goes through a systematic process when they buy.
Here’s what their process looks like:
Stage 1: Buyer is unaware they have a problem
The large majority of potential buyers are at this stage in their journey. Since they’re not conscious of a problem, they have 0 (NO) interest in whatever you have to offer them. Imagine approaching someone at this stage with “The biggest benefit of XYZ is…” – their answer will be that they’re not interested.
And they’re not lying – they really aren’t interested. People only have interests when they have problems and frustrations AND they want to solve them!
Stage 2: Buyer becomes aware of a problem
The next stage occurs when something happens, and the buyer becomes aware of a problem. Either they’re asked a question, they have a thought, or something happens that makes them become aware.
However, even once they’re aware of a problem, buyers do NOT care about benefits or your solution. Maybe the problem isn’t serious enough in their minds yet, and, to top it off, they also may not want to bother solving it.
Stage 3: Buyer becomes aware of the consequences of the problem
Which brings us to the next stage – when the buyer becomes aware of the consequences of the problem. Consequences are secondary problems or negative effects that flow from the main problem.
At this stage, buyers begin to consider the problem more seriously, but they’re still not interested in benefits or solutions, because they haven’t developed their desire to solve the problem.
Stage 4: Buyer starts desiring to solve the problem & begins looking for solutions
At some point, the consequences become sufficiently drastic that buyers start to develop the explicit desire to solve the problem. At this stage, buyers have an acute desire, and they’re actively looking for solutions.
If you present your benefits or solutions to the buyer at this stage, they will listen carefully, and find it very helpful. They will not perceive you as a used car salesman.
Stage 5: Buyer decides on a solution that fits their needs
And finally, after investigating potential solutions and finding something that fits their needs, the buyer will be ready to commit to one of them and purchase. The necessary condition for the purchase to occur is that the buyer believes that the solution is best-suited for solving his needs, AND the costs associated with the solution are significantly smaller than the benefits they will obtain.
Benefits Are Irrelevant For Everyone on Stage 1-3
The big thing most freelancers & agency owners who sell for their companies forget is that most of their buyers, 80%+ find themselves in Stage 1-3 of the buying cycle. They’re not actively looking for solutions, and hence they have NO INTEREST in a pitch or listening to benefits.
Most sellers LOSE OUT on 80% of their potential buyers, because they don’t know how to approach and sell to buyers on Stage 1-3 of their buying cycle. What they do, instead, is that they push their solutions on everyone they meet, which makes them appear as spammers in the eyes of everyone else.
How Can You Help a Buyer Move Along The Buying Cycle Faster?
Wating for buyers to come to the necessary realizations themselves is often too slow and may lead them in the arms of other providers, who may not be the best fit for them. So it’s your job as a salesperson to help your buyers move further down the sales cycle.
How do you do it?
It’s simple: provide them with what they need to move to the next stage of the buying cycle.
Buyer Needs Based on Buying Cycle Stage
Below you can find what buyers typically need at each stage to move to the next one:
Stage 1: Their need at this point is to become consciously aware of a problem. Asking a question to makes them aware of a problem is a great way to begin to develop their problem awareness. You can complement this with sharing relevant examples or case studies of people who had the problem.
Stage 2: Once they’re aware of a problem, their greatest need is to become aware of all the secondary effects of the problem. Once again, asking insightful questions is key. Questions that make them consider things they have never considered before. Sharing meaningful facts and data can also be helpful, if you provide sufficient context.
Stage 3: Once they know the consequences, you need to check if these consequences are sufficiently severe to have led to the development of their desire for a solution. It can be as simple as asking if they’d be interested to solve the problem.
Stage 4: At this stage, this is where you want to present your solution and benefits. Now the buyer cares and is ready to hear it. The most important thing is to show the buyer how your solution and its benefits will take care of his problems and their consequences.
Stage 5: This is similar to Stage 4, however, the longer the buyer has been in the market for solutions, the harder he will be to convince that you’re the best to solve his needs. At this stage, it’s more important than ever that instead of throwing benefits at the buyer, you present very clearly how specifically your solution will solve his unique problems.
And that’s all you need to know.