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Sell More by Getting in Your Customers Head


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As business people, we need to have as much clarity as possible about how and why our customers choose to buy from us.

Since we're all consumers, we should be able to recognize and identify with the Buying Decision Process on a personal level.

If you can isolate the specific reasons you buy products or services - whether it's status associated with a brand, analysis of a specific product benefit, or your relationship with a salesperson - you will be more in touch with what can strongly influence your potential customers to buy from you.

Smart companies really want to understand their target consumer's complete decision experience. They want to know how their customers came to learn about their product to begin with, specifically why they chose it, how they use it, and even how they dispose of it.

Getting answers to the core reasons why someone buys, provides incredibly valuable information.

Consumers pass through 5 distinct stages in the Buying Decision Process:

  1. Problem Recognition
  2. Information Search
  3. Evaluation of Alternatives
  4. Purchase Decision
  5. Post-Purchase Behaviour

The way people make buying decisions depends, of course, on the complexity of the problems they are trying to solve and the complexity of each step in the decision process.

The time span of the buying process could be years or 3 minutes, depending on the product. And of course, our different personality styles contribute to how much detailed analysis we do, how quickly we buy, whether we are driven by emotions, data, salespeople, etc.

The next time you make a substantial buying decision, become aware of the thoughts and feelings you experience as you go through each of these stages.

1. Problem Recognition: You know this feeling. You see a problem or feel a need. Maybe it's as simple as feeling sleepy and wanting a cup of coffee. This would be an internal stimulus. Or perhaps your problem recognition comes from an external stimulus. You see a commercial for the newest model of your favourite luxury car, and all of a sudden the car you currently own loses favour.

2. Information Search: Once you believe that you have a valid problem or need, you want to investigate further. You have what's called heightened attention. This is characterized as openness to receiving information about a product or service. Later you move into active search, where you proactively visit stores or surf the web to learn about a product. Maybe you ask family or friends about a particular service you're considering.

3. Evaluation of Alternatives: This is the stage where you look at competitive companies or brands and make judgments about them. Most buyers consider several factors about a product that's most important to them. If you're buying a laptop computer, for example, you might be most concerned with its memory, size, price, and local service options. You eventually form a preference among a couple different brands you're considering or among a couple models within your favourite brand.

4. Purchase Decision: After you have some preferences in mind, what triggers your final purchase decision? This is a really important point in the buying process. It's a complex period because there are 2 sub-stages to the Purchase Decision stage:

a. Purchase Intention this is a mental state where you believe you know exactly what you want to buy. You envision the purchase, but you haven't made any monetary or legal commitments yet.

b. Purchase Decision this is full completion of the physical act of handing over your money, signing on the dotted line of a legal documents, or submitting you credit card information, for example.

It's important to realize that one's Purchase Intentions are not reliable predictors of final purchase behaviour. This is because the time between your Purchase Intention and your actual Purchase Decision can be highly influenced by 2 factors:

Factor #1 - the Attitude of Others means the extent to which someone else's attitude can reduce or strengthen a consumer's buying preference.

Imagine that you make the decision at work one morning that you're going to buy a new Dell laptop computer that evening when you get home. But on your lunch break you happen to get a call from your best friend, who must bought an Apple laptop. Your friend goes on and on about how much they love their Mac, and all the great things they're doing with it.

The closer you are to this friend, or the more you trust or respect them, in combination with your self-confidence and ability to be influenced in general, will determine how likely you are to adjust your Purchase Intention.

Perhaps your brother is an IT professional, and just yesterday he highly recommended that you only invest in a PC. Now you have conflicting advice from two people who are close to you. If you're someone with a tendency to want to please others, your decision has just become much more complex!

Factor #2 - Unanticipated Situational Factors are events that arise in life that we don't expect.

If you decided to buy a Dell laptop in the evening when you got home from work, but ended up losing your job at the end of the day that would be a major Unanticipated Situational Factor! Your motivation to purchase could be substantially reduced.

5. Post-Purchase Behaviour: A consumer's behaviour after buying is related to their level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the product or service.

Remember that one's satisfaction is always tied to one's expectations.

If a product exceeds expectations, we are thrilled with it. If it's lower than expectations, we are dissatisfied with it. And if it meets expectations we are satisfied with it.

So it's critical that the claims you make about your product or service are truthful, or even understated, to increase the likelihood that customers will be happy!

About the Author

Laura Adams is the host of the popular MBA Working Girl Podcast. The content combines brainy business school theory with real-world business practice from her career as a business owner, manager, consultant and trainer. Subscribe for FREE to this top-rated show and get the useful MBA Essential Tip at

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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2007-10-01 18:28:30 in Marketing Articles

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