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
Consumers pass through 5 distinct stages in the Buying Decision Process:
- Problem Recognition
- Information Search
- Evaluation of Alternatives
- Purchase Decision
- 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
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
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
• 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
5. Post-Purchase Behaviour: A consumer's behaviour after buying is
related to their level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the product or
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
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