Before anyone buys anything, they have to complete their own buying continuum™ process. This is true whether they are from the government, a non-profit, a consumer, or another business. From your point of view, you want them to accomplish this process and in a specific order. If they do, your sales cycle will shorten. It will result in a win-win for you both or you will be able to cull them as a prospect with a clear conscience that this was NOT the sale for you.
Government: the Perfect Example of a Prospect’s Buying Continuum™
You can see part of that Buying Continuum™ process clearly in government purchases. When you see an RFP (Request for Proposal), RFQ (Request for Quote), or an RFI (Request for Information), you can tell how far along in they are the process. If it’s information, they’re just getting started and they are usually looking for ideas that help them decide what they want to buy. If it’s a quote, they know what they want and they are looking for bidders for something specific. If you want it, give them EXACTLY what they want at the lowest responsive, responsible price and you probably will get it. When it’s a request for proposal, they have an idea of what they want but this a way for them to evaluate their options, including price. These are three steps of the 7- step Buying Continuum™ process listed below.
The 7- Steps of a Buying Continuum™ of Any Prospect
You may not be totally aware of these steps, what some refer to as “the Buyer’s Journey”. But, I guarantee if they don’t go through them, they will never buy. If they don’t give each step enough effort to thoroughly complete the process, they may buy once but may regret it.
Sometimes they will do several steps together. They might skip a step, but unless all are completed to their satisfaction, they will continue to stall or just vanish and stop returning your calls. As a business owner, your job is to ensure your sales people help prospects complete all seven. To succeed, your own sales process has to include a way to verify each step is done and encourage your prospect to do so and keep moving.
Step 1: Decide they need to take action
If all is well there is no action. They can be looking for an opportunity to improve, a way to overcome something that is dissatisfying, or to keep from the loss of the status quo. Without one of these decisions, you will never convince them to move forward and buy.
Step 2: Identify a specific meaningful goal
The goal can be realistic, opportunistic, a requirement (such as a government regulation), fantastic or almost any modifier you want to use. The buying continuum™ stalls out until they have a goal — which will probably change as they go through this process.
Step 3: Set objectives, priorities, and constraints meaningful to them
What’s a goal without direction? In the buying continuum™, these steps can go together, change together, be real or unreal. They are imperative if they are going to be able to complete Step 4: Evaluate the Means.
Step 4: Identify and evaluate the means to accomplish their goals, objectives, priorities and constraints
One of the later steps involves buyer’s remorse. It can be minimized when the prospect has identified a way to evaluate their options, knows who they are going to talk to about providing the product or service, and has explored two of the other “ghost competitors” — doing it themselves or doing nothing at all. If they impulse buy, you may get this sale but probably not another one — and you might not want the sale if they don’t care enough to compare. It’s in comparison that the seller clinches the deal and they complete the last three steps of the buying continuum™.
Step 5: Choose to act
In this step of the buying continuum™, they sign the contract; they signup; they give you money in some form. Related to this step, is Step 6.
Step 6: Experience Buyer’s Rejoice or Buyer’s Remorse
From time to time, we all second guess ourselves. That can result in a very bad case of “Buyer’s Remorse”. On TV home improvement shows, like Property Brothers or Love It or List It, you can hear it when the contractor or designer has to deliver bad news to the home owners. The response: the wish they had never bought this home or started this remodel. This is bad for you because they tell others. Lots of others. They may even sue you. You want to make sure they rejoice from the beginning and keep checking for any signs of remorse. That means your sales process can’t end at purchase. It is a natural and necessary part of the buying continuum™ to get to the best part — the part that leads to long term success for you and for them, Step 7.
Step 7: Buy more — Share the good news
This is the “gravy” in the buying continuum™ for you and for them. They have found what is for them the best solution from the best provider. Usually they want to tell others about how smart they are and, by extension how good you are. Definitely, a win-win. And you can encourage this even at the beginning of the process. Panera Bread ® gives people who activate their loyalty card a free pastry. What a sweet deal!
Your last step is to make sure you are tracking these for any prospect worth pursuing. Not all prospects are equal but that’s for another post: choosing Platinum Profile™ Prospects to make sure you end up with Platinum Profile™ Customers.