Buying Process

If you go to and type in a request for “books on selling” you will receive over 5,000 selections to choose from. They range from, “how to sell more,” to “overcoming objections,” to “building rapport,” and so on. Most of these books proclaim some kind of proprietary selling system or specific process aimed at improving sales results.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I think that spending time understanding the selling process is bad. I have read a good number of these books myself and have even had some of these authors, trainers and business leaders as guests on my radio show. I believe that it is critical to understand and practice the “selling process.” I, myself teach how to integrate this process into business relationships every week in the Dale Carnegie Sales Advantage Class. The Carnegie organization has done a fabulous job of developing a powerful yet practical process for selling improvement. I am honored to be a sales instructor and encourage folks to check it out.On the other hand if you were to go to and enter a request for books on “BUYING” you would receive less than 100 books. Why is that? Is it more important that we understand the “selling” process or the “buying” process?Wouldn’t you agree that if we can better understand the process that the buyer goes through that we would be more able to align our thinking with theirs? It is for this reason that I have spent considerable time developing a system for analyzing the process of making a decision to buy a particular product or service. Of course this process is 99% subconscious. Yet I came to the conclusion that this process existed by looking closer at why there is so much friction or resistance in the buying process. In other words, why often times buyers will resist buying simply because the salesperson is attempting to sell?A Matter of TrustLet’s face it most would agree that the biggest challenge that business people face when attempting to persuade others is gaining their TRUST. Trust is a rare commodity these days. Information is flying at us at a staggering rate and we are preoccupied with decoding all kinds of redundant messages at the expense of building trusting relationships. Consequently business people today are more savvy, suspicious and selective than ever before.I have often found that salespeople or even business people in the selling role try to move the customer to take action too quickly and thereby push that customer away. Maybe forever. They not only lose the sale but they lose credibility, damage their rapport with the customer and gain the reputation of being too pushy.For this reason customers are hesitant to take action until they have passed through the first eight stages of the “Buying Decision Process.” When we understand and practice recognizing this process, we can more accurately satisfy customer’s needs at each stage of the process and thereby be the person that helps them to move through each stage of the process. Of course when we help them move through the process we are also earn the right to help them take action.The Nine Stages of the “Buying Decision Process:”Here’s how the process works:Stage 1: Become Aware of Change
Stage 2: Recognize Deficiency
Stage 3: Experience Pain
Stage 4: Seek a Remedy
Stage 5: Encounter Influence
Stage 6: Establish Buying Criteria
Stage 7: Identify Options
Stage 8: Make a Brand Selection
Stage 9: Take ActionStage 1: Become Aware of Change
Let’s look at them individually now. The first stage is that the customer is aware of change. These may be external changes in the market place or internal changes within their company. Something is changing. We can help them to address this change by making them more aware of what is happening around them and perhaps showing them that they are not alone. Other folks in their industry or profession are facing the same kind of changes. This increases familiarity, builds credibility and reduces friction in the relationship. One day I was driving home and noticed that the houses on my block looked newer than mine. I wasn’t sure why but it seemed they were changing. The reality was that they were staying the same and it was MY home that was changing. We will see how shortly.Stage 2: Recognize Deficiency
The next stage is that the buyer begins to recognize some sort of deficiency. They begin to relate the “changes” to what they are missing. They realize that they are “lacking” something. Others seem to have it and they don’t. It could be more sales, profit, a better company culture or just about anything under the sun. Remember that change that I thought was taking place to the homes on my block? Well, I drove up my driveway the next day and looked closely at my house. What I noticed was that the other homes looked newer than mine because my home needed a paint job.Stage 3: Experience Pain
During the next stage the buyer begins to experience “pain.” As many of my clients, students, listeners and weekly readers know, I am fond of saying that there is no change without pain. I say pain but in reality it could simply be discomfort or unease. Surely I was not in physical pain when I discovered that my house needed painting but it did produce some discomfort. Sometimes the “pain” is more of a “pain in the neck.” In this stage the buyer realizes how much it could hurt to remain in their “unchanged” state.Stage 4: Seek Remedy
It is at this point that the buyer decides to seek some sort of remedy. The “pain” of the “unchanged” state has become MORE than the pain of change. For me there was some “pain” or discomfort in getting my house painted. I had to part with some serious coin, find a reputable company, clear the specifics with the community group and invest time in a myriad of logistical elements to make the paint job happen. But the pain of looking at my dull and paint-chipped home was getting to be greater than the pain of planning and financing the paint job.Stage 5: Encounter Influence
At this stage the buyer comes in contact with people, data or things that may influence their decision. In fact at this stage people seem to be tuned into noticing the things that influence their decision. Have you ever made the decision to buy a particular type of car and then all of a sudden you start seeing those cars everywhere? This is called “reticular activity.” It is an area of the brain that is responsible for non-cognitive or subliminal memory. I found myself driving home from work just a few days after noticing the paint peeling on my house and everywhere I turned there was a paint truck. I also noticed that one of my neighbors just painted his home and I asked him who did the job.Stage 6: Establish Buying Criteria
At this stage the buyer begins to transfer the emotional needs to more logical needs. They assemble the criteria that will be required to fill the need. For example I began to think about what my criteria should be for the company that would paint my house. They needed to have scaffolding because my home is located on as sharp grade. They needed to bonded and insured to avoid any contingent liability. They needed to have experience in my neighborhood and so on. I began to build a logic defense mechanism for making my selection.Stage 7: Identify Options
During this stage the buyer conducts an active search for a solution that fits the criteria. I began talking to friends to develop a list of some of the best painting companies in my area. When I put the list together I initiated contact or let others know that I was interested.Stage 8: Make a Brand Selection
In this stage the buyer limits their decision to the brands that satisfy the criteria and sooth the “pain.” The fact that I found a painting contractor that met all my logical criteria is only part of what drove me to make my selection. The larger fact was that the owner of this company actually took me for a walk up and down my block pointing out different home and discussing the pros and con’s of each paint job. He asked me a great deal of questions and determined that my motive was more than just fixing the peeling paint, preserving my investment or saving money. He knew that keeping up with the Jones was important to me. He found that out by recognizing where I was in the buying decision process.Stage 9: Take Action
In the final stage the buyer takes action. The most interesting thing about the paint company that I selected was that they were the first company to visit me nearly 3 months before I decided to “take action” on the paint job. The owner kept in touch me at every stage of the buying process. He didn’t try to PUSH me to take action. He found paint chips for me to look at. He sent me a few before and after pictures of some homes he completed, he gave me names of a few people who’s homes he painted in my neighborhood and he showed a genuine interest in helping me with the decision. He truly WON the business by putting me first and the decision to take action last.Think about your own business. How can you better understand where your customers are in their buying decision process? How can you address them at every stage of the process? How can you help your prospects and customers to recognize what is changing around them? How is that causing them deficiency? What is their “pain?” What can you do to create reticular activity for those that are in the “Influence” stage?Ultimately we can’t push anyone to take action. Taking action will happen of its own accord. We can however make a greater effort to understand our customers, their environment, their concerns and their motives. In doing so we will build long-term relationships that produce greater value and profit for all.

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