NLP Sales | The Customer’s Buying Cycle

The Customer’s Buying Cycle

It’s easy (and can be useful) to get fixated on sales processes. However it’s worth remembering the purpose of the sales process is to help your customers get through their own buying process so that not only will they buy from you, but ideally they’ll champion you throughout their organisation and elsewhere.

Understanding your customer’s buying cycle process.

Their buying process may be very simple and obvious, in which case this isn’t a problem (except this means there may be a lot of competition).

However, in cases where your customer:

  • is not sure if their initial problem is important enough to solve,
  • is not sure what the best answer is, and/or
  • has a number of people involved in their decision making process,

then it helps to think through how they are likely to make a successful buying decision.

This is of particular interest at the beginning of a buying cycle when customers are identifying a need. The initial stage is often about working out if a problem is serious enough to address. Jumping to a solution too quickly may actually stop the sale. Helping them identify the implications of a possible problem may encourage the sale.

In the first stage it can be more effective to help the customer explore the implications of their perceived problems, rather than jump ahead to a solution.

This is the reason why the next section looks at both the problems you work with and their implications as well as the solutions you offer.

Wherever your customers are in their buying cycle, the way forward is to help them complete the stage they’re at and then help them move forward to the next stage.

Customers normally have at least 5 phases to their buying cycle.

  1. Recognising a Problem or Opportunity
  2. Research Alternatives
  3. Trial (Optional)
  4. Purchase  product or service
  5. Implement, check short and longer term value

Each of these phases can be divided into 2 sub-phases:

  1. Recognising a Problem or Opportunity
    • Exploring implications of not changing.
    • Exploring benefits from changing.
  2. Research Alternatives.
    • Identify and evaluate options
    • Check recommendations and testimonials.
  3. Test
    • Agree criteria
    • Evaluate
  4. Purchase product or service.
    • Hesitate.
    • Commit
  5. Implement, check short and longer term value.
    • Implement.
    • Check value (leading to case studies, testimonials and referrals).

Who is involved the buying decision and what are their buying criteria?

In simple sales, it may be the budget holder, whereas in more complex sales it may involve the buyer, various users and others involved in implementation, and a final decision maker or decision making committee.

In a complex sale we’ll normally need a champion who will help drive our solution internally through the various stages of the cycle. We also may come across ‘blockers’, who favour the status quo or alternative solutions.

In the next section we’ll look at problem and value statements

(The above buying cycle below has been adapted from the excellent book Slow Down, Sell Faster by Kevin Davis, which is one of out recommended sales books.)

NLP Sales Section Index

Recommended Sales Books

1: Introduction
2: Customer’s buying cycle (this page)
3: Questions to identify your initial problem and value statements
4: Getting appointments (framework script)
5: Handling classic and specific objections when getting appointments
6: Handling other objections when getting appointments
7: Advancing the sale
8: Closing
9: Value, proposals and negotiation
10: Implementation, case studies, referrals and testimonials
11: New Media
12: NLP approaches that make the difference.

Customer Buying Cycle
Customer Buying Cycle