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Sales

How to: Understanding the buying decision process

Kathy Monroy

November 23, 2021

Having a clear and complete understanding of the decision-making process when a prospect is in a buying cycle is one of the essential elements of creating a comprehensive sales and marketing strategy. Getting to know your customers or potential customers will enable you to create a plan that sets in motion a purchase decision by educating them and letting them know you have the solution for what they need.  

When thinking about this process, think about yourself and answer the following question: what do I do when buying a product or accessing a service? Consumers are individuals just like you. So, they will most likely act like you.  

What is the buying decision process?

The buying process describes an individual's journey before, during, and after purchasing a product or service. It starts with recognizing a need for something, it then passes through the purchase decision, and it ends with evaluating the product or service.

Why is the buying decision process important?

Understanding this concept gives essential insights for you to create a comprehensive sales and marketing strategy that considers each of these steps and influences your prospect to purchase your product.

In fact, according to statistics from CSO Insights, “70% of buyers fully define their need on their own before engaging with a sales representative...”, meaning, the information about your product must be readily available and clearly defined through your digital platforms for your audience to consume. “40% of consumers identify specific solutions before reaching out to a seller.” Therefore, consumers search for information on their own, and if they can’t find it quickly, your product is discarded.  

Steps of the buying decision process

We are all consumers at some point, and we all go through these basic steps within a buying decision process. And the best part is that we can market each of these steps to guide our customers through their buying decision process.

Graph with steps of the buying decision process
  1. We recognize we have a specific need.  

The problem recognition stage is essential to target since consumers often find these needs through external stimuli. In many cases, the consumer does not know that they need a specific product or service. Still, they are prompted to want or need it through ads, videos, images they see when browsing the internet and social media platforms.  

Here’s where you’ll be able to create specific assets from your brand or service to influence consumers and let them know the value they will receive using your product or service.  

In some cases, the consumer knows exactly what they need; therefore, your product’s information must be readily available for them to consume and make a purchase decision. This consumer will most likely skip directly to the third step, evaluation alternatives.  

  1. We search for information.

Now that we know we need something, we start searching for information about that specific product. Here, the consumer searches through the internet and social media platforms to find out more about the product they need. Reading the information and getting to know each brand will help the customer feel more confident making the buying decision.  

  1. We evaluate the alternatives.

Once we have all the information we need, we start cross-referencing it with other brands. This process allows consumers to understand the demand and choose the best option. Here's where standing out and having a unique selling point is critical. What makes your brand different?  

Communicating the specific attribute your brand has that differentiates it from the rest is pivotal at this point since it will allow your potential customer to remember your brand; it will keep you top-of-mind.  

  1. We make the purchase.

After doing all the research and comparing many products in the market, the consumer decides to purchase.  

  1. We determine how we feel about our purchase.

This part of the process is neglected in many cases since many are content with the consumer buying their product. But this stage is as important as the rest. After the consumer buys and experiences the product, they’ll have an opinion, hopefully, good!  

Depending on your customer’s level of satisfaction, they will become loyal clients of the brand and tell others about it through word-of-mouth, reviews, or social media. These customers are the ones who are most likely to purchase from your brand again, the ones that had a satisfactory experience.  

Which is the most important step in the buying decision process?

Usually, the instinct is to focus all our efforts on the fourth step, the actual purchase. And yes, we should target this step without disregarding the importance of the three steps that come before it.  

Picking and choosing between one of the steps of the buying decision process is only beneficial when you’re targeting a specific audience that you have studied and analyzed beforehand.  

But if your product or service is new, it’s best to start at the beginning: giving your audience the required information for their specific needs. Every step is critical, and companies must know how to influence the consumer in every part of the journey to have a positive overall experience with the brand.

Questions to answer in each stage of the buying process

There are many aspects to consider during the entire buying process. Still, to start understanding how to create specific strategies for each stage, you must consider certain vital questions.  

For example:  

  • What could be the specific needs or problems my customers have?
  • Why are my customers having these needs or problems?
  • What’s the process that can lead customers to need my product?
  • Where does my customer search for information?
  • What type of information does my potential client consume?
  • What is my unique selling point?
  • Do we have a straightforward purchasing process?
  • How can we retain our consumer?

The answers to these questions will vary depending on your product or service. For instance, if you’re selling beverages, the answer to the first question would be as simple as “my customer is thirsty.” It may become more complex if you add a more specific need, like a beverage with great flavor, no calories, and great price.  

It’s essential to note that at this stage, customers may have been persuaded through physical need (hunger, thirst, temperature) or by an external stimulus (advertising, social media, conversations). Therefore, these questions must consider both scenarios.  

 

There are many elements to consider to understand the buying decision process thoroughly since it has many stages and possibilities. But for any sales and marketing strategy to be successful, these five stages and all their elements must be considered. Having these stages in mind will allow your business to create assets that guide your potential consumer seamlessly through the entire journey, providing them with the information they need, gaining their trust, and finally convincing them to make the purchase decision.    

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