Small Business Today Magazine MAR 2016 AMERICAN SERVICES | Page 20

EDITORIAL FEATURE Your Next Step The 7 Stages of the New Buying Cycle By Jack Warkenthien, CEO of NextStep Solutions L ast year, I chose to rewrite my original sales tome, “Life’s A Sales Call: How to Succeed in the World’s Oldest Profession”. Since it was first published in 2005, the content was a decade old, so imagine the changes that have occurred in the sales and selling arena. For past readers, the epiphany will be the fact that, today, it’s far more important to learn how people buy than learn how to sell to them. For starters, by the time you’re aware of a sales candidate, more than 57% of the buying decisions have been already made (according to the CEB study-The Challenger Sale), and there are probably 5.4 decision makers involved in the purchase. Scary? Yes, of course! The reason is because there is so much more information now available online that purchasers are doing their own research instead of trusting you to provide them with what they need to know. So let’s first review the traditional buying cycle. The 4 Traditional Stages of the Buying Cycle So how has B2B (business-to-business) buying changed in recent years? During my research, I realized that one of the most significant changes lies in the stages of the buying cycle. More or less, there’s a set process we all go through when making buying decisions from a series of steps designed to help us go from uninformed and curious to investing our cash in a solution that solves our problem or addresses our challenges. Regardless of the exact terminology used, the basic buying cycle resembles the following (the equivalent sales cycle stage that correlates is in parenthesis): • Stage 1: Awareness (Discovery). We become aware of a problem, need, challenge, or opportunity and this leads to dissatisfaction and a desire to take action. • Stage 2: Outreach (Matching). We reach out to others, conduct research, and speak to potential vendors in an effort to understand the myriad of potential solutions that exist and match the ones that best fit our needs. • Stage 3: Selection (Resolving). During the research phase, we develop a preference for one particular vendor or solution. Since buying is an emotional decision, one solution becomes our emotional favorite and that horse moves to the front of the track. • Stage 4: Purchase (Opening). We purchase the desired product or service, thereby addressing the problem or challenge identified and meeting our needs along the way. The 3 New Stages of the Buying Cycle The universe of buyers has changed pretty dramatically in recent years. Procurement has risen from being an administrative function to more of a strategic player on the corporate stage as there are much higher stakes when things go wrong. With the internet becoming such a ubiquitous, on-demand, open source of information, content marketing and thought leadership is available to anyone with a browser. Finally, the ground has been leveled between new start-ups and long established businesses due to the new affordable technologies available to all comers. All of these factors have had an incredible impact on buyer behavior and specifically on the steps your buyers take when considering the purchase of new products or services. In addition to the 4 traditional buying stages, there are 3 new ones to understand: 1. Research: After the Awareness stage, buyers now take advantage of all the 18 SMALL BUSINESS TODAY MAGAZIN H