Understanding the Buying Process Produces Tangible Results
September 24, 2020
Although many customers are point-of-sale or one-time purchasers of products or services, the path to building a long-term, sustainable business is a process that involves much more than one isolated sales transaction at a time. Ultimate buyer success depends on mastering a four-step progression that leads to repeat business and customer retention.
A prospect is an individual or business seeking information and contemplating making a sales transaction. The selling business will discuss products or services offered, pricing, features, after-sale service, etc. Depending on the business, industry, price, and competition, there may be little to lengthy discussions regarding terms, contracts, or special provisions. All of this, of course, is to achieve one objective and that is to make a sale.
Regardless of the sector a business is in - retail, service, or manufacturing - nurturing prospects along the way to become customers is an all-important goal. Without this critical step, a prospect will never become a paying customer. It is because of this significant and essential phase in the sales process that most businesses will do whatever is necessary to make a sale...close the deal. This might involve extra time in discussions, special terms, or consistent follow-up. Prospects need to become customers!
Depending on what is involved during the prospecting phase, there might be an outflow of expenses. The customer phase, however, is the time when products or services are exchanged for cash...revenue and profit. The business, hopefully, delivers what is expected and promised and, in turn, the customer is satisfied with the transaction.
At times, unfortunately, satisfaction is not met. Smart businesses understand that customer satisfaction is a necessary ingredient for long-term success and will, therefore, do whatever is necessary to turn an unsatisfied customer into a satisfied customer. Businesses that do not understand the importance of repeat business...keeping current customers while adding new customers to the base...will always be in a never-ending cycle of prospecting without growing revenue. Of course, businesses are always prospecting; however, continuous prospecting while nurturing current customers is how a business grows and prospers.
After a prospect has been successfully converted into a customer, efforts cannot stop at this point in time. Promises made and attitudes demonstrated during the prospect phase must continue. Sadly, many times during this phase the positive attitudes that prevailed during the prospect phase are forgotten. Quality offered begins to diminish, customer service declines, or hidden costs surface, as examples. None of these scenarios contribute to lasting customer satisfaction. Customers must continue to be treated as prospects forever. Remember, just as your business is continuing to prospect, so is the competition...prospecting your customers!
In addition to having a customer satisfied with products or services, engagement is another key element for total customer satisfaction. This means ongoing communication is important after a sale is transacted through personal conversations, email, phone calls, or other means to keep the customer engaged with the business. Follow-up and customer service rank high in the minds of buyers.
While many businesses understand the importance of turning a prospect into a customer, fewer businesses understand the true importance of engagement with current customers. Intense competition means that business rivals are always prospecting for customers. Constant, positive engagement helps to solidify current customers into permanent, loyal customers.
Retention is the last phase of the sales progression process. If prospecting, acquiring customers, and engagement are all handled properly, then retention is a natural by-product of the process. This is key to building a long-term, sustainable business. Customer retention is similar to a business annuity... streams of money coming into a business month after month, year after year.
Repeat sales is a foundation that a business builds upon. When new business is added to the foundation, sales revenue grows more rapidly than in a business that only has one sales transaction after another with no repeat business.
Putting It All Together
Ultimate buyer success is not just about successfully prospecting or making one-time sales. Ultimate buyer success is a continuum. It is a series of seamless transactions that start with prospecting and end with customer retention. In between these two phases, customers must be treated as if they are always prospects doing whatever it takes within reason to fully satisfy each customer and continually engaging customers after a sale. Customers want satisfaction and value for the money they spend. They, also, want to feel valued as a customer. When the first three phases are successful, the fourth phase...retention...is almost automatic leading to ultimate buyer success.