Getting Familiar with the Buying Cycle Is Crucial to Converting Leads
Does it seem like your business gets a lot of sales leads that haven’t been converting into paying customers? Are there customers who aren’t quite ready to make a buying decision yet, and you’re wondering how to bring them further down the pipeline? Like most common problems in business, there’s a model for understanding what’s going on and what to do about it: buying cycles.
Buying cycles are a great tool that can help your business gain clarity on your customers’ typical buying and decision-making habits. This helps your sales and marketing personnel see your relationships to different groups of potential customers and standardize their approaches to converting them. Buyer Personas and Target Audiences can be very helpful to construct before creating buyer cycles.
Let’s take a closer look at what a buying cycle does for you and what the process looks like for creating one.
What Is a Buying Cycle?
A buying cycle is a model or document that shows the steps that a lead typically goes through before converting and becoming a customer. At its simplest, the buying cycle consists of three main stages: awareness, consideration, and decision. Various other sources list five or seven stages, but these three capture the cycle without overcomplicating it.
The potential customer first enters the buying cycle in the awareness stage. This is when they recognize that they have a problem. They’re stuck, they don’t have an adequate solution on hand, and they need a product or service that can provide one. However, they haven’t started actively looking for a solution—maybe they don’t have the budget, or they don’t have time to do research, or they aren’t prioritizing this issue yet.
Next, they enter the consideration stage. They’ve been aware of the problem, but now they’re researching and finding what experts and other people who’ve had the same issue recommend. They’re actively investigating possible solutions and weighing the pros and cons of these various solutions against each other.
Finally, they enter the decision stage. They’ve done research, narrowed down their options, and now the time has come to make a purchasing decision: to buy or not to buy, and which product or service?
Once they make a buying decision, there is a post-decision period where they implement the solution, decide whether they’re satisfied or dissatisfied. This will determine whether they look to the same place for a solution the next time they become aware of having a similar problem.
In sales, your job is to move the potential customer through that cycle toward a buying decision, and to ensure that they’re satisfied enough to convert to a regular customer who chooses you every time they have this need.
To do this, you have to understand what your customers’ typical buying cycles look like, what stage they’re in when you make contact with them, and what will move them to the next stage. After all, it isn’t effective to always go with hard sells and calls to action if the lead if the customer is too early in the consideration stage or hasn’t even entered the awareness stage yet.
So, how do you figure out your customers’ buying cycle to help your sales personnel be more purposeful and get more conversions?
How Do I Figure Out My Customers’ Buying Cycle?
First of all, you probably have more than one buying cycle. Different types of customers have different needs and may find out about you in different places and at different points in their cycle. Before you can plot out their buying cycles, you have to take stock of these different groups.
First, ask yourself: where do we get our leads? You might get leads from organic search traffic, email marketing, print ads, networking events, cold calls, referrals, and other sources. Pick the ones that give you the bulk of your leads. This will be your starting point.
Now, for each of these sources, think about the step-by-step process those leads go through from first contact to conversion. Then, line that up with the stages of the buying cycle. This will help you get a better feel for what customers are thinking and feeling throughout the process, and what you can do to move them closer to a sale.
When you first meet them, what stage of the buying process are they in? If you meet them at a networking event, they might not be aware yet that they have a need that requires a solution. This means that your sales personnel should be educating the lead and finding those pain and pleasure points that reveal an unaddressed need, in order to move them into the awareness and then consideration stages.
On the other hand, if they first call you after finding your website, they may already be comparing you against competitors and looking to move from consideration to decision. In that case, this may be a good time to make your value proposition and a call to action.
Keep thinking about the process of moving through each stage. How long does it usually take to get to the next step? What actions should your sales personnel take at each stage to move them further along? Should they schedule a meeting? Should they just educate for a few weeks first? Should they propose a plan for how you would solve their problem? What should they do after the buying decision to ensure a good post-decision impression and bring them back?
Once you’ve planned this out and gotten it down on paper for each of your main sources of leads, you can make it available to your sales staff as a simplified and standardized way to keep track of your customers’ buying cycles. They’ll have a clearer model of what to expect and what they should be doing to bring in more leads and conversions, and you’ll improve your consistency across the process.
Of course, crafting an effective analysis of your buying cycles requires some investigation and planning. This may not be something you want to handle on your own. Frontier Marketing’s team of marketing professionals will research your buying cycles and organize them into a branded, easy-to-understand handout with recommendations at every step of the way. It’ll include a breakdown of the buying cycle stages, expected timeframes for each stage, and recommendations for when to initiate sales meetings and what to discuss.