Interest Is a Two-Way Street
Just like sellers, buyers also have a process for the way they make their buying decisions. As a selling professional, you’ve probably seen this before. But you might not have thought of it as a buyer’s process. The acronym is A-I-D-A. Sound familiar? It stands for:
And it’s a simple concept. Buyers can’t buy something until they are aware of it. And they won’t consider buying something unless they are interested in it.
This seems so obvious, so basic even, that we seldom talk about it… And we seldom spend much time in our sales process giving thought to these early stages of the buyer’s process. That means we miss out on three very important ways to advance the sale. By concentrating our sales efforts on heightening buyer desire and trying to compel the buying action, we miss out on a lot of sales.
Sellers who focus on the first two steps in the buying process, do these three things differently:
1) They don’t assume that every buyer has the same level of awareness and interest. They may have encountered a whole lot of people who are not interested in their product, but they never sell with a downtrodden view that “our product isn’t appealing.” Conversely, they may have encountered a whole lot of people who are very interested in their product, but they never sell with an elitist view that “everyone needs our product.”
Sellers who gauge each individual buyer’s level of awareness and interest have a much better chance of advancing the sale. If buyer interest is high, the seller piques that interest by getting the buyer to articulate why they are interested. There’s nothing like getting the buyer to do the selling for you! If buyer interest is low, the seller gains valuable insights into what might be a mismatch (or more likely a perceived mismatch) in the buyer’s mind. Getting objections on the table before the pitch is made gives the seller an opportunity to address those objections more completely.
2) Sellers who understand the importance of the buyer’s process and spend time to build buyer awareness and interest do one more thing differently. They view interest as a two-way street. They show an interest in the buyer’s business and needs. They use the law of reciprocity wisely. That law simply says that we want to respond in kind when someone has shown as a courtesy or a kindness. So, in this case, a seller who shows genuine interest in the buyer’s business will be rewarded by the buyer with a higher level of interest in what they seller has to say.
Here’s my concern. Before conducting sales training with sales teams, I conduct a simple survey. It’s my way of getting to know the group and their needs so I can customize the training delivery and materials for them. Part of that survey asks them to rate their level of interest in a variety of training topics. Time after time, the top-rated choices are the ones related to overcoming objections and closing sales. The bottom-rated choice, in 100% of the sales teams I’ve surveyed, is this one “Understanding business basics, how your customers make money.”
To be certain this wasn’t a lack of need causing the low interest, I’ve woven this into training role plays and direct questions. What I’ve discovered is that a lot of sales people do not know how their prospects and customers make money. Nor do they care.
The contrast and what it means in live selling situations is clear. Sales reps sell more when they have strong business acumen and a genuine interest in what affects the customer’s profitability. They have great relationships and become trusted advisors to their customers. They ask better questions to probe needs, and they offer more comprehensive solutions because they understand so much more about how the products they sell can benefit the customer.
I’ve asked sales reps why they rate this selling skill so low. Most replies indicate a lack of understanding about how this would be worthwhile. I often hear “that isn’t even a selling skill” or similar feelings about the inclusion of this item on the survey.
3) Because they are genuinely interested, sellers who look at the whole buyer process ask more questions that are about the prospect and/or the prospect’s business overall, not just the questions about how the prospect will use the product being sold. Instead of starting with questions like “what brand do you currently use?” and “how much do you currently spend with our competitor?” they ask questions like “what are your top three goals this year?” and “what are the biggest business challenges you’re currently facing?”
These questions indicate interest. They have high value to the prospect or customer. They open up opportunities for asking more challenging questions and for offering new ideas and suggestions that will be taken seriously.
Of course, the next steps in the AIDA Buyer Process are Desire and Action. The buyer proceeds when his or her interest becomes a desire. Then, and only then, the buyer takes action to make the purchase. But no buyer gets there without the awareness and interest. Sales fall apart when sellers fast forward from buyer awareness to trying to close the sale. The mild interest a buyer may have had evaporates in the face of a hard sell on a product they don’t even desire.