The Four Stages of Shopping and Buying

By Jeff Shore

Stage One: Dissatisfaction.

UntitledI’m in the market for a new car. This is not an annual event for yours truly. I buy from need rather than want. I’m just too darned busy to spend a lot of time thinking about my car, let alone shopping for my next vehicle.

The stimulus behind my recent car shopping could be summed up in one word: inevitability. My car is old. It will break down. I don’t want to be on the way to the airport when this happens. When you think about it, inevitably is a beautiful thing as it relates to the sales process. Your customer will buy at some point, right? Why should they not purchase from you?

It starts with my dissatisfaction. I am dissatisfied with my current car. It’s as simple as that. It doesn’t matter what product you are buying. Every purchase decision follows four distinct stages. The first of those stages is dissatisfaction. Something is wrong, and it needs to be improved.

In the earliest stages of dissatisfaction, the future promise — the vision, if you will — is hazy at best. In this stage, people know what they are moving from (my busted old ride) but are not at all clear about what they are moving to. For me, the make, model, style and color were nebulous in stage one. My focus was on moving FROM dissatisfaction and fear (I haven’t met my local AAA towing guy and I don’t want to!) TO security and confidence.

Focusing on the from vs. the to in stage one of any shopping experience is universal. I have spent years polling salespeople in training sessions, asking them about why they bought their last car. The responses are always the same and they are always about problems with their former car vs. features of a new car. The initiating factor in buying a new car is not price, ride, or the latest gps system; it is always dissatisfaction.

Stage one doesn’t happen anywhere near a salesperson; the important thing for you to understand is simply this: with no dissatisfaction, there is no sale.


Coming Up: Stage 2 – Mulling