The Four Stages of Shopping and Buying

By Jeff Shore

Stage Two: Mulling (And more mulling. And a little more mulling.)

Read part 1 here.

old_car1Stage one of the buying process deals with coming face-to-face with dissatisfaction. That stage can occur in a single moment (“I just ruined this shirt!”), or it can take place over a long period of time (“Our kitchen is dated.”) Either way, when the dissatisfaction is strong enough, we move into a new stage: mulling. In this stage, we are beginning to assemble the various and often disconnected elements of a purchase decision. We begin to consider product offerings, budget and affordability, choices, priorities, urgency, and a host of other considerations. In the mulling stage, we start out in a fog and gain clarity over time.

Here’s the bad news: Stage two is the most awkward and imprecise of the stages. It’s hard to pin down and it lasts for an indeterminate length of time. People are complicated and so are their lives. There are always so many details to consider when making a purchase…hmmm…and timing to consider…hmmmm….and Janie’s teeth that are looking more crooked than ever and braces are expensive…hmmm…but if Janie does need braces, she will need rides to the orthodontist in a reliable car…hmmm…hmmm…

Stage two is a dot-to-dot game without any numbers next to the dots.

But, here’s the good news: as a salesperson, you never see customers who are in this stage. People muddle their way through stage two long before they talk with salespeople! By the time that you meet a customer, they have already hemmed and hawed enough to get themselves moving in a general direction towards you, the salesperson.

Here are two things about stage two that you need to remember:

1) Much of the sales presentation happens outside of the presence of a salesperson. Your customers have already had countless conversations with themselves about what, when, where and how to buy.

2) By the time you meet a potential customer, they are well down the sales road and have already done the bulk of the work that goes into making a decision to purchase. Also important to remember: Because of this, they are already half weary of the process!

Dissatisfaction isn’t a new development in your customers. Remember that they have been “shopping” (mulling) for years before you meet them.


Coming Up: Stage 3 – Active Looking