The Four Stages of Shopping and Buying

By Jeff Shore

Stage Three: Active Looking

Read part 1 here.

Read part 2 here.

worlds-smallest-carsEvery purchase decision for every product begins at the same starting point: dissatisfaction. People buy because of a desire to improve their life. In the absence of dissatisfaction there is no stimulus, and thus no sale.

Dissatisfaction leads to stage two: mulling – that nebulous and ill-defined process of considering options and assembling random thoughts.

At some point we make the transition from stage two—mulling—to stage three: active looking. This transition is typically connected to some kind of trigger event. Something changes that kicks us into gear.

My son and his wife recently informed me that I will soon be a grandfather. I’m excited beyond belief, and of course I want to help them as much as I can. They have a two-door car now, hardly appropriate for a car seat. BINGO! There is the trigger event. I give them my SUV and that’s all the rationale I need for a new car. Win-win, right? (Don’t ever underestimate the power of a juicy rationalization!)

When I made this rationalization decision, that was the point at which I went into full-blown active looking. It was an all-consuming process in which I was digging deep and learning all I could. But here comes the a-ha moment (and fair warning; salespeople miss this all the time). When I was literally hours away from buying a car, there wasn’t a single salesperson on the planet who was aware of that fact. Everything I had learned had been through online investigation and referrals. Welcome to the brave new world of sales!

Today’s resources make for highly educated customers, the likes of which the sales world has never before seen. I knew the price, color, model, financing and exactly how sunny it needs to be to bring out the perfect amount of sparkle in the finish, and I knew all that before I walked into a car dealership. Very often, salespeople are now the last step in the purchasing process.

Choose to live in reality and show your customers the respect they deserve by assuming that they have already researched what they want online, have likely spoken with friends and acquaintances about their possible purchase, and in my case, even rented the various makes and models of cars I was considering buying while out of town on business trips. (Yes, in essence this means I went for test drives without a salesperson. I almost feel like I should apologize to my industry!)

A sale does not begin when a customer walks into a dealership; for a salesperson to think otherwise is just plain dumb. Today’s salespeople fill a vastly different role than they did in pre-internet days. Your job is all about fulfilling customers lifestyle needs vs. informing them of features. Perhaps a good way to think of it is this: Yes, you need to know your stuff, but you need to know your customers even more. Know everything; share what matters.

Coming Up: Stage 4 – Purchasing