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The four stages of buying and selling

Sales - the necessary evil

We live in a capitalist society. Our way of life is based on our ability to choose what we want to buy, and to have the freedom to buy what we want to buy. Fundamental to our ability to choose is our ability to get information about products. Fundamental to the ability to do a transaction is a person representing the seller. You would think, therefor, that a sales person would be fully appreciated part of the buying process.

But when ever you hear the word “sales rep” there is a clang of stereotypes, the rise of anger or disgust, and the desire to flee. Why is this?

Being brutally honest, we all see sales people as a necessary evil. They are like going to the dentist when you have a sore tooth. 

I heard a talk about the four stages of buying, and the four stages of selling, and it explains a lot about what is going on in the process.

Sales - the evil

Underlying the four steps of buying is the assumption that the sales rep wants to sell us anything, and is prepared to do what ever is necessary to close the deal.

We believe that the sales rep is a dishonest, ruthless person which is ironic when you see the buying process.

Meanwhile this reputation isn’t totally unjustified. Sales reps are often paid on a commission basis. It is in their best interest for you to buy from them. This is made even worse when it is unlikely that you will be buying from them again soon (the classic used car salesperson).

But if you think that the sales rep is bad, check out the four stages of buying.

Stage One

Selling Cycle
"Build Rapport"

At this stage the sales rep is trying to be your best friend in the whole wide world. This is the chat about the footy, or some current topic. If you have kids with you, then the sales rep will probably try to bring them into the conversation.

Buying Cycle
"Lie to me"

Since the buyer doesn’t trust the seller, they are going to be closed and guarded. They don’t want to reveal too much about them self, and there is no way that they want the seller to know their budget.

For example, imagine you want to buy a car. You have a budget and you want to buy it this weekend. 

The sales rep will go into full on rapport mode. There’s probably little debate about that. The interesting thing is what happens when they ask “when are you planning on buying?” At this stage you say “we are just looking” because you don’t want to be pressured, and you don’t want the sales rep to up the price. When asked what your budget is, you will typically understate it.

Stage Two

Selling Cycle
"Give information"

The sales rep is more than happy to point out all the great features and benefits of the product. Hopefully they know their stuff, and hopefully they are reasonably honest.

Selling Cycle
"Give information"

The buyer is desperate to get information about the product. They want to make sure it is the right product, and best product, for them. They want both a logical and emotional reason to go through with the purchase. Or they want to find the reason why this would be a total disaster.

Both the buyer and seller are relatively in synch. It doesn’t mean that they have discovered honesty, but at least the buyer is generally happy to listen to the seller

Stage Three

Selling Cycle

Once the spiel is over, the sales rep goes into closing overdrive. This is where they want the order and they will throw in their grandmother to make it happen. Techniques include limited availability (“I can’t promise it will still be here tomorrow”, “the sale will finish today”), and bonus offers (“buy it now and I can include…”). The hard close is also what has greatly contributed to the reputation of sales reps.

Selling Cycle
"Lie to me"

And now the buyer is back to lying. If they are interested in buying they will play it down, and if they aren’t interested they will come up with “polite excuses”.

With the car sales example, you can really see both sides coming into action. If you love the car and want it, you will hesitate and mention another car in the lot next door, which is also such a great car and at a better price. It’s a bluff to bring down the price. The sales rep will do the dance and throw extras to try and close the deal, or do the return bluff of saying the car is likely to sell that day. 

Stage Four

Selling Cycle

This is where the rep has the buyer’s contact details, and they are on the phone or emailing trying to get the purchase order, or another visit. 

Selling Cycle

The seller, meanwhile, doesn’t want the pressure, or isn’t interested in the product, but doesn’t like saying “no”. They go into avoidance mode and will always be “in a meeting” or “out of the office”. 

Fortunately most used car sales reps don’t know where we live, so to get a good example we just have to think about office based reps. 

And sales reps are trained to persevere. The reality is that buyers will eventually cave and buy, or may have actually forgotten. Pursuit pays off. The problem is, however, they are also tarnishing their reputation.

A better way?

What’s missing in this process is one simple element – TRUST.

I will be brutally honest here – our goal is NOT to be your friend. Chances are we will never meet or speak to each other again. While everyone here is friendly and enjoys a great chat, our primary goal is not to be likeable.

Instead, we want to make sure 

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