How to Make a Sale – How Customers Decide to Buy


I regularly tell people they’re in sales, even when they think otherwise. You don’t have to be in the business of hawking your wares for cash to be selling. Every time you persuade someone to your point of view – you’re selling. Lobbyists and politicians do it. Job applicants and recruiters do it. Managers and union officials, project teams and committee members – they all do it. And yes, sales people do it too. Here's the final blog in our series "How to Make a Sale". In this one we look at how customers decide to buy:

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I’ve put together three previous blogs on How to Make a Sale that should help you get started:

  1. Overview (Steps of the Sale)
  2. Plan First - Ask Questions later
  3. Handling Objections

It doesn’t matter where you sell: face to face; telephone; digital, on-line or off, the most important element to understand is your customer. What they want, and how they make their buying decisions.

How Customers Decide to Buy

Let me give you an example.

Think about the last memorable personal purchase you made – something you thought a bit about before handing over your money. Maybe a holiday, a car, an outfit for a wedding, electronic or computer equipment, even a house. How conscious were you of how you made the decision? Chances are, the more expensive the item, the more rigorous the purchasing process. Regardless of the cost, similar principles apply, and not everyone “likes shopping”.

For example, if you recently chose a restaurant for a special night out, you probably considered the following elements (though not necessarily in this order).

  • Who’s going?
  • What cuisine will everyone like?
  • Budget
  • Reservation date
  • Have I been there before, or can someone recommend it?
  • Food quality
  • Service
  • Special requirements
  • Potential enjoyment

In a work environment, we may follow a Standard Operating Procedure for purchasing.  In reality, we have internal SOPs in our personal lives that are just as structured. The difference is, we’re just not aware of them. Many of our customers purchase in the same way we do, even when they make their living as professional buyers.

Recommended reading: How To Create An Effective Sales Strategy For Your Business

The Four Stages of The Buyer

In order for you to plan your sales pitch, you first need to understand the Customer Transition. And what’s that when it’s at home? Well, it’s the four stages the buyer goes through to decide to MAKE a PURCHASE:

  1. They need the product/service
  2. They will get a good return on their investment
  3. They have found the best supplier
  4. It’s best for them to buy now

Why not consider how you help your potential customers make the transition? More particularly, how to make the decision in YOUR favour.

No product sells itself. I could list a number of ‘absolute must have’ products or services from cradle (midwives) to grave (undertakers).  However, even in the essentials of life, the customer always has options, from doing nothing and letting nature take its course, to outsourcing the challenge completely.

For you to have a competitive advantage, it’s essential to communicate how your product meets your potential customers’ needs.

Do they understand the benefits they receive for the price paid?

How do they know the YOU are the best person to buy from?

Finally, what compels them to make the decision NOW?

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