The ABC’s Of How People Buy defines three buying milestones a prospective customer will make as they move from not interested to wanting to buy. It is the customer’s buying process, not the salesperson’s selling process. This provides an easy to remember guidance system that keeps sales people focused on what is happening inside of their prospects.
It gives salespeople specific goals to achieve that are based on the next conclusion the customer needs to make in thinking out their decision to buy. Everyone uses the ABC’s to make a decision to buy. You can find this thinking process in everything you’ve ever bought.
Each of these three conclusions occurs inside the mind of the prospective customer. They represent major milestones in how a prospect thinks out a decision to buy. Until a prospect arrives at the A= Action Need point in their own mind, they are not ready to think about issues that would be evaluated in the B and C parts of their thinking process. Each milestone must be reached before they can proceed to the next milestone and be 100% attentive to that part of the buying decision process.
First Concepts Consultants has trained sales forces how to integrate this buying decision process into the way they deal with prospects. Those sales forces who fully applied this approach have seen their sales increase by 20% or more.
A = Action Needed
The customer admits there is a serious enough need that they want to do something about it.
The single biggest shortcoming I have noticed in salespeople happens here. Unless a customer discovers their needs be it problems, issues, lost opportunities or something they want, they have absolutely no reason to buy anything. But simply having needs is not enough reason to justify buying anything as too many salespeople have learned the hard way. The prospect has to recognize that these needs are serious enough…they cost them a lot of money, they create serious problems, they see a wide gap between what they have now versus what they could have…that they feel compelled to seek something better. When a prospect arrives at this conclusion, they want to look for solutions. They want to find a way to address these needs.
Notice that the ABC’s are always phrased in terms of a decision the prospect makes, something the prospect admits to or realizes. That’s because the ABC guidance system focuses on the salesperson helping the prospect come to these decision points which are a natural and normal part of their progression from no interest to making a purchase. Until the prospect admits they have needs that are so serious they want to do something about it, they have no reason to buy and no reason to hear a sales presentation.
The number one mistake salespeople make is rushing into their presentation or talking about what they offer before the customer has arrived at a point where they are ready to start thinking about buying something. Lack of serious customer needs is the single greatest reason people fail to buy, raise objections and offer price resistance.
Happy and content prospects are the ones most salespeople never sell to. Very few understand the A = Action Need step the prospect must go through before they can consider what a salesperson is offering. So they either walk away or push forward into the presentation only to get a big no. Either way they’ve wasted their time and the prospects time. Instead, if a salesperson is guided by the ABC’s, they will engage a prospect in a discussion to help them discover their needs and stay with that until the prospect finally admits they have serious and compelling needs.
Most sales are made because the salesperson happened on a prospect that had already completed the A = Action Need step on their own. They were looking for something to address their needs when the salesperson walked in the door. That creates the false assumption in salespeople that they only have to do the same thing with enough prospects and some will buy. They fail to understand the reasons why the others didn’t buy or how they could have engaged those prospects so some of them would have bought. The ABC’s change selling from a numbers game into a rational process that explains why and when each prospect buys something.
Salespeople make an even greater assumption when they find a prospect who openly complains about their problems and frustrations. The salesperson hears the prospect talking about their needs and assumes that means they are ready to hear a presentation. How many people do you know that complain about things but never want to do anything about it? Often they will end up telling you that is just the way things normally are. They had no intention of spending any money to address their complaints. Some people just like to complain. The key to the A = Action Needed step is that the prospect has to admit they have serious enough needs that they want to do something about it. Until they admit that, they are not ready to hear a presentation.
When guided by the ABC’s, salespeople will always engage prospects in a conversation to help them discover their needs and figure out how bad they are. While some prospects may not actually have any compelling needs today, a salesperson will generally find more prospects who are interested in buying. They can continue to call on the ones who didn’t have a need today patiently waiting until that need develops. Every prospect can be sold. At some point, every prospect will develop needs. It’s just a question of timing as to when their compelling need surfaces.
The ABCs help the salesperson to track where the customer is at in their mind so they can be in the same place. Most sales are lost because the salesperson is doing something that is out of sync with the customer.
B = Best Solution
The customer discovers the best solution to address their needs.
When the salesperson presents their solution, instead of stating generic benefits they now can use the serious needs the prospect admitted in A = Action Needed in their benefit statements. So benefits become customized for each prospect based on their actual needs. These link the prospect’s needs with the solution. A great presentation is simply a salesperson showing how their offer is the solution to the prospects specific needs. Every sales presentation must be customized for each prospect to fully address their buying decision process.
But before that presentation can be made, salespeople need to prepare the customer and avoid a common assumption that can derail their sales effort. The customer is now aware they have a need and want to do something about it. They are now interested in evaluating a variety of different ways to address their need. Some would say the customer is now motivated. The salesperson may assume that the customer wants the type of solution they are offering. That may not be the case.
Once a customer is motivated to address their need, that doesn’t mean they are inclined toward any particular solution. In fact, they may be more interested in something that has nothing to do with what the salesperson is offering.
Before a salesperson can present their company’s offering, they need to help the customer understand why their type of solution is better than other solutions. This must happen before the specifics of the offer can be presented. Salespeople may think that all they need to do is compare their offering against other direct competitors who offer a similar product or service. Often, that is not where the customer is at in thinking out a decision to buy. More likely, the prospect is open to all possibilities including those that have little or nothing to do with a specific company’s solution.
As an example, a customer may discover they have a data storage problem. There are many different ways to solve such a problem. Some may involve buying hardware. Even then, there are many different types of hardware solutions. Or this might make them more interested in outsourcing data storage to a remote provider. Or they may be interested in the possibility of a software solution helping them better utilize their existing hardware. It is not just about which brand of storage device they buy. It is about looking at all the possible ways they could address their storage issue.
So when a salesperson selling data storage hardware gets a customer to the A = Action Needed stage, that customer may not even be thinking about buying more hardware. If the salesperson assumes the customer is ready to consider buying this company’s hardware, they will encounter resistance. That is not where the customer is at in their buying process. The customer is open to all possible solutions at this point and may not want to spend too much time on any one approach until they learn more.
To address the customer buying process, the salesperson first has to help the customer to discover that the type of solution the salesperson offers is the best approach regardless of which company they bought from. Why would the purchase of hardware be better than outsourcing or using a software only solution? Prime the prospect for the specific type of solution before positioning your company’s solution.
Once the customer has decided they want a hardware solution, then it comes down to showing why this company’s solution is better than other direct competitors. So there are two questions that customer needs to answer during the Best Solution phase before they can finally decide that a particular offer is the right one to solve their problem: 1. What type of solution would be best to address their need? (Priming) 2. Why would the salesperson’s offer be better than other similar solutions? (Positioning)
C = Cost Justified
The customer sees enough value in what is offered to justify the price.
Price resistance normally occurs because the customer has not completely gone through A = Action Needed and B = Best Solution. When the cost of the prospects need is greater than the cost of the salesperson’s solution, the prospect will see a good value and decide to buy.
Pricing issues are primarily addressed through the A = Action Needed step of the buying process. If the prospect has not gone through that thinking process completely, they will shut down the sale when it comes time to talk price because what is being offered will appear more costly to them then staying with their current situation. It is through the A = Action Needed stage that the salesperson guides the prospect to discover as many cost or serious needs as possible and help them to build up those cost or lost opportunities. The bigger the need appears, the more costly it is, the more serious it is, the more likely the prospect will see the solution as being less costly.
Overall, a salesperson shouldn’t be talking about price and value unless the customer has arrived at this stage of their buying process. If a customer does not see the value, they are going to object to the price. That’s why it is critical to fully complete the A = Action Needed step and the B = Best Solution step before discussing price and value.
Through The Eyes Of The Customer
When a salesperson uses the ABCs as their guide, communications becomes more positive, relationship oriented and avoids the negative aspects of sales pressure. Traditional sales objections are replaced by legitimate concerns and questions which help the salesperson to better identify if the customer is in the A, B or C stage. The perception of high value is created when the customer has acknowledged all of their needs and the offer addresses them.
A sale occurs in the mind of the customer, not the salesperson. It is the customer who must discover their own needs, discover the best solution to address their needs and discover all the value the solution delivers. Effective sales people lead their customers through this process of discovery. If you sell the customer the way the customer buys, you have the highest likelihood of making the sale.
Learn more about the conclusions of the 30 year research study that’s behind the ABC’s on why people buy, why top sales producers sell more and how salespeople can use this knowledge to increase their sales.