Are you spending all your marketing and sales time in the buying cycle or the pre-buying cycle? Most small business entrepreneurs I speak with are all focused on the buying cycle. In fact, most, when I talk about the pre-buying cycle look at me like I have two heads. “The Pre-Buying Cycle”? What is that?
Let’s first define the buying cycle. The buying cycle is the process your prospect goes through from the moment they decide they are going to buy the product or service you sell…all the way through to when they actually hand over the money. This does not mean that they are planning on buying from you. They have decided that they will be buying “it” and they may have no idea who they are buying from yet. Once this decision to buy is made they will start their shopping process to prepare themselves to make a decision and actually buy.
The Pre-Buying Cycle is the time period when your prospect is not interested in buying your product or service. In fact, they have no idea they will ever need it. Just so I made that clear enough, Yes, we are talking about the time that the prospect is not interested in any way shape or form in your product or service…..AND….what I am saying is this is a great time to market to your prospect…when they don’t want to buy from you!
I know what you are thinkin’. Is this guy out of his mind? What is he smoking? He has been consulting businesses and writing books? (I am sure they are REAL good too! LOL)
Relax, relax….let me explain.
Play with me for a second. I want you to pick one of your products or services out in your mind. (I have a training company. I am picking out Sales Training) Now, I want you to imagine a target market that would be interested in buying that product or service. (One of my ideal target markets…Life Insurance Company.) Got it? This is important, if you want this to work. I am going to bring you through a process here. Please pick one product or service and one target market.
I want you to imagine that this someone woke up this morning and decided that they now needed to buy that product or service. They are not in a rush they just know that they now need it.
Now, I want you to think of the reason that they need to buy that product or service. Have a reason. This is when you say, “Frank, there could be many reasons….dozens in fact, not just one.” Yeah, I got that…just pick one. Just one. Play with me here. (The reason my prospect decided they need Sales training that their sales has dropped over 30% over the last year.) Got the one?
Okay, now you have the product or service they are going to buy. You have the specific reason they decided the need to get it. Now, I want you to think of the series of events or thoughts that happened to lead them to this decision. (Yes, I know there can be many…just pick one line of thought. Trust me.)
You have the series of events or thoughts? Now put a time line to it. Meaning if there was a series of events how many things happened that led them to this decision. (2, 5, 11?) Doesn’t matter how many, just know how many. Now put a time line to there series of event or thoughts.
Let me explain mine. My prospect woke up and decided he needed to get sales training done for his team. The reason, their sales dropped by over 30% in the last year. The series of events went something like this:
- 12 months ago sales were flat
- 9 months ago sales dropped by 10%
- 6 months ago sales were down by 15%
- 3 months ago sales were down by 20%
- 1 month ago sales were down by 25%
- Yesterday sales dropped by 30% for the year.
Now that you have the time line of what the series of events or thoughts were that lead them to the decision this morning…I want you to decide when in that time line would you like to be introduced to them.
My example: I want to be introduced to my prospect 12 months from the decision time. When someone sees that their sales are going flat I want to meet them. I know they are not going to hire me at that time. They are not even thinking about needing any help. That’s okay, I am not planning on selling them anything. All I want to do is build the relationship. I want to get to know him now. I want to build trust, confidence and credibility. If I can meet 10 prospects like this, I know that I will be able to convert 5 of them into clients within 12 months.
Here is what will also happen. That 12 month pre-buying cycle will shrink down to about 7 to 9 months. Why? Because they know me. They have sales training on their mind. They know someone that can help them versus them thinking they have to do it all on their own. I will not only develop a new client but, based on their decision, I will be able to stop them from going all the way to 30% drop in sales and I will get them back in the black sooner than before. I think this is called the win-win.
How did this happen? Because I am focused on the pre-buying cycle not the buying cycle.
Here is another way to look at it. Let’s say you are focused on the buying cycle. So you are marketing to find someone when they have decided they want your product or service. Sticking with my process above….if someone woke up this morning and decided they were going to your product or service, how long would they take before they actually purchased.
My example. My prospect woke up this morning and decided he was going to invest in sales training. He doesn’t know me or anyone in the industry. How long will it take him to research, shop, interview, get proposals and decide on the company? I would say four weeks. He is pretty motivated so he is going to put all his energy on this.
What does this mean? It means, that if I am marketing, trying to find a company to hire me who is in their buying cycle, I am giving myself a 4 to 6 week window of opportunity. This means that I have to find them, or they have to find me in 4 to 6 weeks. If I don’t, I have lost the sale.
However, if I am marketing in the pre-buying cycle, I am giving myself a 12 to 13 month window of opportunity. (12 months to make the decision he needs sales training…1 month to shop) How much greater are my odds to find my prospect or for them to find me when I go from 1.5 months to 13 months? I will play those odds ever day. You?