At some point, after the information search process, a prospect gets down to comparing products and services based on particular attributes. This phase is called the “Evaluation of Alternatives or Options”.
Customers break down their buying decision criteria into basically 3 three interconnecting realms:
A - Crucial – These attributes must be available or no sale, e.g. a family may consider side air bags to be a requirement in an automobile purchase
B - Important – Features or functions still considered as priorities but some substitution may be acceptable.
C - "Nice-to-Have" – Incidentals which are a plus but to be strictly considered as bonuses in the overall buying process. For example, a copy machine may make coffee but that usually will not factor into the purchase criteria.
During the evaluation, the buyer will place different levels of importance with each attribute, e.g. safety, performance, ease of use, cost of ownership. The buyer will evaluate and rank how each brand rates on each attribute. Much of this evaluation may be highly subjective. The attributes and order of importance may be based on a customer’s particular set of problems that needs to be solved and past experience. Marketing and Sales may influence the list and order by raising unforeseen problems or benefits tied to solutions based on their product* attributes. Advertisements, Case Studies, and Buyer’s Guides are just some of the tools to influence the Buying Decision Criteria.
A Seller must understand the buying criteria from a customer’s perspective and honestly assess how their products fulfills the attributes in addition to how aligned their attributes are with the buyer’s order of importance. This also applies to assessing their competition and alternate sources.
I find the diagram above to be a clear and simple way to illustrate the customer’s buying criteria relative to one’s own product and the competition:
You will quickly see what the Buyer perceives as your strengths and weaknesses in comparison to your Competition.
From here, you can take action. Tactics may be to raise the order of importance for your unique attributes if they rank lower on the Buyer’s list, improve your offering to match the Buyer’s list and order, or exploit any competitive weaknesses in comparison to your attributes and ranking. Another important consideration is to reflect upon whether your product(s) and offerings are out of step with the market and really need technical improvement to be competitive.
* Attributes may be more than product related. They may be service support, installed base, name recognition, etc.
This was recently posted on LinkedIn and people were "liking" it and making supportive comments. I suppose that the moral is that tenaciousness and continual follow-up are keys to winning the sale. No doubt, many sales managers and executives are citing this to beat up their staff.
My Spiderman senses start tingling whenever I see such statistics. For one, the attributed source, "National Sales Executive Association" does not seem to exist. Interestingly, a number of blogs have been posted in the past citing this list of statistics with only one person questioning the source. There are no dates indicating when these statistics were compiled. No doubt some sharing this list today are treating this list as the latest news. On top of all this, there are no definitions of what a "Prospect" or "Contact" means or the context (is this B2B, the type of sale, etc.).
I find it very common for people to jump to conclusions, perpetuate urban legends, or cite statistics blindly. No doubt, we come across Sales people who claim that we can get a huge amount of incremental business if we just had a particular feature, etc. For years, I had a senior sales manager tout that a missing certification was killing his sales and that it was soon to be a standard requirement across the industry. Part of the problem was that no one really understood the requirements. So I took on the task of polling every sales engineer, researching the number of past sales requests, interviewing internal "experts" and engineers who dealt with the standards...and lo and behold...there were less than 10 requests in 12 years and we found a process to deal with new requests in a less costly manner. Summary report and white paper written. End of issue.
A former CEO once berated a sales manager after visiting another company. The prospect there told the CEO that we turned down a Purchase Order for over $100,000. Our CEO was very angry at the sales manager and made the comment to the effect of "We'll find someone else if you have a problem taking a $100,000 order." What the prospect neglected to tell the CEO was that he wanted multiple systems for that amount of money and it would not be a profitable order.
Remember the quote: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics". Sales people are a key resource but many re-live their most recent or lost accounts when you look for data. So always question your sources and information, and dig deeper to get the details instead of blindly accepting everything as facts.
Question everything. Assume nothing.
Don’t ever overlook how a seemingly small act of kindness can change a person’s life.
For many students in New York City, Stuyvesant High School is one of the most prestigious magnet high schools to get into. For families like mine, it was more – a stepping stone and chance to learn and go onto a good college and better life. Stuyvesant High School required passing a city-wide two and one-half hour entrance exam - only approximately three per cent of applicants are accepted. Back then, you either made the cut-off or went to your local high school. Families with better means would send their children to exam preparation classes or hire study coaches. They most likely also lived in better neighborhoods with better schools. None of this was an option for folks like us. Our neighborhood Junior High School, Corlears JHS 56, was not exactly a mecca for learning despite some very devoted teachers. In fact, JHS 56 officially closed in 2006 due to poor performance.
I will always remember the kindness and generosity of one junior high school teacher, Mr. Mandel. I probably would not be where I am today without his help. Mr. Mandel was my temporary homeroom teacher for only 4 months. He had his plate full managing our homeroom and his other classes. However, he offered his lunch time to tutor me upon learning that I was trying out for Stuyvesant. Mr. Mandel gave up his lunch time to review math problems with me. He did not have to. He could have relaxed and enjoyed his break but he didn’t. So thanks to him, I was the only one who was admitted to Stuyvesant from JHS 56 that year. Otherwise, I would have gone to my neighborhood high school, Seward Park High School (aka "Sewage" Park), which didn’t offer good prospects - it also closed in 2006 for poor performance.
So never overlook doing an act of kindness or expressing gratitude for such acts bestowed upon you. "Little things" can change a life forever.
(Mr. Mandel was transferred from JHS 56 before I was admitted to Stuyvesant High School. I regret not having a chance or way to contact him so I’m saying it here: “Thank you, Mr. Mandel. With all my gratitude. Thank you.”)
Frank Lio is a Product Manager, Strategist, and Change Agent in the Hi-Tech industry. His growing track record of successes include creating 3 winning software products, leading nationwide seminars, and turning around a failing business unit. He is currently serving a dual role as Product Manager and Business Team Support Manager at Instron ITW.
Happy to Share!
Want to use my content & images on your website?
I am happy to share but I’d appreciate a credit and a link back to this site. Thanks!