One day, Bill and Sasha walked into the office of a real estate agent. Judy welcomed them. Bill and Sasha told her they were expecting their first baby, and since they lived in a one-bedroom apartment, they were exploring the idea of buying their first house. Luckily, said Sasha, they had a few months to decide, so they weren’t in a hurry.
Judy responded by pulling up a listing on the internet and saying, “I have the perfect house for you! Two bedrooms on a charming cul-de-sac. Let’s go look at the house right now—it’s only a few minutes from here.”
Sasha replied, “Thanks, but we’re just starting to consider our options. Can you give us the listing information? We want to research the neighborhood, local schools, and taxes.”
Judy tried to convince them to act now. After a few more minutes of this, Bill and Sasha excused themselves.
But, Bill and Sasha didn’t go home. Instead, they went across the street to a competing realtor. Regina sat them down for a chat, just as Judy did. After hearing their situation, she replied, “I understand. Let me give you some information about the town.”
They talked for a while. Regina never mentioned a specific house. Instead, she discussed the community, schools, and various churches. Upon leaving, Regina handed them her business card. “Please feel free to contact me with any questions,” she said. “I know this is a big step for you, and I’d be happy to help in whatever way I can.”
For the next few months, they emailed back and forth. A year later, with their new baby, Bill and Sasha bought their first house. Regina was their real estate agent, and she earned the commission.
Would you rather be Judy or Regina?
Of course, you’d rather make the sale, even if it took a year. It’s better than making zero on the sale. But, why did Regina connect with Bill and Sasha, while Judy turned them off? After all, they were both selling the same houses!
The difference was that Regina recognized the three stages of every sale.
If you’re in business, you are in sales, and you must know these three stages. Understanding them and learning how to relate to customers in each stage can make the difference between building a thriving business and having to close up shop!
The Three Stages of a Sale
The three stages of every sale are identification, exploration, and execution. While these stages can sometimes be very brief, there are always three.
Prior to purchasing anything, people first identify their problem or need. Perhaps the person is thirsty, and needs a drink. Perhaps they are bored and want entertainment, or their shoes are worn out, and they need new ones. In the case of Bill and Sasha, they were expecting their first baby, and they realized they’d need more living space and access to good schools. They had time to research and make their decision. They specifically said, “We’re not in a rush and want to take our time,” many of your customers won’t be as explicit. Still, it’s up to you to understand your prospect and adjust accordingly.
Once the problem has been identified, people then explore the options available to them. If they’re thirsty, they think about what beverage to drink. If they are looking for entertainment, they think about what movie they want to see. And, in the case or worn out shoes, they consider what brand of new shoe they want to buy. When thinking about their living situation, Bill and Sasha researched neighborhoods, schools, taxes, home values, and all the other factors that could play a part in their decision.
Once the person has recognized the problem and has done their homework, they’re ready to execute. They buy the soft drink from the machine; they go to the movie they’ve chosen; or they order that new pair of shoes. Once Bill and Sasha had done their research and were comfortable, they moved ahead and asked Regina to show them some houses—then, they bought one.
The Significance of This Cycle
Like Judy, many people in sales don’t recognize this cycle. We approach sales solely from the perspective of execution. We assume that everyone who comes to us can be convinced to buy. The problem is that you alienate people who are in the identification or exploration phases. That means you’re only connecting with one-third of your prospects. The other two-thirds think you’re pushy.
In each stage, you need to approach customers in the way that’s appropriate. For example, in the exploration stage—which Bill and Sasha were just barely entering when Regina met them—you don’t try to force them into signing a contract. You provide them information that will make them feel comfortable. If they’re buying a house, this might include tax rates, school test scores, or homestead exemptions. You become a resource and make them feel comfortable. Then, when they’re ready to execute, you’re the logical choice because you’re the clear expert and you have provided them with good information.
Three Steps for Implementation
Remember and put into practice these three implementation steps:
- Recognize the three-phase cycle. When you meet a customer, determine which phase they’re in, and adjust accordingly.
- If they’re in the identification or exploration phase, don’t be pushy and don’t press the sell. Be a resource, and let them know you’re there to help. Provide information, so they become reliant on you. You’re fishing, and once you provide them the right bait or information, they will be drawn to you when they are ready to execute.
- Be timely and prompt. Providing good customer service and all the elements that go into making a sale, or providing a good service or product, should always be your number one goal.
Jerome D. Love has been an entrepreneur and professional speaker for 20 years and founded the Texas Black Expo in 2002. He was named a Multi-Million Dollar Top Producer (Prudential Texas Realty), Entrepreneur of the Year (National Black MBA Association, Houston Chapter), and Pinnacle Award Finalist (Greater Houston Black Chamber of Commerce), and is a popular keynote speaker for both corporate and collegiate events.
Love and was selected as keynote speaker for the Los Angeles Mayor’s Economic Development Summit and the New Mexico State Leadership Conference. He has also shared the speaking stage at conferences with business icons like Priceline founder Jeff Hoffman, Chuck E. Cheese founder Gene Landrum, NBA legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson, and others.
To learn more about Love or to book him for a speaking engagement, visit his website.