The 12 Ways Every Customer Buys


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Who needs a MBA? Let me give you a crash course on the three most popular buying processes that have stood the test of time: Lewis’ Purchase Funnel, John Dewey’s Buying Decision Process and Everett Rogers’ Innovation Adoption Process.

These three models operate independently, but combined it provides a snapshot of how every customer buys — no matter whether they’re buying a tube of toothpaste or buying a car.

Here are the 12 ways of how every customer buys products or services:

1. Need / Want. Customer feels an unfulfilled need, innately or through your persuasion.

2. Attention. Customer attention is acquired – they’re in your store or on your website.

3. Matching / Searching. Customer is searching for something. Do you have it?

4. Interest. Something you’re selling catches the customer’s eye.

5. Objections. The customer wants you to convince them everything is going to be ok.

6. Engagement / Desire. Customer is sold in their heart and mind. Congratulations!

7. Action. How does the customer actually buy it? (a.k.a. The checkout process.)

8. Fulfillment. How does the customer actually get it?

9. Evaluation. Customer compares whether product is what they thought it would be.

10. Satisfaction. Customer got what they bought and it is what they thought.

11. Repeat customer. Customer comes back to you to buy something again in the future.

12. Referral. Customer feels confident recommending you to their friends because you met or exceeded expectations.

In this buying process, think of the relationship between Sales and Support like a spear. Sales is the spearhead of growth and support is the shaft.

The Sales team cuts through to the heart of your customers to generate a need within your target audience (stage 1) or capture their attention (stage 2).

The Support team is the weight, inertia and momentum of the spear that carries a potential customer through stages 3 to 10. These are the stages where a potential customer is likely to contact Support with a sales related question, typically either a product or fulfillment question:

Fulfillment questions – These are questions about shipping, returns, and payment options – technical issues related to completing a purchase and receiving the product.

Product questions – These are questions (read: doubts) about the product or service the customer is buying.

Support will naturally have fast answers to these types of questions making this an easy win for Support in the sales process, so make it easy for a customer to contact them.

A spearhead on its own – all interest and no follow-through – isn’t effective. Nor is the spear shaft effective by itself – great service for a product no one knows about. The two must work together: Sales brings you the customer; Support helps fulfill a customer’s interest and escort them through to completion and, quite possibly, a repeat sale in the future.

Ben Congleton
Ben Congleton is the CEO and co-founder of Olark, a leading live chat and messaging company.


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