• Before you do anything, bookmark this page.
  • For four days, I'll be using the tools and tactics spelled out in the chart to develop prospects and customers at the 2010 Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City.
  • Stay tuned.

  • Sunday, August 1
  • Monday, August 2
  • Tuesday, August 3
  • Wednesday, August 4
  • Thursday, August 5
  • Friday, August 6
  • View the Original March 2010 Newsletter that Started it All


Your Prospects and Customers Go Through Ten Stages Before They Buy Anything From You



1. They show potential interest.

2. They keep abreast of things.

3. They plan ahead.

4. They anticipate their need.

5. They weigh alternatives.

6. There is a formal review by the buying team.

7. They establish their need.

8. They rationalize their buying decision.

9. They make a purchase.

10. They assess their decision.


How do you know where your prospects and customers are in their procurement cycle? At first you don't.


But, when you find out - you'd better have the tools to close the sale.


Here is a handy chart from The Marketing Collaborative that demonstrates what tools, tactics and strategies work well at each step in the procurement cycle:


What Works? Friday, August 6


1. When prospects show potential interest.

  • Easy answers: Do print, web and broadcast marketing to be top-of-mind with your key audiences. PR is a good way to stay in front of them. Your web site, optimized for search engines, will capture them before they find your competitors. Be in all the right directories and have a presence at the key trade events. Finally, retain the customers you already have with aggressive service and relationship marketing.
  • Interview results: "I agree with what you say, and add this - it's a new ball game. Our marketing budgets are tighter than ever, and the sales team needs more robust help than ever from marketing. I suggest that management should give marketing the freedom to allocate resources where they are most needed. For example, we have to quit calculating 'how many ads can I run for the budget they gave me' and start thinking first about the critical needs of each product program." This from the manager of marketing/communications of a global driveline and chassis producer.


2. When prospects keep abreast of things.

  • Easy answers: Make sure that your home page is current and different from a month ago. Continue to do PR. Sponsor events and industry-serving web activities to nail down your visibility. Start working on a Personal URL program that ties email to web sites, to social media, all the way down your sales channels.
  • Interview results: Sometimes it's a good idea to run with your head down. I learned from a business acquaintance that a large powertrain development company had formed a new business unit, and that she was president. Her announcement strategy was one-to-one, because her customer list was small, and would grow deliberately - one company at a time. So she ruled out email blasts, introductory events and social networking initiatives that could go viral, and engaged only her customer relationship management skills. She says that it worked just fine...according to plan.


3. When prospects plan ahead.

  • Easy answers: Use social networking media, blogs and other public fora to speak out on trends and future paths in your clients' and prospects' markets. Share ideas that are unconventional (enticing) and describe the objectives/results. Demonstrate how nimble you can be when unforeseen problems crop up.
  • Interview results: The original social networking medium - word of mouth - is "at the heart of our strategies to reach prospects who are planning ahead," according to the project coordinator of a trade commission for a European country. He goes on to say "the job of our office in North America is to identify and cultivate partnerships among manufacturers in both our countries.We carefully craft our messages around success stories that are not necessarily technical, but are intended to build a level of comfort between companies here and abroad. We find that the best way to do this is face-to-face, very often at conferences and events which we sponsor."


4. When prospects anticipate their need.

  • Easy answers: Do research. Find out what the details (hot buttons) are. Advertise your strengths, then focus in on the anticipated need. PR that relates to what surfaces in your research is always a good move.
  • Interview results: "We have a mandate to deliver information on how to do a better job," says the publisher of a group of manufacturing media. "And to accomplish this, we offer a balanced combination of print and web media that can be adjusted to address our advertisers' strategies on meeting customer needs. The two work nicely together. Print media handle the brand building, and offer new products and new ideas, while the web media can present comparisons and differentiation, specifications, sourcing data and a ton of other information for prospects who are anticipating their need."

5. When prospects weigh alternatives.

  • Easy answers: Here's where your direct sales efforts are best applied. It's also a good idea to use email marketing to drive home the points that will get you the sale. Point to your web site. And keep the PR machine rolling.
  • Interview results: I spoke with a sales & marketing person at a defense industry supplier who learned that his firm was one of two that were being considered for a lucrative US Army vehicle contract. He immediately launched an aggressive PR program to promote their leadership position in armored vehicle development.


6. When prospects have a formal review by the buying team.

  • Easy answers: Be at your best when you make your presentation - be it written or verbal. Avoid "Death by PowerPoint." If it's a customer - move your customer service team into high gear. If it's a prospect, scare up a targeted PR opportunity.
  • Interview results: "That sounds O.K., but you've missed one important consideration when pitching to a buying team...it's all about them," says the vice president, marketing & sales for a large automation supplier. He continues "Many suppliers like me keep talking about how great we are, but, at this stage, that's not what the customer wants to hear. Many times, they act like their career hinges on this buying decision, so I always stress how they will benefit from working with us, and everyone wins."


7. When prospects establish their need.

  • Easy answers: If you're still in the running, you need to diffentiate your company with more PR, online and offline interactive tools, and your best sales and service people armed with well-rehearsed scripts.
  • Interview results: "Be the fastest," says the sales director of the most comprehensive source of deep expertise and insight on the global automotive industry. "Have all the latest information at your fingertips, then you can go directly to analysis without a lot of time lost to fact gathering. I like your 'ten steps of the procurement cycle' approach. We use a similar method to keep track of where our prospects and customers are in their cycles. And we've built them into our CRM (customer relationship management) system so we can require our sales and marketing guys to hold to them."


8. When prospects rationalize their buying decision.

  • Easy answers: Be ready to handle every question and objection. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Case study PR will go a long way toward building comfort level for the buyer that's on the fence.
  • Interview results: Sometimes it's essential to have the right person in place to help prospects be comfortable with their procurement criteria. I interviewed the economic development specialist for a commercial/industrial region of a midwest state. His advice is to identify all the top needs and be creative. It happens that most of his career was spent in senior marketing and sales with a transportation and logistics company, so he was able to address these most-important issues with vision and insight far beyond those of his competitors.


9. When prospects make a purchase.

  • Easy answers: It's never to late to "unsell' a sale. If you are number two, don't give up. Even after a procurement decision has been made, prospects and customers are always have second thoughts (see point #10). Be ready to get them rethinking their decision with a sharp sales and service team in the wings. Bring in your rep. or distributor to help out. And do more PR.
  • Interview results: A marketing executive for a world-leader in auto electrics puts it this way: "Once you make a sale, the worst thing you can do is let up. The next program for this customer might be four years away, but you've got to keep using your tools and tactics to keep in front of every customer - you can bet that your competitors will."


10. When prospects assess their decision.

  • Easy answers: I love this part. After all the work - somebody else gets the business. Then, we stay in touch - wishing them well. And send them the occasional success story, company update. and so on. Sometimes, you will get another pass at it.
  • Interview results: I'm reminded of a recent case where a PR firm won an account after a long competition for the business. The firm that was chosen went right to work, but did not deliver up to expectations. In less than five months, they lost the business. However, one of their competitors, who had been in the running earlier, had not given up (per Point #9, above), stayed in touch, and was invited to step in as a replacement.