For close to a full century, salespeople have been trained to use some form of what’s called the “AIDA” sales model. AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. For most companies who sell business-to-business (B2B) solutions, their sales funnels and sales reporting systems have been built around this or similar models. The effectiveness of these models is based upon certain assumptions about how buyers buy.
Historically, those assumptions have always been that buyers follow a distinct and linear process when it comes to making buying decisions. According to research from a leading research and advisory company (here), the current reality of how B2B buyers buy is quite different. Rather than a linear process, most buyers work through four different, parallel streams any time they make a significant buying decision.
These four streams include:
- Exploration: This is where buyers begin to identify a need or opportunity and investigate ways to address it. This includes working with vendor representatives, talking to colleagues, and doing research via the internet.
- Evaluation: Likely solutions are investigated in greater depth.
- Engagement: Solution providers are brought in to discuss solutions and apply them to the buyers specific need
- Experience: Increasingly, pilots or proof of concepts are involved to demonstrate specific solutions
Because these are not a linear sequence of steps along a well defined sales process, it’s not uncommon to have a situation where a given buyer might be engaged with one provider and still exploring other options with other providers.
The key here is that successful salespeople will focus more on understanding where a buyer is in his decision making process, and making it easier for them to buy, than on trying to fit them in to a predefined process that represents how salespeople want to sell. In fact, the same articles referenced above indicate that the role of the sales force is more important than ever.
As the B2B selling landscape continues to evolve, it becomes vital that salespeople use every available tool to align themselves with how buyers want to buy. That includes the many economic advantages of providing financing options.