We’ve talked about buyer readiness at Gartner for a long time. Our feeling is that there are 4 stages of readiness (buying, shopping, aware, unaware) that you may encounter when engaging with a prospective customer (either marketing or sales). A recent personal experience is serving as a good reminder that even advanced stages of readiness do not mean the customer is fully knowledgeable about what they need.
My 86 year old mother’s health is rapidly declining. She’s lived alone for years–teaching me and my sisters to be independent by example. But now, after some hospital visits, it’s clear that we need to move her to a different environment. As a result, we’ve been exploring many assisted living and home health care options. We are ready to buy, but we really don’t know what we want exactly, and don’t know what we need for sure. And, we really don’t have the luxury of time. We have to do something.
We’d narrowed our options down to 2 facilities and I spent some more time with them. Both had good sales people that could answer many of my questions. In some cases, they connected me to others on their staff.
But then a big difference revealed itself.
The first team basically waited for me to ask all the questions. They rarely, if ever, volunteered information, or suggested things that we should be thinking about. The answers were good and complete–when I asked the question. But, upon reflection, I left the meetings more uncertain than I had been before. This was particularly true for one staff member who should have known better. I don’t know if she thought it was not her job or what (no embodiment of this idea), but it was disheartening.
The second team was different. They answered questions, but then started digging deeper based on those questions. They volunteered information and ideas. They were proactive. And they are getting our business.
Why is that?
Well they did not assume that we (even though we were ready to buy) were knowledgeable and confident. This is likely to be the case in situations where urgency is forcing a purchase. They also provided proactive and prescriptive guidance. It was powerful and confidence building.
As you engage with prospects, it is critical to understand readiness, but look deeper and understand the drivers for that readiness. When someone has to buy due to a critical situation, there may be a big knowledge gap. Be the one that helps them gain confidence and win more business.
We’ll see what the next chapter holds for my mother. I’ve been warned that “you have to keep on those places,” but our selection feels a little different. Let’s see if they are as proactive about care as they’ve been so far. I’m hopeful.
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