- STAGE 1: Problem recognition. The customer is not going to buy anything unless they perceive that they have a problem that needs solving. Note that a problem can also be an opportunity; the inability to address that opportunity represents the problem that needs solving.
- STAGE 2: Define economic consequences. The customer can’t possibly make an intelligent decision on whether the problem is worthy of attention until they have an idea of how much the problem is costing them. Without a dollar number attached to it, a problem is just a wish list.
- STAGE 3: Commit Funding. If the customer recognizes that there is a problem and that the problem has economic consequences (stages 1 and 2 above), then they’ll take the next logical step and commit some funding. They may not know the exact amount, but they’re willing to put down, in writing, a number that represents and intent to spend.
- STAGE 4: Define Decision Criteria. It is only after the customer has gone through all three stages above, that the customer begins to define how to fix the problem. Previously, they may have an idea of what’s needed (e.g. we need CRM because we’re losing customers to the tune of $10 million a year.), but they haven’t decided how they’ll decide which CRM system to buy.
- STAGE 5: Evaluate Alternatives. This is when the customer looks at what solutions are available and how those solutions fit with the budget dollars that they’ve determined are worth spending to fix the problem. Note: if there is no firm commitment on the four previous stages, a sale is probably NOT going to take place.
- STAGE 6: Select Vendor Solution. It is at this point that the real decision is made, based upon the commitments made at all five prior stages. Needless to say, a vendor who has worked closely with the customer on the previous five stages is more likely to win the final business because that vendor has helped “frame” the problem, the budget, and the criteria.
In the scenario above, the prospect is still at stage 1, which means that they are not ready to evaluate a proposal. Chances are your contact asked for a proposal, hoping it would help move the buying process along, but that’s a VERY expensive way to make that happen.
Instead, you should work with your contact on stages 2 and 3, thereby moving the buying process to point where they’ll want to write an RFP which (of course) you should offer to help them write. At that point, you’ve got the inside track and any effort you put into writing the proposal will be an excellent investment!