In his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Dr. Robert B. Cialdini discusses key principles for getting others agree with you and convincing them to buy from you. According to Dr. Cialdini, a buyer evaluates six major factors before making a purchase.
He wrote the book back in 2006, which in today’s rapidly changing market, means it’s practically a classic. Basically everything has changed since 2006; Twitter was founded in 2006 – think about how much Twitter alone has changed the sales game.
So what are Cialdini’s 6 buying influencers, and how do they apply today?
- Problem recognition
Buyers evaluate their need in relation to the problems they’re facing. They want to identify a specific source for all pain points, so they evaluate their business issues and determine where the problem lies. Prospects need to know whether a purchase is necessary before they make one.
What does that look like today? Online research. Big data spreads information, and once a prospect feels a little bit of pain, they can easily turn to the Internet in search of others experiencing similar problems. This certainly makes a case for marketing to your pain points as opposed to your benefits, but only if you can offer a solution.
- Search for information
Once prospects decide they need solutions, they’ll want information. Before buying, a potential buyer has to do a lot of research. Research can come from word of mouth recommendations, it can come directly from sales reps at solution providers, or it can happen through online searches. Research tells prospects for what they should be searching.
Social media has completely opened up online research. If you still restrict online research to Google search, you have a ways to catch up. Take, for example, a resource, such as Kred, or a sales intelligence application, such as InsideView, that allows you to view web-wide information about topics of interest or companies from a single spot.
- Evaluation of choices
Each buyer maintains specific criteria for solution evaluation. Some consider money first while others look at the quality of the service or product, and others care most about referrals. Before prospects settle on your service, they have to ascertain that your solution meets their requirements.
Because so much information is available online, buyers don’t need to rely on salespeople for solution details; they’re no longer tricked into believing traditional advertising at face value. Content marketing works so well today because it’s driven by prospect needs, and it offers helpful information as opposed to sales pitches. B2B organizations today publish original content. The easier it is for your target customers to find content that you own, the more likely you are to get their business.
- Buying alternative
Before making a purchase, every business considers a buying alternative. This sometimes comes when a sales proposal reaches an executive that has a number of priorities. Prospects will ask, is a solution absolutely vital, or is there a way resources can shift so we don’t have to spend money? If your competitor offers the same solution as you for half the price, that alternative may become more attractive.
To convince a prospect that your solution offers more value than an alternative option, you have to prove that their investment in your products or solutions appreciates over time. This is why so many technology providers use the subscription model; a purchase isn’t a transaction, it’s the start of a business relationship.
- Time lapse between choosing the buyer alternative and actual buying
The longer it takes a prospect to buy your products, the less likely they are to buy them. However, Cialdini claims that every buyer experiences this hesitation phase. They think that if they wait, they may find a better deal.
Email nurturing has grown sophisticated enough that companies now can stay top of mind during this phase. Don’t limit your organization’s email schedule to un-converted leads. After opportunities have been accepted, and as they move through the funnel, continue to nurture them with email and social media.
- Post-purchase evaluation
After the purchase, any development-minded business strives to find out whether your products delivered as expected. They evaluate their results in comparison to their expectations. If the customer loves your work, they will come back at a later stage. If your products don’t deliver useful ROI, your customers will ditch them.
Social media monitoring gives brands an excellent opportunity to track opinions of end-users, and customer intelligence tools, such as InsideView Relationship Manager edition, enable account managers to renew existing customers as opportunities arise, not just on a yearly basis.
Understanding these key influences makes it easier to plan your customer experience approach. In relation to these six behaviors, Dr. Cialdini also speaks of reciprocity and consistency. He suggests that when you give customers deals, they’re more likely to return, and that when you continue to deliver excellence, they’re more likely to buy more from you again and again. As you go about your sales and marketing plans, consider how each activity will impact a buyer based on his or her location within the purchase cycle, and strive to gain loyalty from customers, and to achieve it yourself.