As marketers, we’re forever trying to figure out what makes people buy… so (of course) we can devise ways to get them to give us money for our stuff. There’s plenty of info out there about customer journeys and the primary motivators that lead people to buy, so I won’t cover that here. But one thing that almost all marketers and face-to-face salespeople forget about is the mode that the person is in when making a buying decision.
I’m not talking about buying because of social influence, self-serving greed, or utilitarian need here. What I’m talking about is the mode that a person slips into when evaluating a potential purchase.
In Why People Don’t Buy Things, Harry Washburn and William Wallace describe three main buying mindsets (or modes, if you prefer) your prospects and repeat cutomers will likely be in when they’re trying to decide whether to buy from your company, buy from someone else, or not buy at all.
It’s worth noting that these modes are largely beyond your control. All the shmoozing in the world isn’t going to influence which mode the person is in. But learning to recognize (and more importantly, mirror) these modes can help you adjust your sales approach compliment each mode… and optimize your closing rates in the process:
1) The Feeling Mode
People who are in “feeling” buying mode are primarily interested in how your product is going to make them feel (or, conversely, how not having your product is going to make them feel). They’re going to trust their “gut” instead of being heavily influenced by endless charts and bullet point lists of product features.
Interestingly, this buying profile comes with a bit of a “take charge” attitude. They like it when a buying choice empowers them. They don’t like it when they have to spend a lot of time deliberating, comparing, and asking questions in order to make a decision.
When a person is in “feeling” mode, you’ll hear them use phrases like “I feel like this is a powerful opportunity,” and “my heart tells me that this is the right choice.” Thanks to the “take charge” element of this mode, you’re also likely to hear the words “tackle” and “handle” used extensively.
The ability to cover features and benefits quickly and succinctly will serve you well when working with a buyer in “feeling” mode. And so will the ability to tap into their emotions… particularly when you can relate to them through stories.
2) The Thinking Mode
As you might suspect, people in the “thinking” buying mode tend to base their decisions more on analysis and information than on “gut feelings.” It’s not that they don’t connect with people or products on an emotional level, but they’re going to be more impressed with a complete list of benefits than they are with a story about how you built your company from the ground up.
It’s not hard to see why “think” is one of the most predominant words prospects use when evaluating a purchase decision in this mode. “I think this product would be right for me if…” Similar cerebral words and phrases, including “understand,” “logic,” and “makes sense” also feature heavily in the thinking buyer’s speech.
They want to know that your product has been well-researched and carefully designed. They also tend to be impressed when a person of perceived authority endorses the product, particularly if that person is an influential member of the scientific community.
3) The Seeing Mode
Prospects in the “seeing” mode are motivated by visual information. Hand them a mile-long spreadsheet and their eyes will glaze over, but show them the same information distilled into an infographic or pie chart, and you’ve got their attention.
As with the other buying modes, the “seeing” buying mode comes with easy-to-spot words and phrases. “The big picture” is a dead giveaway. So is “I see that your product can…” Other key words and phrases include “perspective,” “focus,” and “It looks like I need..”
“Seeing” buyers want information quickly. They don’t want to have to hunt for benefits or spend hours wading through tomes of information. They want you (and your marketing materials) to get to the point now... and using image-based marketing is the simplest way to do that.
One Buyer, Multiple Modes
If everyone operated from the same buying mode for every single decision, salespeople and marketers would have little to do but make sales and collect the cash. But, of course, it’s not that easy.
Most of us have a dominant mode. My default mode is “thinking.” But if I’m pressed for time and have to make a decision quickly, I’ll sometimes slip into “seeing” buyer mode.
It gets even more complicated when it comes to luxury purchases and other high-ticket items. Buying a new car, for example, can have a prospect cycling through all three modes multiple times. The prospect is, at various points, visualizing how they’ll look pulling into the driveway in their shiny new ride; analyzing the features and cost; and feeling waves of excitement and nervousness. Big fun.
So What’s the Point of Knowing These Buying Modes?
“Know, like, and trust” is beyond cliche these days, but it accurately describes the connection a prospect must make with you in order to make a “yes” decision. And, at our core, almost all of us believe that deep down, we’re good people. So we respond most favorably to people who are similar to us.
That’s why “mirroring” is such a powerful influencer. If I’m in “seeing” buying mode and you’re using “feeling” language, there’s going to be a disconnect – and that could cost you the sale. Similarly, if I want detailed facts and figures and you’re asking me to visualize my life with your product, it’s not going to go over very well.
Knowing your prospect’s buying mode is a powerful way to speak their language, show them the info that’s most important to them, and make a connection that makes the prospect know, like, and trust you. And if you’re really good, you can shift your approach as the buyer switches modes without anyone ever noticing.
Of course, it’s easiest to pick up on a prospect’s buying mode when you’re sitting across the table from them. When you’re not face to face, it becomes much more complex – but not impossible by any means.
When we write sales copy for our clients, we research buyer modes using several strategies. If the client has testimonials or feedback (say, on a Facebook page), we can look for common language that indicates the most likely buyer mode. We can also look at similar products and trawl Amazon and other sources for review language (positive or negative).
We’ve also written multiple versions of sales copy for different buying modes and then promoted them with Facebook ads specifically designed to attract prospects in each mode. Having three different sales pages/ad sets sounds a bit crazy, but the extra effort pays off when we get to see the client’s reaction to the healthy conversion bump.
So even if you never see your customers in person, pay close attention to what they (and your competitors’ customers) are telling you. You’ll learn a lot about how to connect with them to optimize their buying experiences (and, of course, to put more cash in yur bank account).