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Christopher Thompson's Closing the Deal: 57% theory proves the way people buy has changed

Special to the Sunday News

January 26. 2013 7:23PM

Unless you live under a rock or refuse to accept and adopt technology, you have probably recognized that the way you make purchasing decisions has changed and evolved quite drastically. The same is true for every consumer and every business. Times have changed, and this is something every sales professional must recognize and accept.

According to research conducted by the Corporate Executive Board, 57 percent of the purchase decision is complete before a customer even calls a supplier. If that's not a compelling find, I don't know what is.

When I first read about the 57 percent theory, I thought about myself as a consumer. I rehashed in my mind all of the recent purchases I had made and how exactly I went about making the buying decision. And without calculating the exact numbers, I found that the 57 percent theory is probably pretty spot on.

Take the simple example of buying a new car. Gone are the days when an uneducated consumer walks around the car lot looking at the stickers in the windows of various cars listing all of the features and functions. They are very unlikely to ask the salesperson for advice and guidance. As a matter of fact, that's the complete opposite of what a typical car buyer will do today.

What usually happens is the consumer shows up to the car dealership knowing exactly what they want, and they know exactly what they will pay. They have researched and compared every possible option, checked inventory through the company's website and most likely have checked the prices of other dealerships in the area. When someone buys a car today, it's a drastically different experience than it was even five years ago. And the car is example is just one. Here is another.

Have you ever heard of It's a tool that you download into your Web browser that scours the Internet for the lowest price on whatever you want to buy. It allows you to search for a product you are interested in buying and find the websites or companies that are selling it for the lowest price. One you know what you want, it's easy. does the rest and finds you exactly what you want, at the lowest possible price. It's a budget-conscious consumer's dream, but it removes the selling out of the transaction. That buying decision is made based on one thing and one thing only. Price.

Along with all of the slick software and applications, the reality every sales professional must face is that buyers are more educated and have likely done research long before you have an opportunity to speak to them. It's an evolution in selling that has been progressing rapidly over the last several years.

The need for advice and consultation has become less and less for both consumers and businesses, and this is an important trend to recognize. While your customers may be more educated, it's important not to let that reality impact the way you interact with potential customers.

People can do all of the research they want, but the fact is, they still need you as a sales professional to help guide them through the process. In today's selling environment, it's important to spend the time talking to your customers about what they know about whatever it is you sell. Drill into what their understanding is, and don't be afraid to challenge potential misunderstanding they may have. You will always be a valuable part of their education and decision-making process if you take that approach.

Regardless of how much research someone does, there is always something you can teach them that they may not be aware of, and that is what selling is all about.

Christopher Thompson ( writes Closing the Deal weekly for the Sunday News.

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