Every business needs sales to stay alive. But attempting to rush people into a purchase decision is not particularly effective and can even backfire. Instead, it’s better to step into the customer’s shoes and ask yourself: "what do I want to know before deciding to buy?". If you’re not providing the answers (or making them easy to find), then potential sales are walking out the door.
Credibility – Fit – Value
A useful framework to improve your sales is "Credibility – Fit – Value". Put simply, before someone will buy from you, they need to believe:
- You are a credible supplier
- Your offering fits their needs
- It offers superior (or at least acceptable) value
Typical questions that customers ask themselves before making a purchase decision include:
- Who are these people?
- Do they know what they are talking about?
- Who else uses or recommends them?
- Can I trust them to do what they say?
- Is it worth my time finding out more?
- What is their product or service?
- What benefits does it offer?
- What steps are involved in buying or using it?
- How well would it meet my needs?
- How much does it cost?
- Do the benefits outweigh the cost and/or risk?
- Is it better than my other alternatives?
Applying the Framework
Customers go through the Credibility – Fit – Value process in order. For example, I don’t care what your offering is if I don’t believe you’re a credible supplier. Similarly, it is irrelevant how much better you are than competitors if you don’t offer what I need. And I’m not going to hand over my credit card unless I’m know what you offer is a good deal.
This approach is all about helping the customer decide they want to buy, rather than rushing them towards the checkout to "close the sale". You need to recognise where they are in the decision-making process, and provide them with information and emotional signals appropriate to that phase.
A good example is 37 Signals. Take a look at how they introduce you to Basecamp, their online collaboration solution.
The headline tells you clearly what need it serves ("get projects done"), and just below that they start establishing credibility ("over 1,000,000 people signed up worldwide"). Your eye is then drawn to two major options – "sign up for free" and "take a tour" – which are both ways of helping you learn more. They then provide a range of different things to help you assess the fit and value of their product, such as press reviews, customer videos, screenshots of key features, survey results, a summary of the main benefits, and a detailed FAQ.
So take a leaf out of the 37 Signals book. Answer the customer’s unspoken questions about Credibility, Fit, and Value. It’s more natural and more effective than hard-sell tactics or rushing to "close the deal".