By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
There is much debate on whether the selling cycle has six or seven steps, and today, it’s hotly debated whether a buying cycle is more important than a selling cycle (more on that later). Regardless, having an understanding of the selling cycle can be impactful for retail dietitians looking to expand their shopper reach, increase participation in programs and services, and/or increase sales of better-for-you products offered by your retailer.
I’ve detailed the seven-step cycle here as it’s the one I prefer, with emphasis on how each stage is relevant for the retail RD.
Step #1: Prospecting is the skill of finding the right potential buyer for what you’re selling. To be effective in this step, put yourself in the shoes of your buyer. Who would benefit from your program or service? What shoppers would be interested in a particular product that is being promoted by your retailer? Defining this during program development will save time later and ensure the program or service will be effective.
Step #2: Make contact with potential buyers. Always lead your marketing, advertising or personal contact with messaging on the value your product, service or program brings to the potential buyer. People will buy from those they like and trust, and shoppers must feel your trustworthiness during a first contact with you. Focus on building report before talking about products and services or providing education or guidance.
Step #3: Qualification. There are windows of opportunity to sell products, services and even information to shoppers. In this step, you need to understand where the shopper is at in their health journey. Ask questions to learn more about the shopper and what his/her needs are. Get to know them as a person and present yourself as a caring friend vs. an expert with vast knowledge in nutrition. Those who are most effective at closing the sale are those that truly seek to understand the client (think shopper) and his/her needs.
Step #4: Presentation. Whether it’s a product, program or service you are selling, it’s essential to know your offering well and be able to clearly articulate the value it brings to the shopper.
Step #5: Address concerns. Again here, it’s essential to listen. What are the barriers for the shopper in utilizing one of your programs or services or in buying a product you recommend?
Step #6: Closing the sale. If you’ve followed steps 1-5, this step is a slam dunk.
Step #7: Getting referrals. I prefer the 7-step selling cycle because this is too important of a step for retail RDs to miss. If someone attends a class of yours and loved it, ask them to refer their friends. If through one-on-one consultations, you’ve helped a shopper accomplish a health goal, ask them to refer their friends. If a shopper enjoyed a program you offered, be sure to tell them about other classes you teach or service you provide. In the retail RD line of business, it might not be natural for shoppers to provide referrals, so you need to ask for them. Satisfied customers are the best way to increase your reach and ROI.
Some contend that the selling cycle has been replaced with the buying cycle. The difference between the two is that in the buying cycle, the shopper has done extensive research and has talked to family, friends and your competitors about the best way to meet their needs. They’re just coming to you for the actual purchase. I would contend that if you’re effective at steps 3, 4, and 5, focusing on the shopper’s needs, asking a lot of questions, and tailoring resource to meet their need, it doesn’t much matter if it’s a buying or selling cycle.