Your conversion rates need some love, oil, water…something. Point-blank: Your buyer evaluation process needs your attention.

So what do you do? What are your options?

You actually have quite a few, starting with learning the four key ways your prospects evaluate you. To make more sales, you need to know their buying criteria so you can influence their decisions. (It’s a lot less manipulative than it sounds.)

There are no cutting corners here: If you don’t understand your prospects’ buying journey, you’ll keep inching toward the finish line without ever crossing it — nobody wants that.

To show you the ropes, a top expert is weighing in. Karen Dunne-Squire is the creator and managing director of Elation Experts, a consultancy providing sales support to help businesses grow. She joined an episode of INSIDE Inside Sales to show you how easy it is to make more sales when you know how to leave a positive impact on your prospects and lean into their evaluation criteria.

Buyer evaluation: They evaluate you — but how?

The way prospects make their primary buying decisions differ, so it’s important for you to understand who you’re working with. Here are four different kinds of prospects, and what they’ll be looking for as they evaluate you. Note: These are in no particular order — each are equally important!

buying process

1. Business evaluator

This prospect evaluates a buying decision based on business criteria. They’re like that one friend who only wears Levi’s jeans because they like to align themselves with a trusted brand. They tend to focus on several things:

  • Your brand’s quality and legacy
  • Your brand’s values and whether they align with theirs
  • Your website
  • The credibility of your organization

Credibility is huge for business evaluators — they won’t think twice about leaving a deal on the table if your business isn’t credible or reputable enough.

2. Individual evaluator

People buy from people, and these kinds of prospects define their buying choices based on the connection they have with you. They might ask themselves:

  • Do I have a strong rapport with this sales rep?
  • Are they available and accessible?
  • Do I trust them and believe in their credibility?

Because they’re interested in who you are, this prospect will research you or check out your LinkedIn page. They’re less concerned about the brand, so rapport and engagement are fundamental — they won’t be confident in a buying decision if they don’t feel like you could be one of their buddies.

3. Service and solutions evaluator

This prospect is focused on their deliverables, solutions and outcomes:

  • They have a clear idea of their needs (plus great attention to detail to make sure those needs are met!)
  • They don’t buy on instinct, but rather on a proven statistical analysis
  • They’re focused on quality, not price
  • Needs being addressed > Researching the individual and the business

Service and solutions evaluators just want to know you have the skills, talent, people, processes and practices to solve their pain points. Convince them of that and you’re golden!

4. External evaluator

These potential customers are more cautious and want to know more than just about you and your business. You can bet that they:

  • Need external evidence and third-party validation that support their rationale for buying
  • Know about your competitors and analyze the market
  • Know of alternatives options
  • Are heavily swayed by testimonials and case studies that prove your product or service works

You can have the best business in the world or be the most engaging sales rep — but there’s no close without outside validation. “You’re not gonna seal the deal with [external evaluators] because they need some external third-party evidence that you really are what you say you are,” explains Karen.

Tip: Know the criteria to increase your cash flow  

You’ve been here before: You’re on a call and you’re getting great engagement from your prospect. They love your pitch and you two have great rapport…but they don’t buy. What went wrong? To understand, you first have to back up to the inquiry.

The minute you get an inquiry from a prospect, they begin to evaluate you. You’ll only maximize your revenue if you have a positive impact on their evaluation and help them make the right buying decision.

decision making process

So when you crush the call but bomb the sale, Karen says it means your delivery didn’t meet your prospect’s evaluation priority (the ones we just went through above).

Think of it this way: Typically, we tend to sell the same way we like to buy. You might meet the criterion of one evaluation type, but the other three types won’t convert nearly as much — if you can begin to master all the evaluation criteria and switch between them based on your audience, you’ll have a better chance of making that sale. It’s a win-win.

Suss ‘em out quickly — or risk losing the sale

If you can determine which of the four prospect types you’re engaging with, you’ll increase your likelihood of being able to influence their buying decision. That’s pretty simple, right?

Yup, but things can get dicey if you don’t practice asking the right kind of questions. On your next call, try out these questions and tactics to suss out your prospect’s evaluation method:

Have you taken any time to look at us online?

If they say no, they’re probably not a business evaluator — otherwise, they’d understand your business and brand and would have Googled you before the call.

What do you need from us as a company?

If they hesitate and stumble, you can be pretty sure they aren’t a service and solutions evaluator — those folks have a clear list of what they need and want from you.

Individual evaluators will approach the call personally

Rather than asking a question, pay attention to how this prospect talks to you. Do they share information about themselves? Are they talking about their dog or their favorite football team? If they do, this prospect prefers a relationship-led buying criteria.

Get a better understanding of their questions, and you’re effectively getting inside their head.

“Everyone has a different sense of priority as to which [evaluation criteria] is their highest requirement,” says Karen. “If we can drill down into the evaluation criteria, identify where our clients sit and respond to that, we have a much, much higher likelihood of being able to convert sales.”

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