By Matt Doyle, VP and Co-Founder of Excel Builders

When someone is shopping an item, especially an expensive one, they tend to go through several stages before they decide to make their purchase. These stages can be roughly summarized as:

  • Engagement: They’ve started looking for a solution to their problem.
  • Education: They’ve started researching the different options available.
  • Evaluation: They’ve started to compare the options to one another.
  • Justification: They’ve rationalized the purchase.
  • Purchase: They’ve completed the transaction.

I’m a custom home builder in the Delaware/Maryland area. My company focuses on the higher end of the market -; successful people who care about having a home that perfectly matches their tastes -; and we have learned a lot about appealing to unique buyers at various purchase stages.

It’s important to be able to identify what stage the buyer is in. Late-stage buyers are closest to purchasing, so they make the most cost-effective targets for your efforts. You are most likely to see a return on your investment if you save special discounts and personal attention for these customers

Here are some of the ways you can identify them.

1. They’ve done their homework.

Always pay attention to the level of knowledge that a customer has when they approach you, or you approach them. In my experience, the more someone already knows about the product, the more likely it is that they’re nearly ready to buy.

It’s often easy to notice when someone is educated on a product. Listen to their questions and what they have to say about the product. You can hurry this strategy along by coaxing questions from them. Ask them what details they need to know to make up their minds.

If it’s clear that they understand that there are different models of a project, or that the models have different applications, they’ve already researched that information for themselves. If they also know about products by other makers and how yours compares, it means that they are past the evaluation stage and moving on to either justification or purchase.

2. They’re asking questions about dimensions, specs or price.

While you’re listening for the customer’s questions, make sure you pay attention to the kind of questions that they’re asking. You should be listening for questions that relate directly to use.

For example, imagine that you are selling a physical good like a piece of furniture. If someone asks you a question about the material its made of or what style it is, they may be interested but they’re not necessarily close to purchasing. However, if they ask you questions about the exact size (as if they’re measuring it for a room) or about the price and what deals are available for it, that points to a customer who is much closer to point of purchase.

The same would apply if you sell digital products like business apps or server space. The more closely the questions relate to use, the more likely it is that they want to buy right now.

3. They’re selling the item to themselves.

Making a big purchase is always a somewhat stressful experience for anyone. In most cases, being resistant to buy is prudent behavior. When someone approaches a purchase, they have to begin convincing themselves that they’re acting in their own best interest. Sometimes, they accidentally reveal this to you.

Listen to the things they’re saying for signs that they’re trying to sell the item to themselves. It may be signaled by their enthusiasm or by them listing the product’s selling points before you can.

Once you identify this, respond by getting out of the way. Slow down on selling and simply affirm what they’re already saying. If you push them too hard at this stage, they may feel manipulated and pull back.

Improve your conversions by finding buyers at the right stage.

By listening for signs that the customer has done their homework, that they’re considering the use and that they’re selling the item to themselves, you can identify the ones that are in the final stages of the buying process. Use this information to target your most likely customers and to determine the best strategy for finally closing the sale.

Matt Doyle is the VP and Co-Founder of Excel Builders, a truly unique custom home builder, creating homes that make every day easier.

Published on: May 8, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.