Business buyers in companies, institutions, and government organizations face many decisions in the course of making a purchase. The number of decisions depends on the type of buying situation. Robinson and others distinguish three types of buying situations: the straight rebuy, the modified rebuy, and the new task.5
^ Straight rebuy: The straight rebuy is a buying situation in which the purchasing department reorders on a routine basis (e.g., office supplies, bulk chemicals). The buyer chooses from suppliers on an "approved list." These suppliers make an effort to maintain product and service quality. They often propose automatic reordering systems to help purchasing agents save time. The "out-suppliers" attempt to offer something new or to exploit dissatisfaction with a current supplier. Out-suppliers try to get a small order and then enlarge their purchase share over time.
^ Modified rebuy: The modified rebuy is a situation in which the buyer wants to modify product specifications, prices, delivery requirements, or other terms. The modified rebuy usually involves additional decision participants on both sides. The in-suppliers become nervous and have to protect the account; the out-suppliers see an opportunity to gain some business.
^ New task: The new task is a buying situation in which a purchaser buys a product or service for the first time (e.g., office building, new security system). The greater the cost or risk, the larger the number of decision participants and the greater their information gathering—and therefore the longer the time to decision completion.6
New-task buying passes through several stages: awareness, interest, evaluation, trial, and adoption.7 Communication tools' effectiveness varies at each stage. Mass media are most important during the initial awareness stage, salespeople have their greatest impact at the interest stage, and technical sources are the most important during the evaluation stage.
The business buyer makes the fewest decisions in the straight-rebuy situation and the most in the new-task situation. In the new-task situation, the buyer has to determine product specifications, price limits, delivery terms and times, service terms, payment terms, order quantities, acceptable suppliers, and the selected supplier. Different participants influence each decision, and the order in which these decisions are made can vary. The new-task situation is, therefore, the business marketer's greatest opportunity and challenge. For this reason, marketers should try to reach as many key buying influencers as possible and provide helpful information and assistance. Because of the complicated selling involved in new-task situations, many companies use a missionary sales force consisting of their best salespeople.
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