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CREEPING COMMITMENT Creeping commitment means a customer becomes increasingly committed to a particular course of action while going through the steps in the buying process. As decisions are made at each step, the range of alternatives narrows; the cus- tomer becomes more and more committed to a specific course of action and even to a specific vendor. As was noted earlier, salespeople who are not involved early in the process are at a disadvantage because the range of options gets narrower with each set of decisions. From the customer's point of view, creeping commitment looks like a journey—a series of steps that results in a pur- chase. In fact, many selling companies now map out their customer journeys, or how their customers move through creeping commitment. These companies identify important customer touchpoints, or interactions with the customer, and create those that are more likely to help the customer move through the journey. In instances involving purchasing components or materials as part of new product development, buyers are more inter- ested in early involvement by possible vendors than when buying other types of products. Called early procurement involvement or early supplier involvement, this strategy has potential suppliers participate in the actual design process for a new product. 8 Applied Materials, the company that makes the equipment that makes microprocessors and dis- cussed earlier, promotes its engineering department's abilities in early supplier involvement as a competitive advan- tage. It argues that it is able to reduce operating costs by eliminating waste and design in other cost savings, as well as improve product design. 9 Whatever the reason, each design decision represents a creeping commitment to a final set of decisions that are difficult to undo. thinking it through What steps did you go through in making the choice to attend your school? How can you relate your decision- making process to the eight steps in the organizational buying process? Did any decisions you made early in the process affect decisions you made later in the process? What roles did your family and friends play in the decision process? TYPES OF ORGANIZATIONAL BUYING DECISIONS Many purchase decisions are made without going through all the steps just described. For example, a Frito-Lay sales- person may check the supply of his or her products in a supermarket, write a purchase order to restock the shelves, and email it to the store manager. After recognizing the problem of low stock, the manager simply authorizes the order (step 6) without going through any of the other steps. However, if the Frito-Lay salesperson wanted the manager to devote more shelf space to Frito-Lay snacks, the manager might go through all eight steps in making and evaluating this decision. Exhibit 3.2 describes three types of buying decisions—new tasks, modified rebuys, and straight rebuys 10 —along with the strategies salespeople need to use in each situation. In this exhibit the "in" company is the seller that has provided the product or service to the company in the past, and the "out" company is the seller that is not or has not been a supplier to the customer. CHAPTER 3: Buying Behavior and the Buying Process 67

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