Steps Along the Buying Decision Path
As sellers we are taught to find prospects with a need that matches our solution and then find creative, professional ways to pitch, present, entice, push, market, or somehow introduce our solution to enable them to understand how our solutions will fix their problem.
Unfortunately, we fail to close over 90% of the time (from first contact) regardless of how well their need matches our solution. And it’s not because of our solutions, our presentations/pitches, or our professionalism. It’s because the sales model does not include the skills to facilitate the largest component of buying decisions – those systemic, idiosyncratic, behind-the-scenes, change-management decisions
Until they go through this process and walk through each stage of managing their unique change management
issues, until everyone who touches the final solution agrees to a change, until the entire team is assembled and lends their voice to ideas, problems, solutions, and fallout, they cannot buy regardless of how much they may need our solution. They must do this – with us, or without us. It takes much longer without us, hence a protracted buying decision and closed sale.Without appropriate change management, they cannot buy. And the sales model doesn’t address this, causing sellers to spend most of their time finding ways to get in – and missing the route in because of their focus on solution placement. The route is change management.
FACILITATING CHANGE IS NOT SELLING
I’ve spent the last few decades coding and designing new tools to promote buyer readiness and help sellers facilitate buyers through their Pre-Sales decision path that buyers go through without us and is not focused on buying/solution choice. My model, called Buying Facilitation®, gives sellers the tools to be Facilitation/Change Consultants to get onto their Buying Decision Team, facilitate their change-management decisions, lessen the time between decision making/close, and differentiate from the competition. It’s a model that works with sales, but focused on enabling our buyers to congruently manage their systemic change, which has always been done outside of our purview until now.
Here’s the question to ask yourself: do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? They are two different activities, necessitating two distinct skill sets. Sales merely handles one of them. Buying Facilitation® works with sales to first help buyers manage their consensus and change issues to ready them to buy.
Using Buying Facilitation® first, then sales, will immediately enlist those who can buy, and immediately get rid of those who will never buy. After all, we all know too well that when buyers buy there doesn’t seem to be a direct line between their need or the relevance of our solution: it’s about their ability to manage their environment to make the necessary decisions that will lead them to congruent change and to their best possible outcome – which may, or may not, be to buy anything.When we speak with prospects to discuss need, we have no idea if the information we’re being given is the takeaway from all assembled voices, if the group has already agreed to buy anything, or what stage of the decision path they’re on. Are they merely gathering data for options? To bring back to the team? To compare with competitors?
Here are the steps I’ve discovered that buyers – all change – must address. As you read them, note that facilitating change is not sales, and includes some unique skill sets, goals, and outcomes.
1. Idea stage. Someone has an idea that something needs to change and discusses his idea with colleagues.
2. Assembly stage. Colleagues meet and discuss the problem, bring ideas from online research, consider who to include, possible fixes, and fallout. Groups formed.
3. Consideration stage. Group meets to discuss findings: how to fix the problem with known resources, whether to create a workaround using internal fixes or seek an external solution. Discuss the type/amount of fallout from each.
4. Organization stage. Organizer apportions responsibilities, or hands over to others.
5. Change Management stage. Meeting to discuss options and fallout. Determine
a. if more research is necessary (and who will do it),
b. if all appropriate people are involved (and who to include),
c. if all elements of the problem and solution are included (and what to add),
d. the level of disruption and change to address depending on type of solution chosen (and how to manage change),
e. the pros/cons of external solution vs current vendor vs workaround.
f. possible workaround and if they are sufficient.
6. Addition stage. Add needs, ideas, issues of new members; incorporate change considerations.
7. Research and change stage. Everyone researches their portion of the solution fix (online research—webinars, etc., call current vendors or new vendors etc.). Discussions include managing resultant change.
8. Consensus stage. Buying Decision Team members meet to share research and determine the type of solution, fallout, possibilities, problems, considerations in re management, policies, job descriptions, HR issues, etc. Buy-in and consensus necessary.
9. Choice stage. Action responsibilities apportioned including discussions/meetings with people, companies, teams who might provide solutions.
10. Meet to discuss choices and the fallout/ benefits of each. Discuss different solutions and vendors.
11. Vendor/solution selection. Meet with possible vendors.
12. New solution chosen. Change management issues incorporated with solution choice.
13. New solution implemented.
The sales model handles steps 10-13. Marketing, marketing automation, and social marketing may be involved in steps 3 and 8, although it’s not clear then if the decision to choose an external solution has been made, the full fact pattern of ‘needs’ has been determined, what the marketing content is being used for, or if the appropriate decision makers and influencers are included. Buyers muddle through this but we can enter earlier and help them transition through their steps, so long as we stick to our initial roles as facilitators and not try to sell or manipulate.
BUYING FACILITATION® IN ACTION
I started up a tech company in London 1983-89 and developed Buying Facilitation® to teach my sales folks to navigate buyers through their decision path, change management, and buy-in BEFORE they began selling. We increased sales 5x within a month. I’ve been teaching this model in sales and coaching to global corporations since 1989 with similar results.
My book Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell discusses these steps and how Buying Facilitation® can work with sales and marketing to enter the buy path earlier, and to help coaches, leaders, and negotiators facilitate congruent change. It’s truly a change management skill that makes a seller a real consultant and uses entirely unique change facilitation skills: Facilitative Questions, Listening for Systems, and Choice. Remember, needs/solutions are irrelevant until buyers understand how any change will affect their status quo. The sales model isn’t designed to handle this Pre-Sales change management function. Read the book :)
Sharon Drew Morgen is the NYTimes Business Bestselling author of Selling with Integrity and 7 books how buyers buy. As the developer of Buying Facilitation® she trains sellers to help buyers facilitate their change management, Pre-Sales buying decision issues. She is a sales visionary who coined the terms Helping Buyers Buy, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Patterns, Buy Path in 1985, and has been working with sales/marketing for 30 years to influence buying decisions.
More recently, Morgen is the author of What? Did you really say what I think I heard? in which she has coded how we can hear others without bias or misunderstanding, and why there is a gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She is a trainer, consultant, speaker, and inventor, interested in integrity in all business communication. Her learning tools can be purchased: www.didihearyou.com