Understanding the Decision Process

Once you’ve qualified the prospect for pain and financial issues, simply ask one of the following questions to lead into the decision process.

  • “What process will you go through to make the decision on selecting a vendor for your widgets?”
  • “How does your company go about making a decision to invest $ _____ to fix a problem like this?”

The more complex the sale, the more information you will need to discover in order to gain a good understanding of the prospect’s decision process.  There are six key areas you must understand.

The Players.  “Who has ultimate authority to make this decision, and who are the other people who will influence the decision?”  You need to understand where the authority for the final decision rests and what role the subordinates (influencers) play.  It’s critical to conduct your sales efforts primarily with the decision maker, not the subordinates.  Attempting to secure the business by working with people without real authority is a poor strategy, leading to extended sales cycles and low closing rates.

Timetable.  “When will you need to make a decision, and why is that date important?”  Their timetable often provides clues as to the severity of their pain and how they prioritize this business challenge.  Their timing also will help you understand how to manage your time for this opportunity.

Decision Criteria.  “What criteria will you use to make this decision?”  Ask the prospect to explain these criteria and try to get an indication of which are most important and which are of lesser importance.  If competition hasn’t been mentioned by this time, this is a good opportunity to bring it up.

Competition:  Often this is a question salespeople are afraid to ask, concerned they’ll upset the prospect.  But you need to know who you’re up against.  Without this information you may make some bad business decisions.  One way to ask is as follows: “You may not be comfortable answering this, but I’m curious who you else you’re evaluating for this project.”  If the prospect says he can’t give you that information, simply say “I understand” and continue the qualifying process.

Proposal Content.  “What do you need to see in the proposal so you’ll have all the information you need to make a decision?”  When you present a proposal, your objective should be to give the prospect the exact information that he needs to make a “yes” or “no” decision – no more and no less.  This approach greatly improves your chances of securing the business.

Roadblocks.  “What roadblocks might you run into trying to get this implemented?”  Checking for roadblocks that could delay implementation of the solution helps to ensure that qualification is complete and eliminates surprises.

If you can obtain answers to all of these questions, you’ve done a great job qualifying for decision process.

Self-Study Assignment:  Record the above questions along with the other qualifying areas (pain and resources), and commit them to memory.  Add any questions that you think might be relevant to your situation.