Change management and sales: influencing the buying decision path

Buyers want to solve a problem in a way that causes the least disruption, and the last thing they want to do is bring something new into their environment. But until the stakeholders (decision makers, influencers, appropriate managers) agree that making a purchase is the only way to get where they want to end up, and all of the people that will touch the new solution buy-in to altering the status quo (their policies, relationships, rules, past decisions, job descriptions, etc), they will not make a purchase or a change: they will continue the dysfunctional behavior even when an ideal solution is right in front of them.

While you might see your solution as offering a better alternative to what they are doing now, buyers have systemic issues to handle when they bring in something new. Making a purchase, or doing something different, means

  • some sort of change management to ensure that the new and the old work together
  • helping folks who touch the current practices be willing and able to change.
  • understanding and diminishing any fallout that will ensue.

Bringing in something new into an existent system – whether it’s a purchase or an implementation – is a change management problem.

A Buying Decision Is A Change Management Problem

Sales, marketing automation, and the new telemarketing field, ignore the change management aspect of what buyers must accomplish and instead focus on figuring out how and what and to whom to pitch their solution. Let me back track a bit. Givens:

  1. sales manages the needs assessment and solution placement portion of the buyer’s decision.
  2. neither sales nor marketing go behind-the-scenes, into the environment/culture in which the buyer lives, to help facilitate the non-solution-focused internal political or relational issues buyers must address to get the necessary buy-in and make the necessary adjustments to their culture that change demands.
  3. buyers don’t know their route through change when they begin to think about resolving a problem.
  4. the time it takes buyers to get the appropriate buy-in from all who will touch the solution is the length of the sales/change cycle. Until they figure this entire process out, they cannot buy. This is considered the pre-sales process.

These are the issues we come smack up against as sales folks: we try to push a solution into a group that haven’t progressed through their entire change management path and get objections and time delays as buyers figure it out. And we are so dedicated to finding ways to present our solution that we are blind to the buyers needs to manage change. I often ask my own clients where their prospects are in their change path at the point and initially they want to pitch and they have no idea.

A Solution Can’t Compromise The Status Quo

Buyers have 13 steps they must take from first idea to making a purchase. Sales enters and manages steps 10-13. Steps 1-9 are the pre-sales process that focuses on change and determining if a purchses is necessary: assembling the right people, understanding the effects that solving a problem will produce, getting buy-in for a course of action – and then, determining if/what/why they want to buy. Unfortunately, as outsiders we can never understand what’s going on – nor do we need to. We just need to help them do it themselves. When we enter too early for them, we potentially speak to the wrong person/people, at the wrong time – and then we sit and wait while they figure it out. We are holding a hammer, waiting for the time when they are ready with a nail. But this is a much more efficient way to do this.

I actually developed a pre-sales model that facilitates a buyer’s change management process call Buying Facilitation®. Although not a sales model, it works with sales but employs a wholly different skill set that actually shows buyers how to manage the systemic change they will face when purchasing a solution or bringing something new in to their status quo. It not only teaches buyers how to get the requisite buy-in so their daily functioning won’t be compromised – managing the people, policies, technology, and old vendor, etc. issues – but shows them how to pro-actively manage the change that will happen once the new solution is on board. After using Buying Facilitaiton® then it’s time to use the sales behaviors you’ve grown accustomed to. I’m not taking away sales; I’m just employing it at the right time.

If the tech guy doesn’t want to outsource work; if the sales and marketing folks are not talking to each other; if the “C” level person has a favored vendor from 3 years ago; if there is already something in place that cost a bundle and the buyer merely wants to tack on yet another fix – if anything political or relational is going on internally that would compromise the system, the buyer will not buy: they will not buy if the system itself would be at risk.

Let’s teach buyers first how to buy – how to manage their change so they are ready for you to sell and place your solution.


About the Author

Sharon Drew Morgen is a visionary, original thinker, and thought leader in change management and decision facilitation. She works as a coach, trainer, speaker, and consultant, and has authored 9 books including the NYTimes Business BestsellerSelling with Integrity. Morgen developed the Buying Facilitation® method (www.sharondrewmorgen.com) in 1985 to facilitate change decisions, notably to help buyers buy and help leaders and coaches affect permanent change. Her newest book What? www.didihearyou.com explains how to close the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

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