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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 larger part of buying decisions – those idiosyncratic, behind-the-scenes, change-management-driven processes that are private and we can’t be part of. Yet until they go through this process and walk through each stage of decision making and change management they cannot buy. They will do this with us, or without us. It takes much longer without us, hence a protracted buying decision and closed sale.

Facilitating Change Is Not Selling

I’ve spent the last few decades coding and designing new tools to help sellers facilitate the pre-sales decision path that buyers go through without us. Using Buying Facilitation® with sales, sellers get onto the Buying Decision Team, facilitate the time to decision making/close, and eschew competition. Here are the steps I’ve discovered are what buyers – all change – need to address. As you read them, note that facilitating change includes some unique skill sets (Listening for Systems, formulating Facilitative Questions/Presumptive Summaries, etc.), goals, and outcomes. Remember 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.

  1. Idea stage. Fred has an idea that something needs to change.
  2. Fred discusses his idea with colleagues.
  3. Fred invites colleagues to meet and discuss the problem, bring ideas from online research, consider who to include, possible fixes, and fallout. Groups formed.
  4. 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.
  5. Organization stage. Fred apportions responsibilities, or hands over to others.
  6. Change Management stage. Meeting to discuss options and fallout. Determine
    • if more research is necessary (and who will do it),
    • if all appropriate people are involved (and who to include),
    • if all elements of the problem and solution are included (and what to add),
    • the level of disruption and change to address depending on type of solution chosen (and how to manage change),
    • the pros/cons of external solution vs current vendor vs workaround.
  7. Add needs, ideas, issues of new members; incorporate change considerations.
  8. Everyone researches their portion of the solution fix (online research—webinars, etc., call current vendors or new vendors etc.). Discussions include managing resultant change.
  9. 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.
  10. Choice stage. Action responsibilities apportioned including discussions/meetings with people, companies, teams who might provide solutions.
  11. Meet to discuss choices and the fallout/ benefits of each.
  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, or if the appropriate decision makers and influencers are included. Buyers muddle through this but we can enter earlier to help by adding new skills of facilitation.

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 (and coaching and consulting) since 1989 with similar results.

My book Dirty Little Secrets: Why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it discusses these steps and how Buying Facilitation® can work with sales and marketing to enter the buy path earlier. Note: adding the above stages to typical sales/marketing thinking, outcomes, and skills, will not benefit either sellers or buyers. This model is solely for the benfit of the buyer. It’s truly a change management skill that makes a seller a real consultant, and needs/solutions are irrelevant until buyers understand how any change will affect their status quo. Read the book 🙂


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 [email protected]

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 [email protected]

It’s been a long time coming – A new way to change change!

Change is coming.

Got fear or joy? Got worry or positive anticipation?

Putting your head in the sand, or headed to the beach to relax and plan?

When you feel or fear that some form of change is coming, you have to define it in your mind as opportunity. Clear your head for “what will be” tomorrow, and not worry about “what is” today.

The way this is done is through a combination of faith and belief. These are very similar emotional attributes. And many of you reading this, have already misinterpreted them. I’m not talking about praying, I’m talking about planning.

Faith and belief in yourself.

Belief that you have the capability to withstand any circumstance and emerge both better and victorious.  And faith that whatever happens or is happening, happens for some reason and that reason is to benefit you, not harm you.

The prime questions to face are:

Do you believe in yourself?
Do you have faith in yourself?
Do you believe that you can create ideas that will make you better based on present circumstance?

One key action that will help you more than any other is to collaborate rather than commiserate.  Commiseration takes you backwards.  You may have heard it defined as a pity party. I define it as group whining that usually results in group blaming.

  • Collaboration is about tomorrow, and what can be done, and what needs to be done in order to create an amazing new outcome.
  • Collaboration requires a gathering of smart people with positive attitudes and positive outlooks.

Here’s what to do:

  • Make a list of your ten best attributes
  • Make a list of your ten best assets.
  • See how many of the same assets and attributes are on that list.
  • Make a list of your ten most positive connections, acquaintances, or friends.
  • Make a list of your ten most intelligent connections, acquaintances, or friends.
  • See how many of the same people are on that list.

Assemble a small group of people in a very short space of time and create an agenda for discussion that you pre-send so that people have some time to think about it. It can be both about you and about it (whatever the changing circumstance is).

Have the meeting in a positive place, and have all kinds of food on the table when people get there so that the atmosphere is both bright and festive.

Have a recording device and a flip chart in the meeting so that all thoughts and ideas are captured. Before everyone leaves, list the top ten action items or ideas to be implemented, and who owns them. And then thank everyone by giving them a book on creativity (see my recommended books here), a firm handshake, a smile, a hug, and a genuine, heartfelt thank you.

The results of this meeting will not only move you forward (see my article on change forward), but will also create a mindset that will move you away from the fear, doubt, worry, and uncertainty that pending change often creates.

REALITY: There are millions of words written on change. Very few of them only look for the positive. Very few of them mention the word “opportunity,” much less “positive collaboration.”

REALITY: When a significant event is about to occur that can alter both career path and income, the more time you spend moving forward by creating ideas and taking action, the less time you will have to dwell on the circumstance and fall into the pit of self-pity.

REALITY: Rather than go to the bookstore and buy a three hundred page book on change, take these seven hundred and fifty words, put them into action, change your outlook, keep your attitude positive, create ideas, take new actions, and generate results for yourself based on future.

NOTE WELL: This is a time to inspire yourself on a daily, even hourly basis. This might include a visit to an art museum, re-reading positive passages from books in your attitude library, listening to messages that inspire your thinking and give you new resolve and even new purpose, and surrounding yourself with the love of family and the love of friends that will encourage you to move on and move up.

THE SECRET: The secret key is to take responsibility to make this happen for yourself. You cannot dwell on ‘why.’ You are responsible for yourself FIRST.

You must focus on ‘now’ and ‘next.’
You cannot dwell on ‘woe.’
You must focus on ‘win.’

Change that.

Reprinted with permission from Jeffrey H. Gitomer and Buy Gitomer.


About the Author

Jeffrey GitomerJeffrey Gitomer is the author of The Sales Bible, Customer Satisfaction is Worthless Customer Loyalty is Priceless, The Little Red Book of Selling, The Little Red Book of Sales Answers, The Little Black Book of Connections, The Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude, The Little Green Book of Getting Your Way, The Little Platinum Book of Cha-Ching, The Little Teal Book of Trust, The Little Book of Leadership, and Social BOOM! His website, www.gitomer.com, will lead you to more information about training and seminars, or email him personally at [email protected].

What’s Your Organization’s Attitude?

StrategyDriven Corporate Cultures ArticleWhat’s your organization’s attitude? How is it impacting your culture? How is it impacting how you’re viewed externally? How is it impacting your results?

What are your employee’s attitudes about your company? What are their attitudes about your customers? How do they feel about the work they do?

Why is your organizational attitude important? Your attitude is everything.

We take it for granted that an individual’s attitude, to a large degree, drives their results. We’ve all known people who have the skills and experience necessary to do the job, but their disempowering attitudes and beliefs kill any chance for success. So why do we think it’s any different for an organization?

Your organization’s attitude drives how your company is perceived internally and externally. It drives how hard people are willing to work, how collaborative people will be and the level of ‘wow’ service you provide your customers.

The biggest driver of your organization’s attitude is your core values. Core values define your personality as an organization. They’re a small set (3 to 6) of nonnegotiable rules that you live by. Most organizations have core values that have evolved over time, without any attempt to proactively define them. Core values like ‘don’t admit to your mistakes’, ‘whoever screams the loudest wins’ or ‘me first, company second’ can become prevalent if you’re not careful.

Your key job as a leader is to create, communicate and hold your organization accountable to a set of core values that define what’s best, what’s right, what’s most noble about your culture. What are the characteristics you admire most in your employees? What do your clients value most? If you had to pick five members of your team that best exemplify what’s great about your culture, who would you pick? What behaviors or attitudes do they exhibit that made you pick them? These characteristics are the seeds your core values are created from.

To make sure your core values are not just a plaque on the wall, each core value should pass 3 tests:

  1. Are you committed to firing anyone who blatantly and repeatedly violates the core value? Regardless of an employee’s level of productivity, if they’re not living your core values, they are a cancer in your organization. If you’re not willing to fire them for violating a core value, it’s not really a core value. Remember, core values are non-negotiable.
  2. Are you willing to take a financial hit to uphold the core value? For example, let’s say one of your core values is ‘Respect, in everything we do’. Your largest client screams and curses at your customer service representatives and refuses to change their behavior. Do you fire the client and lose their significant revenue? If not, it’s not really a core value. Remember, core values are non-negotiable.
  3. Is this core value alive in your organization today? Can you tell recent stories about how employees have demonstrated the core value? If not, you may aspire to that core value, but it’s not a core value.

The right set of your core values should guide your key decisions, such as:

  • Hiring – Only hire people that have shown that they live your core values. You can help someone develop new skills, but it’s almost impossible to coach an employee to become someone they’re not.
  • Evaluating Employee Performance – Regardless of productivity, if someone is not living the core values, they’re a C-player and you should send them off to work for the competition.
  • Promoting – Promote people that exemplify your core values. Leaders that live your core values will set the example for others and drive a phenomenal culture.
  • Prospecting – When qualifying new customer/client prospects, evaluate whether their core values conflict with your own.

New products and business strategies come and go, but your culture is the foundation of your organization. What are you doing to create an incredible culture of passion, excellence and accountability? How will you impact your organization’s attitude today?


About the Author

Mike GoldmanMike Goldman is a nationally recognized speaker, consultant and author of the book Performance Breakthrough: The 4 Secrets of Passionate Organizations. He has over 25 years consulting and coaching companies from the local entrepreneur to the Fortune 500.

Throughout his career at Accenture and Deloitte Consulting, he helped companies like Verizon, Disney, Polo Ralph Lauren, Chanel, Kmart, Dillard’s, Liz Claiborne and Levi Strauss. In 2007, Mike founded Performance Breakthrough to help mid-sized companies achieve dramatic business growth. He does this by working with leadership teams to ensure they have the right people, strategies and execution habits for growth.

Resistance to Guidance: Why Sales, Coaching, and Leadership Practices Falter

Do you know what’s stopping you or your company from making the changes necessary to have more success? Or why prospects aren’t buying something they need? Or why clients aren’t adopting the changes they seek? The problem is resistance. And as change agents we’re inadvertently creating it.

Change requires that a complacent status quo risk its comfort for something unknowable – the probable loss of narrative, expectations, habitual activities and assumptions with no real knowledge of what will take its place. People don’t fear the change; they fear the disruption.

The Status Quo of the System

To understand why our status quo is tenacious we must understand systems. Simply, a system – for the sake of this article families, corporations, or individuals – is:

  1. a collection of policies, beliefs, agreements, goals and history, uniquely developed over time, which
  2. embrace uniform rules that are
  3. recognized and accepted by all and
  4. constitute the foundation of all decisions.

Because of the law of homeostasis (simply, all systems seek stability) any change potentially disrupts the status quo and will be resisted, even if the ‘new’ is more effective; even if the system seeks the change; even if the persuader is skilled at persuasion tactics.

Until or unless a system is able to shift its rules so that the new product, idea or implementation has the ability to fit in and new rules are adopted that reconfigure the status quo from within, change faces an uphill battle. The system is sacrosanct.

To get folks to change their minds or accept a solution and avoid resistance, it’s necessary to first:

  • help the system discover the differences between the new and the old,
  • help the system discover the details of the risk,
  • facilitate an acceptable route to managing the risk,
  • facilitate buy-in from the right people/elements

regardless of the efficacy of the proposed change or the need.

Our Guidance Pushes Against Stable Systems

Entire fields ignore these change management issues to their detriment:

  • the sales model fails 95% of the time because it attempts to push a new solution into the existing status quo, without first facilitating a buyer’s non-need change issues;
  • coaches end up needing 6 months with clients to effect change as they keep trying to push new behaviors into an old system – and then blame clients for not listening’ or believing they have the ‘wrong’ clients;
  • consultants and leaders have a high rate of failed implementations as they attempt to push the new into the old without first collaboratively designing new structures that will accept the change.

Persuasion and manipulation tactics and guidance strategies merely push against a stable system. As outsiders, it’s unlikely we can acquire the historic knowledge and consensus from all relevant insiders, or design the new rules for systemic change, for our ideas or solutions to gain broad acceptance throughout the system.

We can, however, facilitate the system in changing itself. Then the choice of the best solution becomes a consequence of a system that is ready, willing, and able to adopt excellence.

Obviously, having the right solution does not cause change: pitching, suggesting, influencing, or presenting before a system has figured out how to manage change is not only a time waste, but causes resistance and rejection of the proposed solution. So all of our logic, rational, good content, reasoning, or persuasion tactics are useless until the system is ready. Facilitate change first, then offer solutions in the way that the system can use it.

The question is: do you want to place a solution? Or expedite congruent change?

Listening for Systems, Facilitating Change

For the past 30 years I have designed unique models that facilitate change from the inside. Used in sales, and now being used in the coaching industry, my Buying Facilitation® model offers a unique skill set that teaches systems how to change themselves, and includes listening for systems rather than content, and a new way to use questions (Read Dirty Little Secrets (www.dirtylittlesecretsbook.com.).But whether you use my model or develop one of your own, you must begin by facilitating change, not by attempting to first ‘understand need’ or place a solution or idea.

I’m suggesting that you change your accustomed practices: the idea of no longer listening for holes in a client’s logic to offer guidance goes against the grain of sellers, coaches, and consultants. By listening for systems, by focusing on facilitating change and enabling consensus and change management, change agents are more likely to sell, coach, and implement.

I’ve written a new book (What?) to help you hear what others are really saying rather than just what you want to hear. I’ve made it free: www.didihearyou.com. Read it, and then let’s start a conversation. Let’s begin to think of managers, sellers, leaders, and coaches as true consultants who can hear what their clients mean. Let’s add a few facilitation skills and be the agents of real change with integrity.


About the Author

Sharon Drew Morgen is founder of Morgen Facilitations, Inc. (www.newsalesparadigm.com). She is the visionary behind Buying Facilitation®, the decision facilitation model that enables people to change with integrity. A pioneer who has spoken about, written about, and taught the skills to help buyers buy, she is the author of the acclaimed New York Times Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: Why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it.

To contact Sharon Drew at [email protected] or go to www.didihearyou.com to choose your favorite digital site to download your free book.