Helping Salespeople Understand Customer Decision Making

ISE Season 3 - Enablement History with Erich Starrett

The Sales profession is obviously a person-oriented profession and understanding Customer Decision Making is very important. Because there are human emotions, feelings, and beliefs involved in a transaction, the complexities of the profession are compounded. One day I was in a meeting with the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of a software company, a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of an internet service provider, and the Chief Executive Officer (CIO) of one of the largest defense contractors in the United States, all in one day!

Sales managers can never underestimate the role of the buyer. They usually buy based on trust and feelings and then rationalize their decision based on the business facts. Even if the solution is the best one for them, they will never buy from you if they don’t feel understood or feel that the selling organization can deliver on their promise–they will just go somewhere else. Whether or not someone buys from your organization comes down to their decision to make the product or service themselves or get it from somewhere else (hopefully you!). This make-or-buy decision comes from their understanding of the costs of building the solution themselves versus the costs of acquiring the solution from a provider.

Not all buying professionals are the same in their role within the buying organization.
There are different roles that a buyer can play in helping an organization make buying decisions. The decision on the part of a large company to make a substantial purchase is usually not made by a single person or a few people. The buying decision is usually made through a process comprised of decision-makers and influencers. The decision process may initially be invisible to the selling organization, and it is often the role of the sales professional to determine key buying roles. During the course of meetings and sales calls or teleconferences, it is helpful for sales professionals to determine each person’s motivations in the decision process:

  • Executive Signer: the person who actually makes the purchase ultimate and acts as a final decision maker.
  • Initiator: the person who first suggests or thinks of the idea to buy a product or service.
  • Coach: the person who helps the selling organization determine any part or the whole part of the buying decision. The coach may help the selling organization identify whether or not the buying organization will buy, what they intend to buy, how they buy, when they will buy, or even where they will buy from.
  • Influencer: the person who explicitly or implicitly carries some influence over the final decision.
  • Requirements Decision Maker: evaluates based on practical realities of adding a selling organization’s product or service offering to day-to-day processes of the company.
  • Financial Decision Maker: evaluates and recommends based on costs, budgets, and return-on-investment.
  • End-User: the person or people who consume or use the product or service. They are individuals who experience the problem and will use your product or service everyday.

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