The buyer’s journey has been a critical topic of discussion for salespeople and marketers for a decade now. We have come to recognize how essential it is to understand how a prospect recognizes that they have a problem, how they go about searching for a solution and how they evaluate those solutions to make a resource choice and a decision.
The importance of that step, the customer’s decision-making process, may just be the most important step in the buyer’s journey. Salespeople can gain a great deal of information from CRMs and lead nurturing data and best practices from industry research systems like Relpro and IBISWorld, however, these will not give them insights into a prospect’s specific decision-making process. There are nuances in every company as to how they approach an important purchase and elite salespeople are skilled at asking great questions in order to uncover those in their qualifying discussions.
Questions to Ask About Your Customer’s Decision-Making Process
One lead (or prospect) lead nurturing best practice is to just be direct, ask the question. We coach salespeople in the commitment step of the sales process to simply as them “When you’ve made a decision like this in the past, what was your process?” Simple enough but the prospect may give a surface answer, making it seem much simpler than it is of course. Of course, you must have already uncovered that you are working with the decision maker but rarely in a substantial purchase, is there just one making the decision. They may be the ultimate decision maker but the decision impacts others that they will want to gain input from. Skilled salespeople help the prospect think through this by drilling down from their surface answer and will ask further questions such as:
- “Will that be the same process you follow this time?” and
- “How long does that normally take?” and
- “Who will this change impact in the organization?”
- “Who all needs to fall in love with this solution to gain approval?” and
- “Can I go with you to present to the committee?”
- “How will you tell your current provider?”
The bottom line, it may not matter how much your direct contact likes the solution you have recommended, if the customer’s decision-making process is unknown, you are at risk of losing the deal. Those important questions need to be asked and salespeople who master these close more sales.
From the coach’s perspective, one of the findings from our partners at Objective Management Group is; Managers who are effective at helping their salespeople get prospects to commit to a decision have 40% more top performers than managers who are ineffective at coaching on decision making.
Why is this so predictive of success for coaching? If managers are helping their team to regularly uncover the decision-making process and gain commitment, then they’re probably coaching on several supporting skills also. Getting a prospect to agree to a decision means the salesperson has uncovered a compelling reason for them to buy, they have thoroughly qualified the opportunity, and presented a need and cost appropriate solution at the right time. This takes active listening, many insightful and challenging questions, and the ability to pushback appropriately on potential stall tactics.