Sales Rep Lame Excuse #83

“They just made an unbelievably poor decision.”

Did you ever watch a customer or prospect make a bad decision?  OK, dumb question…  We’ve all lost deals because the guy on the other side of the desk just flat didn’t do a good job of making the decision.  And because we hold the customer’s best interests near and dear to our hearts, it hurts to watch them do the “wrong” thing and buy from a competitor.  But the sales rep certainly can’t be blamed for that, right?  Wrong!

When a customer makes a bad decision, the blame falls squarely on the sales rep’s head.

It’s a fundamental part of the rep’s job to know and understand each customer’s buying process – or “Buyer’s Journey” – or whatever you want to call it…  Knowing that process consists of getting clear answers to three questions:

  • How will you go about making this decision?
  • What are the decision criteria?
  • Why are those the decision criteria?

How will you go about making this decision? Typically, multiple people are involved to varying degrees.  Each will want certain facts about the proposed product or service and the value that will ultimately be delivered.  Each will consider those facts and provide individual recommendations to the final decision maker who will weigh the importance of each recommender and render the verdict.  All kinds of actions and details may be involved; demonstrations, reference checks, financial analyses, etc., and an above average rep will know about them all and have them written down, probably accompanied by a flowchart.

If the customer can’t provide this information to you, they’re hurtling toward a bad decision.

What are the decision criteria? It’s got to have an ROI above 30%.  It’s got to be completed by July 10.  The lead time must be less than 24 hours.  It cannot consume more than 2 hours per week of Mary’s time.  These are but a few examples of many possible decision criteria.  A customer might have just one.  A different customer might have 20.  The common theme is that each criterion is stated in concrete, quantified terms.

If the customer can’t provide this information to you, they’re hurtling toward a bad decision.

Why are those the decision criteria? Actually, the above average rep will know specifically why each and every criterion is on the list.  The above average rep also knows the only valid reason for a criterion to exist is that it ties the decision to achievement of a specific organizational objective.  It’s got to have an ROI above 30% because the Board of Directors has set 30% as the minimum hurdle rate.  It’s got to be completed by July 10 because we need to deliver X to our customer by August 10 and we need 30 days cushion to do a quality check to ensure that we maintain our “delivered on time & working every time” corporate objective.  NOTE:  These chains of connections back to specific objectives can get quite complex.  Mom, never said it would be easy, and…

If the customer can’t provide this information to you, they’re hurtling toward a bad decision.

You can blow off getting answers to the three questions because it’s too hard or takes too much time or requires you to think like a customer (as opposed to focusing on your own and your employer’s wants and needs. )  I wonder, though, if all your competitors think that way?  And wouldn’t helping customers improve their decision processes really set you apart?

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