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10 min read

Three Steps to Strategically Influencing & Navigating Your Buyer’s Decision Process

Sep 17, 2020 9:06:58 AM

Navigating the decision process is one of the most important components of winning a new sale. To become a Quota Crusher™, you’ll need to develop a strategic approach to understanding every buyer’s decision process. At Sales BQ®, we use three key steps to understand and analyze the decision process, which I walk you through below. Taking the time to reflect and master these steps will make a big difference in how you show up as a salesperson - putting you in a better position to get a ‘yes’.

Conduct a Win-Loss Analysis


The first step in mastering the decision process is conducting a win-loss analysis. Read the rest of this blog, then make a list of the last 6-12 months of your pipeline. From each opportunity, ask yourself:

    1. Why did you win? Look at the deals that you won, and make a list of what you did well. Was your follow-through excellent? Were you able to solve the prospect’s problem better than the competition? What made you stand out in each of these deals?
    2. Why did you lose? Don’t worry - you don’t have to tell anyone. Don’t give yourself the same answer (or excuse!) that you would give your sales manager. Be honest with yourself. What was the real reason that the prospect didn’t move forward? It’s okay if you missed a step or did something wrong. The point of this exercise is to uncover where you could do better next time, so be honest.
    3. Look for trends. You should be able to find three to four trends from analyzing the deals you’ve lost. Once you’ve found your trends, you’ll know what you need to work on. Don’t forget to identify the trends in the deals you’re winning, too! 
    4. What did you miss? Once you’ve finished this training, and you understand the 5 W’s and the steps to standing out, go back through the deals you lost. Identify which of the steps below you missed. Then, you can target your focus on those steps in your next deal.

There are a lot of moving parts to take into account when we look at how buyers make decisions. It’s a complex process, which is why it’s important to look for the trends that lead to each different result. That way, you can repeat the trends that lead to a win, and work on the trends that make you lose. 

Understand the 5 W’s: Who, What, Where, When, & Why 


The Who: You have to know everyone who comprises ‘The Who,’ because it is almost always more than one single prospect. You will need to uncover:

  1. Who will help them with the decision? We teach you how to profile in our prospecting series, because you have to know and understand everyone who is involved in the decision process in order to win. You should be able to profile every decision-maker, influencer, end-user, department head, and power user who will have a say. Sometimes this also includes external consultants, brokers, CPAs, or advisors. To find out, you have to ask your buyer who all will be involved in the decision. Then, set yourself up to win by inviting all of those people to the conversation.
  2. Who else is competing for the business? Have you asked your prospect who you’re competing against? This won’t always be as simple as the familiar competitors that are listed on your marketing team’s competitive audit. Sometimes there are invisible competitors, like an internal employee at your buyer’s company who wants to do the same job that your solution does. 
  3. Who may be interested in a different solution than yours? Have you asked everyone who is involved in the decision making process whether they have opinions about other solutions? You might be surprised by their answers. Find out who is vying for what behind the scenes.
  4. Who may want a competitive solution? You’re not the only one competing for this business. Did one of your competitors already win someone else over? There could be someone else within the business who is pushing for a competitive solution, and if so, you need to know about it.


The What: Once you know who you’re talking to, you need to have a deep understanding of the criteria that they will use to make the decision. This means asking:

  1. The last time they did business with someone, how did they know they were making the right decision? In the past, what process did they use to evaluate the solution? How did they develop the criteria, and what did they learn from that? How did they determine that their vendor was the right one?
  2. What tools do they use to evaluate the various competitors? Do you know how they’re making this decision? Make sure you’re aware of any tools they’re using. 
  3. Do they have a criteria document they will share? More often than not, buyers have a criteria document that they use to evaluate companies like yours before making a decision. All you have to do is ask. If they share it with you, you can go into the conversation with a better understanding of how you’ll be scored and graded.


The Where: Next, you need to understand where the decision will be made. This includes:

  1. At what level in the organization is the decision being made? This can vary, and you need to know whether it will ultimately be an executive decision, or if everyone on the decision committee has a vote. 
  2. Is the decision being made there, or in a different office? Sometimes you might be selling to a satellite location, or a business with a sister company, or a business with another type of configuration that you may or may not be aware of. Make it your business to find out. In those cases, the decision isn’t always made where you think it will be made.
  3. Is the decision being made in your city, or in a different location? Of course, things are mostly virtual right now. However, if we ever get back to selling in-person, you need to make sure you’re positioning yourself to be where the decision is going to be made.


The When: Timelines can make or break a deal. Make sure you’re uncovering:

  1. When does the solution need to be up and working? Timeline-based sales are important. If you have an implementation date, you can back into that by setting a close-by date. Use their timeline to your advantage to get the decision.
  2. When in the process is the actual decision being made? This is a key component in the timeline, so make sure you’re asking the question.
  3. What if there are logistical concerns over implementation timelines? I’ve seen so many deals get hung up in the implementation stage. Do your due diligence on the intricacies of your implementation and how it relates to the client’s timeline. Find out if they have the right internal staff and components in place to implement according to their desired timeline. 


The Why: The why is crucial. The key pieces you need to uncover are:

  1. Why is the decision made this way? Be the salesperson who acts as a consultant. Find out why they use their current decision-making method. See if you can get behind the scenes and ask why a certain person is involved. Then, you can better play the game and challenge components of their process that you think they’d be better off without.
  2. Why do they need competitive bids? Sometimes there will be a top-down directive to get competitive bids. You might be the third bid in a sale, or they may have already chosen their vendor and they’re just including you as part of their due diligence. Either way, you need to know where you stand in the sale. 
  3. Why aren’t they staying with their previous provider? It’s a lot harder to implement a new vendor than to keep using an existing one, so you need to know if there is a compelling reason pushing them to make the switch. Be bold enough to ask why they aren’t staying with their provider.


(BONUS!) The How: Ultimately, you need to know how the decision is being made in order to influence it. 

  1. Is it decided by a committee?
  2. Is it decided through a chain of command?
  3. Is it decided by a functional area or specific department?
  4. Is it a consensus decision, or a directive?


Stand Out!


To be a Quota Crusher™, you have to show up differently than your competition. You need to stand out in a way that gives the buyer the confidence that you’re the one who best understands—and can best solve—their problem. When you get to the decision step, these key factors will set you apart from your competition:

  1. Tremendous confidence. You’re asking your buyer to spend money with you. In exchange, they need to see that you are confident that you are the one who can solve their problem and that they can put their trust in you. 
  1. Expertise. You should be a technical ninja. Invest the time required to know the ins and outs of how your product or service works, and how it relates to your buyer’s specific industry and nuances.  Be the salesperson who knows their product completely and can answer all of the buyer’s questions.
  2. Ask questions nobody else asks. Ask questions that get to the true reason they’re making a change. This information allows you to uncover what it will take for you to win while demonstrating that you think differently than your competition. 
  3. Demonstrate an excellent problem-solving ability. This is the heart of sales. You are responsible for solving their problem. What have you done to demonstrate that you can solve the problem in a way the competition can’t?
  4. Quickly develop a relationship. Take the DiSC Buyer BQ class to understand this better. Half of the buyer personality styles are relationship-driven, while the other half are results-driven—meaning some buyers want you to demonstrate results, while others want a solid, warm relationship with you to feel comfortable doing business. Because they require such different approaches, you need to know how to develop a relationship with every personality style. Take that course!
  5. Credibility. How are you showing up? Are you sharing a track record of success? Give your buyer a case study or a success story to build your credibility.
  6. Reputation. Your reputation needs to be strong, and you and your company need to be known for making a difference. If your company is not, you have to find creative ways to solve that and rise above.
  7. Push back and ask challenging questions. Don’t let your prospect run the show. Sure, you need to adhere to their criteria—but you also need to be a consultant, and that means pushing back when they say things that don’t make sense. Challenge them when they’re not understanding your value and how you’ll solve their problem.
  8. Be a good diagnostician. Are you diagnosing the buyer’s real problems by asking second and third-level questions? Are you expanding on the problem to get to the root of the issue? Never take your buyer’s statement of the problem at face value. Get an ROI analysis of each problem, and understand the cost and impact of every part of the problem. Read our Advanced Questioning blog to brush up on your diagnosis skills.
  9. Humility. Remember, you always want your buyer to know that you’re there to serve and solve. Walk into every conversation with this in mind. Don’t be an arrogant salesperson.


Now, go conduct your win-loss analysis. Keep in mind that you’re not doing it for your sales manager; you’re doing it for yourself, so be honest. You don’t need to tell anyone what you find. Go back to your recent deals and identify where you missed the steps above. Use what you find to empower your future deals. At Sales BQ®, we want to put you on the path to becoming the number one rep. We want you to win, and the decision step is one of the most important steps of the process. You can see the video for this course and many others that will turn you into a Quota Crusher™ in our training room!

Want to learn more about becoming a Quota Crusher™? Take our Buyer BQ class, or reach out to me here to start a conversation!




Mary Grothe, CEO of House of Revenue™

Follow me on LinkedIn  and Twitter @MaryLGrothe

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Mary Grothe

Written by Mary Grothe