How asking the right question can influence your clients' decisions

By Ernest Falkner III

Zillion Dollar Thinking


If the buyer has no basis or methodology for how they make a decision, how can the seller align their presentation and/or offering to gain an accurate decision? And, if the seller is not prepared with their own alternative model to introduce to the buyer, then maybe there is some homework to consider.

The seller begins by saying: “We are likely to cover a lot of ground in our meeting today and in subsequent meetings, and at some point we will get to the place where a decision or decisions will need to be made.” Here’s the question:

“When we come to that point, what system or method will you use to help you make that decision?”

Then the buyer responds: “Say what?”

As a seller, how many interviews have you initiated using this introduction? Based on market research, probably not many. But, considering the entire sales process, what could be more important than having a decision track?

If the buyer has no basis or methodology for how they make a decision, how can the seller align their presentation and/or offering to gain an accurate decision? And, if the seller is not prepared with their own alternative model to introduce to the buyer, then maybe there is some homework to consider.

By asking the qualifying question, the seller has plowed the fertile ground of decisioning with the buyer, which should take the focus off of products and services and place it squarely on the decision process.

There are scores of methods and techniques that anyone could snatch off the Internet. But, many are like the following:
  • Pareto analysis
  • Paired comparison
  • Analysis grid PMI
  • Force field analysis
  • Six thinking hats
  • Starbursting
  • Stepladder technique
  • Cost/Benefit analysis
  • Decision trees
Judging by the titles, we can see that these examples (and countless others) are obviously complicated and confusing. A more universal approach would be to adopt a model or system that most anyone could understand. That model could include (among others) a system that:
  • Has been tested and successfully proven over several years
  • Works with both big and small issues and events
  • Requires interactivity, agreement, effective and decisive communication
  • Would ideally include a simple and transferable graphic element
  • Is logical, easily and quickly communicated and develops trust
  • Is consultative rather than “hard selling” in delivery and presentation
  • Serves as a very early and continuing qualifier or eliminator
  • Works across most any industry market, product or service
  • Is a transferable model and can be understood at most any age
The added benefit of a model is that it will be much easier to track and break down any sales, decisioning problem or issue by analyzing each step and their progressive requirements.

On the other hand, if by chance the buyer does have some form of methodology to guide them, you as the seller can get on the same page very quickly, and both parties will realize that the entire sales process has been professionally elevated in that situation.

Even with the extra effort to execute and monitor this process, the goal in all of this should be more accurate, rewarding and profitable decisioning for both the buyer and the seller. That’s good for everyone.

You decide.