Uncover your prospect's decision-making process with these five questions

21 July 2015 Karan Vidal

Understanding the simplicity or complexity of a prospect’s decision-making process is an important aspect of qualifying a sales lead.

Asking the right questions early on can save time, effort and disappointment. As a general rule, the larger the company, the more complicated their decision-making process will be. Do yourself a favour and ask these questions upfront.

What’s the need?

Selling to a company who doesn’t need your services is like a dog chasing its tail. Start by finding out whether they’re already using what you have to offer.

If your offering is new, they’ll need persuading of the benefits.

Is your service already being offered? Find out who the competitors are and how you can out-perform them .

Ask these questions to get a better understanding of whether your prospect needs what you’re selling:

1.What they do
2.What they buy
3.How they buy
4.When they buy
5.Can they afford what you’re selling?
6.What they expect from a supplier

Who’s the top dog?

alt

The next thing to find out is who’s going to make the final decision to approve or refuse the purchase. This could be an individual or a board. Finding out who has the final say can be a bit tricky. You can use LinkedIn to find out who’ll give the go-ahead.

Already have a contact? Avoid potentially bruising their ego by directly asking them whether the final decision rests with them. Stay away from asking closed questions like, “do you have the final say about taking our product or service?” You may get head-nodding like the Churchill dog, even though your contact has no ‘teeth’ to make decisions. Some people may not want to admit that they’re not the leader of the pack. Use some tact when finding out who the ‘head honcho’ is.

Making these enquiries will help:

1.What’s your company’s process for getting this approved?
2.What needs to happen to move this forward?
3.Who else needs to get involved to complete this process?

Who are the other decision-makers?

alt

Official

Frederick E. Webster and Yoram Wind’s concept of the buying centre was developed nearly 40 years ago but still holds true today. The buying centre is all the people who take part in the decision to purchase. In today’s businesses, the roles may be fluid depending on the structure.

There are six roles in the buying centre:

1.Initiators
2.Users
3.Influencers
4.Approvers
5.Buyers
6.Gatekeepers

Unofficial

The unofficial decision-makers are also known as the kitchen cabinet. This informal group will be tapped by the CEO for opinions about how and when to spend money. They’ll be the influencers in the buying centre. It’s not unusual for decisions to be made after speaking with the kitchen cabinet and then brought to the board for rubber-stamping.

This ad hoc group also exist in the world of politics. Although it can be very difficult to identify this group, it’s important to try to find out who these people are to make sure they’re targeted. They’re rarely officially recognised, despite their power.

The following are candidates of the kitchen cabinet:

1.CFO
2.Head of HR
3.A trusted board-member

What’s the timeline?

Identifying the length of time your prospect takes to make a decision will help with planning your content marketing.

If the decision will take a year, then messages of reassurance, like case studies can be sent out every quarter.

The key is that the prospect must not be allowed to forget you. Schedule your content on regular intervals so they’ll keep you top of mind.

Have I asked enough questions?

alt

Be bold when questioning your prospect about their decision-making processes. Some businesses don’t have a formal process. It’s up to you to ask as many questions as possible to get them focused.
There’s no guarantee that your questions will be answered, but nothing ventured nothing gained.

Asking your prospects these seven questions will help you to work out how they give the yae or nay to what you’re selling:

1.If you want what’s on offer, what has to happen?
2.What’s the purchase order process?
3.Are there any political factors to be aware of during this process?
4.What or who could be wildcards to stop this process?
5.When are you likely to make a decision?
6.Why is the chosen decision date important?
7.Are there different sign-offs for varying amounts of expenditure?

Knowing how your prospect makes decisions can save you time and effort. It also helps you to focus your efforts on who to schmooze to get the deal.