The 5 Stages Of The Customer’s Decision Making Process

Young person thinking with a machine head illustrationWhen people make decisions, they have a shift of perspective. That is, they stop wondering about the choices they can make and now start to live with the consequences of that decision.

The word comes from the Latin “Desicio”, literally meaning ‘to cut off from’. So when your prospect makes a decision, he or she is cutting off from any other alternative.

This can be quite frightening for some people, as it mean they have made a choice and they no longer have options. Some may actually feel happy when they have options, as it means they can choose between various things. An actual decision means they have no need to seek further options, and that can make them feel fearful, in case they made the wrong decision and are cut off from other choices.

So, what is the process that most people go through in order to make a buying decision? It’s not always as clear-cut as this, but here’s a six-stage process that would make sense to most buyers:

1) Recognising They Have A Problem. Until that is clear, people would stay in their comfort zone and see no need for a change to the status quo. The only reason a decision has to be made is because the current situation doesn’t match their map of what reality should be. They have to move away from the pain, loss, challenge or problem they are experiencing and toward a solution. You’re there to develop that need and help them on the journey

2) Search For Solution. As soon as the problem/challenge is recognised, the search for the solution can begin. Various criteria are drawn up to determine what would be a successful outcome for the situation as it stands. This is often done on-line but will also involve face-to-face discussions to create the journey towards solving the problem

3) Evaluate Available Solutions. As soon as potential solutions have been verified, the next step is to weigh up the potential for each alternative. Will it help me achieve my goals? Does it fit my decision criteria? Will one option be better than any other? By making the evaluation, the prospect is able to weigh up the consequences of each choice and so ease the fear of making the wrong choice

4) Make The Choice And Decide. This is the crux and will determine the success of the whole process. This ‘cutting-off’ point may be exactly right for the company and solve their challenges immediately. Or it may be the first step on a journey that may take a long time to evolve. Hopefully, the decision-maker has evaluated the pros and cons and made the right decision against the criteria they were basing their decision on.

5) Evaluation Of The Decision. It may take minutes, hours, days or weeks for the final decision to be made. But when it’s been completed, the next stage is to see the value of the service or product in actual use. If it lives up to expectation, then the decision can be verified; if it doesn’t, then recriminations often begin.

It may be only a small decision that is being contemplated, or it could be a massive, long-term venture the company is embarking on. The same process could apply. If you ensure you are there each step of the way on the journey, you create opportunities to assist the prospect in the whole process, hence reducing the fears and giving them confidence that making the decision to go with you was the right one all along.

Happy selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of dollarphotoclub)

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Finding Out Who The Decision-Maker Is

There’s one bug-bear that most salespeople tell us about when we run programmes for them. And it’s the lack of ability to get the decision-maker’s name when calling a company.

Now, I totally understand the rationale behind why many companies have a ‘no-name-policy’ and don’t share the buyer’s names with callers. It saves time and stops hindrance-calls when they aren’t wanted.

But they also miss out on so many opportunities that great companies like yours have available for them. How else are they supposed to know about the new products out there that will save them tons of money, if they don’t let suppliers in on their new products. The old response’ we’ll call you if we’re interested” no longer can apply, because the changes happen so quickly, no company can ever keep up.

When trying to find decision-maker’s names, I always suggest on-line searching first.

Put in the job title of the person who would buy at that company into a search engine like Google. ‘Procurement Manager ABC Ltd’ in speech marks will bring up any reference to them, probably giving you the info you require.

Check out their LinkedIn page too, learning about what they do now and anything about their job function and roles as it stands today.

Go onto their company page on LinkedIn to see what’s happening. It keeps you up-to-date and may offer you some insights and ideas on what to talk about, particularly if their recruiting or expanding their operations.

If you are searching for information over some time, let Google Alerts proactively send you specific information about their company.

All of this will open up chances for you to find out more about the decision-maker.

If all this fails, you can call the company. Ask something like this:

“O, hi, I’m Sean McPheat from MTD. I wonder of you could help me?
I’ve got some important information about training and development, and the changes that are happening over the next few months. Who would be the person to whom I should send it?”

If there’s a no-name-policy there, you can ask ‘What would be the best way to get this important information to the right person?’

If they say for you to send it to an ‘enquiries@’ or ‘help@’ email address, enquire how you will know that it’s got to the right person. It may fall into a black hole, and, as someone who knows how valuable this information is, you want to ensure it gets into the right hands.

Some gatekeepers will tell you to send it to them and they will pass it on. Thank them and get their name, so you can politely follow up in the near future.

When you get the decision-maker’s details, it gives you a great chance to add value immediately and identify how you can build that relationship in the future.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Sales Training

(Image by JS Creationzs at

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