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)

How To Make Sure You’re Selling The “Right Kind Of Value”

selling goldWhat was that? You mean, there are different kinds of value the customer is looking for?

Boy, I thought it was hard enough selling value to my customer, and now you’re telling me that there may be different ways that they evaluate value! What can I do about that?

This is often the reaction when we discussion the concept of selling value on our courses. It can be puzzling to the salesperson when the prospect highlights differing values that they will require to be dealt with during the sales process.

There are basically four types of values that a prospect will be judging your offerings against: Strategic, operational, political and psychological.

They may tell you endlessly that operational issues are the main criteria they will use to assess the benefits of your products. What will they be able to accomplish if they choose you? What savings will I be able to present to the board? How successful will my project be if I use your services?

Operational and even strategic and political issues will come into play if you are selling at a high level. Yet, the drive of the psychological values is most often the ones that are most powerful.

You don’t need to be told that people buy products and services to help them fulfil deep-seated psychological needs. You know that already. But what needs specifically are catered for by using your products and services?

The main psychological values are ensuring survival, avoiding pain, being part of a group and satisfying the ego. Anything else they may say they need (return on investment, the lowest cost per unit, highest production ratio to cost, etc.) is really a means to an end…the need being one of the psychological needs above.

When we asked one client of ours why they continued to use us, the summary was really interesting. This is what was said: “When we first started using you, we knew you weren’t the cheapest. In some areas, your competitors were even better. But we knew that we wanted a long-term relationship, and to be able to get on with the trainers and support team. That was more important to us, and you were the only company we trusted could offer that for us.”

We recognised that trust was really important for this client, and that equated to avoiding the pain of making a wrong decision, plus satisfying the ego. Everything else fitted into place when those psychological needs were dealt with.

These needs can override other, more outward-looking analyses that customers may feel they require. Decisions are made on an emotional basis, and justified later with logic. What the customer may perceive to be a rational need really turns out to be an emotional want.

For example, “We need the lowest price per unit” actually turns out to be “I want to show my boss I can drive a hard bargain, so he sees me as assertive and respects my judgement.

Also, “We need delivery within one week” actually turns out to be “If I can get such a quick delivery, I will show those people in accounts that I can be trusted after all”.

So, try to identify the psychological reason why the value is so important to the prospect, and you’ll see opportunities that may not have been evident before.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training
(Image courtesy of mistermong at FreeDigitalPhotos.Net)

Change From Being Effective To Affective

I had a very interesting conversation with one of my clients this week.

We had trained many of his sales people, and he wanted more development for a select few of his team who had been with the company for a relatively long time, but had plateaued in their performance and their results. He said he wanted this band of sales guys to be more effective in their sales conversations.

I asked him to be more precise. His comments showed me that his ideas weren’t going far enough.

By being more effective, he said he wanted them to achieve more sales and get better results. I replied that the only way he would achieve that is if his team concentrated less on effectiveness and put more emphasis on affectiveness.

‘What’s the difference?’ he asked. And I hear you asking the same thing.

Effective can be defined as successfully achieving the result that you want. Affective includes appealing to the emotions of the prospect and puts the emphasis on ‘doing’. It’s an active verb that conveys the feeling of drive, motion, energy. When you affect someone or something, you proactively influence the decisions they make. The result is the ‘effect’ that you have on the company or individual.

So if you think of what you can do to ‘affect’ people’s decisions, it gives you and your prospect strong motivation to make changes. If you emphasise what the differences will be if they take your advice, you build a great deal of trust and get them to listen to you, because they see the results they will achieve.

The end result is that you become effective. But affective comes first. Think of it like a strong wind blowing in from the north. It affects the temperature at any given time. The effects are felt later on the ground, the results being frost or snow or ice.

So, just like I discussed with my client, by putting the focus on affecting the prospect’s decision-making criteria, you get them to see the end result before they start. Their thought processes are affected by what you say and do, and the end effects are the results of listening to your ideas.

This change in emphasis made my client think about what his sales team needs to do to induce action out of their prospects, and we will be putting a programme together that will have an affect on their techniques, so they will get effective results!

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat
Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

Transitioning From Presenting To Gaining Commitment

There comes a time in every salesperson’s discussion with a prospect when they need to change tack and get to the decision-making bit. You know…grabbing the prospect by the throat and saying  ‘Look, this is what you NEED…when are you gonna say YES?!!!”

I know it’s a little forward, but that essentially is what you want to say to them. And you’re probably saying/shouting/screaming it in your mind anyway!

Well, the best way to approach this part of the discussion is not by presenting solutions at all. It’s by recommending what you suggest the client does next. If you’ve built up rapport and got the desire running through their veins, your transition to gaining commitment should be a natural progression of the conversation. Everything you’ve done in the call so far (preparation, working with the gatekeeper, information-gathering, interest-creating, desire-building, questioning-and-listening, researching and deliberating) should have laid the foundation for the transition to gaining commitment.

When you know what needs to be done to fill your prospect’s needs, you can recommend what needs to be done next.

Initial Stage Of The Transition

“Mr Prospect, based on what you’ve told me about your company needs and your existing situation, along with your current supply challenges, I believe I have something that will help you earn more profit per unit and counteract some of the problems you’re facing currently”

This clears the way for you to start talking about solutions because the prospect knows there will be something of benefit for them.

Gain Confirmation That You’ve Understood

“Let’s review our understanding of where we are at the moment. You’ve said you’re not entirely happy with the service levels of your current supplier, and you believe there may be some mileage in looking around at what else might be available. Also, you’ve tried renegotiating the credit arrangements, but found them to be unwilling to move very far. And you sometimes question the quality of back-up service you get. Now, have I summed that up correctly?”

Not only does this prove you’ve been listening effectively, but you also accentuate the pain associated with the current position in the prospect’s mind.

Recommend The Results That Will Come If They Follow The Next Steps

“Mr Prospect, I understand why all that is so important to you. How beneficial would it be to have your own account manager who would take care of all these issues for you, so you can concentrate on what’s important to your business instead of wasting valuable time on dealing with these issues? How much time would you save?”

Make sure you concentrate on what results the prospect would expect from your solution. Don’t focus on your product or service and what it does. They don’t buy the product…they buy the results the product will bring (peace of mind, money-savings, time-savings, increased productivity, improved morale, etc, etc). After going through the results, ask them ‘Would that be OK? Is that something that would save you money?’

Gain Commitment

“Mr Prospect, from our discussions we’ve seen that you’d start saving £x per week. It makes sense for us to explore more details of how we could start those savings as early as possible for you. When would be the best time to start?”

This gains agreement on the next action, which could consist of downloading your information, agreeing to a trial or making the commitment to buy. Whatever the agreement, it takes the discussions further and helps you create opportunities for advancing the sale.

Transitioning from your presentation to recommending commitment doesn’t have to be a tortuous journey. Done correctly, you help them see the next step on the road is one where they will benefit from saying yes. And that will help you both to achieve your end goals.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Sales Training

(Image by Digital Art at

“Stick Out Your Tongue And Say Ahh…” To Build Sales Value

You’ve spent years perfecting your craft and learning everything there is to know about what you sell and the competition. However, you have to be careful not to allow that knowledge to flow too swiftly.

The Instant Response
Of course, some products and services require light-speed responses, but selling most products and services today, requires more of a consultative approach. The problem that often befalls experienced sales professionals is that they answer questions too quickly and solve problems too easily.

From extensive experience and knowledge, the sales person knows within minutes exactly what the prospect’s problems are and the precise combination of products and services to offer. However, when that determination appears to come too fast and without much effort, it diminishes the value.

The Examination
Let me try to explain with the following analogy.

Not feeling well, you go to your doctor’s office. From the symptoms you wrote down on the appointment sheet, the doctor already knows exactly what the problem is. She has seen 20 other patients in the last few weeks with identical symptoms and identified the local virus that’s going around town. Before even seeing you, the doctor is near certain of the problem and the solution.

The Good Doctor
However, a good doctor will still take some time to ask questions and perform some type of an examination.

“So how long have you been feeling this way?” “Have you changed your diet?” “How is your appetite?” etc. The doctor begins to utter those famous phrases that show she is deep in thought in consideration of your case… “Uhm-um.” and “I see…”

Finally, after the, “Open your mouth and say ahh…” the doctor informs you of the virus, prescribes the medication and sets a follow up appointment.

Too Fast
Imagine however, the doctor who walks in and without even speaking to you, or checking you out just says, “You have a virus, take two of these pills, drink plenty of fluids and call me next week.” And then walks out!

The doctor builds the value of her services by properly recognising the value and severity of the problem.

The Consultative Response
When you solve issues and answer questions too quickly, you can unwittingly diminish the significance of the problem.

When you diminish the significance of the problem, you simultaneously lower the value of the solution TO the problem. Does that make sense?

Slow down. Don’t be so quick to blurt out answers, and that includes answering objections. Just because you can solve some problems or issues in a matter of seconds, does not always mean you should.

The more severe the problem is, the more valuable the solution will be.

Happy Selling!


Sean McPheat
MTD Sales Training

(Image byImagery Majestic)

Still Confused About Modern Day Selling? Watch Sean McPheat In Action At The ISMM

Sales 2.0 and modern day selling are hot topics right now, as more and more sales professionals and business owners are seeing the benefits of applying these concepts within their day-to-day sales processes.

Social media and the internet have become big players in the business world, but few professionals really understand how to use these online tools to develop their sales techniques and generate qualified leads.

As many of you will know by now, MTD Sales Training’s MD Sean McPheat is at the forefront of the modern day selling revolution, and has written a bestselling book on the subject– entitled eselling® – which provides readers with a step by step guide on how to use social media and the internet to prospect, network and engage with the c-suite decision maker online.

In November of last year, Sean was invited to give a keynote presentation of the concept of eselling® to over 1,000 sales professionals from across Europe at the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management’s (ISMM) Successful Selling Conference at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry.

The short video above is a quick excerpt from Sean’s presentation on modern day selling at the ISMM, which will give you a good overview of what eselling® is really about, and how you can put these techniques into practice within your business.

Before I sign off, here are some more tips on becoming a great sales person:




Louise Denny

Marketing Manager

Should You “Wing It” or Have A Structured Sales Interaction?

Whenever the idea of a planned presentation comes up, usually the first thing sales people think about is a “canned script.” In a canned script, I am referring to the old-fashioned, smile-and-dial era, word-for-word, rehearsed, “Pitch.” Such was a primary tool of sales people, in particular telemarketers, years ago. Alternatively, we had the opposite of the canned spiel with the show up and throw up method, where sales people just walked in and did whatever they thought came natural.

While most sales professionals have rose above the smile and dial pitch, the question arises of the validity of using a planned sales presentation today. While not exactly a throw-up tactic, many still believe it is best to know all you can know about your product and prospect, and then just go in and let the sales interaction flow impromptu, directed by the prospect’s interests. So, dealing with today’s modern and educated buyer, should you play-it-by-ear and wing it, or use a planned and structured sales interaction?

Defining a Planned Sales Interaction
I believe that for the majority of selling situations, you should use a well-planned and structured sales presentation; but allow me to define exactly what I mean.

Although with a planned presentation, you may have a few words or phrases that you might use verbatim, I am not talking about a canned script. By a planned presentation, I am referring to “a thoroughly interactive, yet totally controlled methodical process that systemically moves the sale through incremental, yet critical stages, accomplishing interim goals at each step, while maximizing the odds of closing the sale.”

You can keep your sales interaction feeling impromptu, but you must have a way to control the direction and outcomes. You should have a step-by-step process that leads to a successful conclusion. In such, you can maintain the flexibility to adapt to responses, yet keep the process on track towards a narrow objective.

A Strategy
A Planned sales interaction is a strategy. With a planned interaction, you want to know what you need to accomplish at each stage of the presentation. For instance, in your first step, you may want to design proper seating arrangements as soon as you arrive. Or you may want to find out more about the prospect’s delivery systems during your warm-up talk. Perhaps you need to uncover more about the current contract the prospect has with a competitor.

In your second stage, perhaps you need to uncover exactly how much the prospect is spending on the outdated system, how much time their people are wasting due to lack of training. It is a plan on what you need to accomplish and when.

Planned VS Canned
So what is the difference between a planned sales interaction and a canned pitch?

A Canned Script – PUSHES: Pushes benefits, forces ideas, and minimises interaction.
A Planned Structure – Pulls: Pulls out problems, uncovers pain and maximises interaction.

A Canned Script – SUPPRESSES: Suppresses responses and objections and stifles emotion.
A Planned Structure – EXTRACTS: Extracts responses and objections early or avoids them and stimulates emotion.

A Canned Script – TELLS: Tells the prospect things.
A Planned Structure – ASKS: Asks the prospect questions.

In dealing with today’s sophisticated and educated buyer, now more than ever, you need to have a well-thought-out plan. You must have a strategy to accomplish every sales goal, including just setting an appointment.

Happy Selling!


Sean McPheat
MTD Sales Training

3 Critical Reasons Why You Should NEVER Reveal The Price Until You’ve Built Up The Value

You know the age-old Golden Rule—“Do not reveal the price until the end.” Even if you are new to sales, management has told you that you have to wait until the closing stages before you tell the prospect the price.

However, does such a rule or concept still have merit, especially in dealing with today’s modern and educated buyer? Since today’s prospect has instant access to a ton of information about what you sell before you even show up, and they are so short on time; does it still make sense to hold out on the price, even if the prospect is demanding to know?

In a word…YES!! Below are three critical reasons why you should still never reveal the price until you have built significant value.

#1. Price is Irrelevant Until You Have Established the Value
For your product or service to have any value to the prospect, the prospect must have a NEED for that product or service. Before you can establish a need, there must be a solution. Before there can be a solution, you must unearth a problem. The significance of the problem for which the product is a solution, determines its value. Until there is such a value, the price is meaningless. The following analogy, though absurdly fictitious, will help demonstrate the point.

If I came to sell you a gigantic inflatable chair and I told you that the price for this huge, pink blow-up chair is £600, would you buy it? Would you consider it for a discounted price of only £350? You would have to think that such a child’s toy is not worth more than £10.

However, what if I informed you that the local reservoir dam just collapsed, the equivalent of a small tsunami is on the way, and in a few minutes, the entire town is going to be 20 feet under water. Now if I asked £10,000 for that same chair, you would consider it a bargain.

The price is irrelevant until you have established value.

#2. The Prospect’s Ability to Listen Disappears After They Hear the Price
The moment you reveal the price, the prospect makes a buying decision. On hearing the price, the prospect feels they have all of the information they need, and makes a mental decision (usually negative), and that’s it. The prospect now has a closed-mind, and deems any additional information unnecessary. It becomes near impossible to build value after you have revealed the price.

#3. Price Before Value Creates a False “Price vs. Value” Perception
The sale takes place when, to the prospect, the value exceeds the price. This is not about money. It is about perception and expectations in the prospect’s mind that determine how they feel about the offer. It is about emotion. When you quote a price before establishing value, it creates the perception of a price that far outweighs the value. No matter how you try to build value after revealing the price, you cannot change that feeling, because you cannot, (significantly or justifiably), change the price.

Conversely, if you build the value before price, in the prospect’s mind that price will be greater than the value. If you have done a reasonable job building value, then when you finally reveal the price, it should be but a fraction of the established value. Therefore, the prospect perceives the price to be far less than excepted and thus a proper price vs. value perception results.

And how exactly should you respond to the prospect who asks you for the price upfront?

Here’s how:

“James, there are a lot of options and variables that we need to take into consideration before I can give you an accurate figure. Is it ok if I ask you a couple of questions to get some further information so I know which one of our products/service would be the right one for you?”

A lot has changed when it comes to dealing with today’s modern buyer. However, holding on to that price until after you have built the value, is one concept that must stay the same.

Happy Selling!


Sean McPheat
Bestselling Author, Sales Authority & Speaker On Modern Day Selling Methods

MTD Sales Training