How Your Buyers Make Their Decisions – Part 2

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

Man making Decision to choose wayIn Part One of this series, we identified a reason why your buyers make decisions, either by moving away from  a painful scenario or by moving toward a beneficial one.

In this section, we look at another way your buyers decide. Let’s do a quick recap…

People’s decision-making criteria will always give away a lot of information, as they help you understand their beliefs, values and behaviours.
Buyers make decisions based on a series of criteria that makes sense to them. So if you can identify their view, you can determine how best to help them buy your solutions.

One criteria people use to make decisions is called a Frame of Reference. This is determined by where a person’s locus of control is centred. With one buyer, it might be ‘internal’; with another, external.

Have you ever noticed that with some people they know instinctively whether they have made the right decision or not? They have this internal ‘feeling’ or switch that tells them they made the right choice.

Others tend to rely on what others think, how others have used the product before, or what their opinion is on matters. You often see these kind of people take note of what other users on ‘Trip Advisor‘ or ‘Amazon‘ say. If a product or venue has good write-ups, they tend to believe these peers and buy or book accordingly. Similarly, if they give poor write-ups, that may sway their opinions and they may decide not to buy.

This Frame of Reference criteria is known as internal and external or intrinsic and extrinsic.

How do you know what criteria someone uses? Well, the question, ‘What made you choose that?’ when referring to a previous purchase will give you a clue.

Imagine if you asked a prospect, ‘What made you choose ABC when you decided on a supplier?’ and they replied ‘Well, we looked at what other companies were using, narrowed the choice down to three companies, spoke to users about their experience with the suppliers, looked at their client list, and made our decision after speaking to all three suppliers‘.

Notice the external references there? The prospect wanted to know what others’ thoughts were, discussed testimonials, highlighted what other companies were using and found out what their experiences were. They made their decisions based on others’ opinions and thoughts. This is known as an external frame of reference.

Imagine that another prospect answered the same question with, ‘Well, we discussed internally the factors we required, did our own research on three suppliers, checked their credentials online, assessed their professionalism through their websites and then I decided which we would interview as being the best fit. Then, the CEO and myself made the final decision‘.

See the difference here? The decision was made by knowing themselves what they wanted, rather than relying on what others thought and felt.

This is known as an internal frame of reference.Internally-referenced people use their own inner feelings as a guide to evaluate success. They know inside that they have made the right decision and they don’t need others to confirm it. They don’t like being told what to do and think.

Externally-refrenced people need to be confident through others that they have made the right choice. They use feedback and data to justify decisions.

How would you deal with these different criteria? With internally-referenced people, tell them ‘it’s now up to you to decide…what’s your opinion?…how do you feel about it?’

With externally-referenced people, find research from others that back up your claims. Show them testimonials from others who have used you before. Create a list of clients they can get references from. Highlight the results others have achieved.

By determining this particular buying criteria that is used, you are able to influence and persuade the prospect using the specific thinking pattern they use to make most of their decisions. And that will help you achieve a positive decision from them.

In Part 3, we’ll discuss matching and mismatching.

Happy Selling!


Sean McPheat

Sean McPheat
Managing Director

MTD Sales Training | Image courtesy of JS Creationzs at

450 sales questions free report

Originally published: 18 September, 2013

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