Direct Route To Closing More Sales, Faster,
Through Mapping The
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Standard equipment for sales people is a good set of maps
to help determine the best routes through their territories and to their customers. While
virtually every salesperson can tell you the most direct route to a specific customer, how
many of these sales people develop a map of their customers decision-making process?
Weve encountered thousands of sales people that, when
pressed, cannot really articulate the process by which their customers will choose them,
their competitors or some other alternative. Not knowing the customer decision making
process is comparable to driving a random route to reach your customer: You may or may not
reach your objective. If you do reach your objective, it is usually after wasting a lot of
time and resources.
We have developed a tool to help the sales professional
understand the most direct route to closing a sale. Using this tool consistently will
focus you on the issues critical to your customer, help you identify the role each
individual plays in making the decision, and identify critical people to call on to reach
your goal. We have found that sales people using this tool create more value in their
relationships with their customers and close more sales faster.
What is a Customer Decision-Making Process
The Customer Decision-Making Process Map identifies
The Key Decision-Maker (KDM), the Approver, and all
Influencers in a specific sales opportunity.
It identifies and prioritizes the key issues for each
participant in the decision making process.
It identifies the communications and decision-making style
of each participant.
It identifies the relationships between the participants.
It identifies your relationship with each participant.
It helps you identify whom you need to call on next and for
Figure 1 identifies the Customer Decision-Making Process
Map for a mythical manufacturing company. Having the map, we can start to
determine the actions we must take to close the sale. Should we call on Jones to
demonstrate how our solution will give her greater productivity improvements than any
other alternatives? Should we seek to convert her to an ally? When we call on her, we
probably should not spend much time on cost, so long as we can demonstrate that the
payback goals will be achieved. What should we do with Doe? Can we convert Doe into a
neutral or ally? If we do, our argument must be based strictly on financial benefits and
not on the capabilities of our solution. What should we do with Johnson? Can we move
Johnson into an ally position? Because Johnson is very political, what influence will the
others have on his recommendations? Clearly, White "feels the pain" with his
problem and is our ally. Can White help us move our recommendation ahead? What if Jones
pays more attention to Does opinion than she does to Whites or Johnsons?
When should we call on Smith and for what purpose?
Having the Customer Decision-Making Process Map enables
us to clearly chart the most effective route to closing the sale. It enables us to focus
on those people critical to the decision, their issues and priorities. We can clearly
identify our exposures and opportunities to improve our position.
This is not an organization chart!
As sales people start to use this tool, one of the biggest
errors they make is drawing the customer organization chart, not the Customer
Decision-Making Process Map . In complex sales situations, many people across
the organization are involved in the decision. Our job is to identify the key
participants, to understand their role and priorities and to understand their relationship
with the other participants.
Figure 2 shows a simplified organization chart for our
mythical manufacturing company. If we had tried to portray the decision-making process on
an organizational chart, it would have been impossible. We may have wasted time on people
not involved in the decision, not addressing the needs of the decision-makers. Or worst
yet, we may have spent all our time with the marketing people (since White is the one with
the problem) and totally missed our key decision-maker (KDM), the approver and the others
involved. What if our competition was spending time with them?
How do you start to build the Customer
Decision-Making Process Map ?
Like the companies that build the road maps we cited at the
top of the article, we use map-making experts: our customers! Who better to ask to help
you build this Decision-Making Process? Using our manufacturing company, ask White to draw
the Decision-Making Process. Give him a pencil and paper and let him talk. Listen and
probe to help him develop an initial view of the process. Dont stop there!
Make sure you identify and prioritize the top 3-4 issues
for each participant. Generally, not anything beyond these is significant to the decision.
Identify their role and characterize their style. Are they financially driven?
Operationally driven? Visionary and growth oriented? Politically oriented? Finally, what
is your relationship with each? Are they allies? Neutral? Do they prefer the competitor or
As you meet with others in the company (both those involved
in the decision and those close to it) ask their perspectives of the Decision-Making
Process. As you get the different views, consolidate them into one view. Use this to
re-confirm the process with the participants (It is probably wise to keep the
decision-making style and your relationship on your own private version of the map. Doe
may not take kindly to being called the enemy!) Doing this assures that you focus your
time on the people and issues critical to their decision, not wasting their time or your
time on other areas.
Some maps are very simple. A single individual is the
approver, key decision-maker and influencer. In this case the map is one box and can be
done in your mind. More often, however, we find that most sales people face very complex
or confusing decision-making processes. Taking the time to draw the process on a single
sheet of paper helps to simplify the process and improve effectiveness.
Hidden benefit to this process!
In developing this map with many of our own clients, we
have found that they have not really thought about their Decision-Making Process! They may
not have established criteria. They may understand the various roles in the decision.
Often we find that we are in the role of helping them develop the Decision-Making Process.
We become their consultants in identifying the critical criteria and helping them make the
best decisions for their company. While some of the issues we identify may not be
favorable to our solution, more often we find ourselves in a position of being most
favored in the critical issues. Additionally, we have established the rapport and
relationships with the key participant in the decision.
Becoming comfortable with this tool requires practice. Once
you become comfortable with the basics outlined above, there are many extensions. Consider
including yourself and your competition in the map. Both of you influence the
Decision-Making Process! You can even include influence lines and other elements to
further refine and improve the effectiveness of the tool. Share this with your teammates
to determine how each person should drive the process.
Try using this tool in your next five sales opportunities.
Then dont use it in the following five. Compare the results. Is your sales cycle
shorter? Are you winning more opportunities? Are you focusing on the issues most critical
to your customers and not wasting your time on others? Or are you doing a random walk
through the selling process, relying on luck, or wasting more time and resource than
Like the using a road-map, you will find that Customer
Decision-Making Process Map gives you the most effective and direct route to
closing more sales, more quickly.
Partners In EXCELLENCE
provides customized training on developing Customer Decision-Making Maps.
For information on the
Dimensions Of EXCELLENCE training programs, follow the
Customer Decision-Making Process Map is an
element of the proprietary selling process established by Partners In EXCELLENCE. Specific
techniques and extensions to the approach outlined in the article are available through
seminars we conduct.
Customer Decision-Making Process Map is
registered to Partners In EXCELLENCE. It is a proprietary tool that can be licensed
to users. For more information, please contact us.
© 1997 Partners In EXCELLENCE. All rights reserved.