Decision Teams: Who Is On Them and How Do We Interact?

    January 9, 2006

Our jobs as sellers have changed: the net has taken over a good portion of our sales job.

We’ve begun to understand how important the buyer’s decision is. Indeed, it always has played the pivotal role in the buying process: we just didn’t know what to do about it.

For some reason, however – and hopefully this is the sales profession’s last gasp – sellers seem to think that they have to drive the sale. In reality, it’s the buyer. It’s always been the buyer. The only control we’ve ever had over the buying process is the way we deliver our content. We’ve had no earthly idea of what is going on within the buyer’s buying environment, although we pride ourselves on understanding the specifics of the problem our product resolves. And, until I developed the Buying Facilitation Method, there was no way to get deeply imbedded within the buyer’s culture to support the range of decisions that a new purchase would demand.


Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? They are two different activities. And the best that sellers can do is to have control over the content, and recognize how and when to ensure the product gets adopted appropriately, in the right way, in the right environment, and with integrity.

The buyer is the only one – THE ONLY ONE – who has the means, the knowledge, the political influence, and the capacity to align and manage all of the internal elements that need to be addressed before a buying decision can be made. For some reason – sellers, like change managers, coaches, and consultants – believe that because they recognize and understand the area immediately around the problem that their product solves, and they’ve seen it countless times, they know how the buyer needs to buy.


Let’s take a look at those assumptions. First of all, the belief here is that the problem that needs a solution is sitting in an island all by itself – that it developed by itself, and only interacts with those departments and solutions that immediately touch it.

This is a faulty assumption. Like my clients with a large electronic banking solution who waited 2 years before their prospect figured out there was a union problem that had to be managed (and all the while my client was partnering with the CIO, CTO and CFO who helped them design a fabulous electronic solution) before they could buy. There was no way my client would have known to ask about, or resolve, a union problem from his position as sales professional (or Partner, in this case).

We will never know how a problem got to be sitting there, awaiting a solution.

Next: our belief that we have control over the purchase and the decision team is arrogant. We have control over one thing, and one thing only: our product. Yes, we can tell that the buyer needs us. Yes, it is obvious to us that our product will solve the problem. And, yes, we’re consultants’, relationship managers’, and trusted advisors’; we care’ about our customers; and we will only’ sell our product to the buyers who need’ it. Oh one more thing: we certainly ask the right’ questions so we know that the customer really needs our product. Right.

But of course, those are just words and we’re in the same position we’ve been in for decades, of not centuries: we still close no more then 7% of our prospective sales. It we really had control over the issues we think we know about, we would have closed a lot more sales in a lot less time.

Our buyers don’t need to buy our product. They need to solve a business problem. If our product is a part of their solution, then they’ll buy it. If they can fix the problem themselves with familiar resources, or design an easier solution, or design a solution that chooses one of our competitors for some unknown reason, they’ll do it. No matter how smart you are, how wonderous your product is, or how much they like you, buyers buy only when your product fits into their business solution.

One last thing: as outsiders we have no idea – no idea – what other areas of the company (or team, or family) were involved in creating and maintaining the problem, and what people or initiatives or rules or relationships are connected in some way with a solution. If it’s a software solution you have, maybe your buyer needs to address user groups who may need to learn new software. Or HR directors for hiring issues, or the CIO who needs to ensure that new software will collaborate effectively with old software, or the architects who are working on moving people around so that they can work together, or the managers of the user groups who don’t have the time or buy-in to learn new software, etc.


It’s not about you. It’s not about your product. And you don’t have control. Your job is not to sell. It’s to help your buyers recognize, align, and manage all of the internal criteria they need to address before they’ll make a purchasing decision, so they will not create chaos or disruption when something new enters their environment.

Sellers need to use their unique position to teach buyers how to manage their own buying environment. It’s not product specific, nor does it employ product pitches or presentations. In fact, the process sits on the front end of sales as we’ve known it. And once the buyer recognizes all of the elements that need to be managed before they’ll design their solution (remember that they won’t buy until they’ve come up with their own answers), then you can pitch and present your product.

Remember: all decisions need to go through some process of buy-in, and, unless it’s a small personal item, most likely include more than one decider. It’s just not your decision as to who sits on that decision team. It’s your job merely to serve prospects in a way that leads them through all of the decision criteria they need to address. Not YOUR decision criteria. Theirs. And remember that you can never know all of the elements that they need to account for in order to come to a final decision.

Yo’uve got a new job now; it’s not to sell product anymore. So stop selling, and teach your buyers how to buy. It hasn’t worked more than 7% of the time until now. Why not give it a try?

Should you wish to learn more about this, go to and purchase my ebook Buying Facilitation: the new way to sell that expands and influences decisions