BuyING Facilitation® vs BuyER Facilitation revisited

There seem to be sales trainers who like the term Buying Facilitation™ but haven’t quite understood the definition and are mis-using the term outside of its legal definition. Below, I’m going to reprint the post I wrote on this, including all of the new skills necessary. Should you like the term Buying Facilitation™, it’s necessary to either use the definition as I’ve defined it and used it over the past 20 years, or use the term buyer facilitation if you are using it in a sales context. Thanks. SD

Lately, I’ve noticed folks using the term buyer facilitation. For folks liking the term ‘Buying Facilitation™’ but are thinking ‘sales’, buyer facilitation is a great compromise. For me the difference is simple:

* sales manages the needs assessment/ solution placement end of the buyer’s decision. Buyer facilitation helps buyers choose a solution or vendor, avoid objections, understand their needs in relation to a solution, find the best provider, etc.
* Buying Facilitation™ helps buyers navigate through their political, relationship-based issues that have nothing to do with a purchase or need and everything to do with any potential change issues caused by bringing in something new and that everyone must buy-in to.

Indeed, buyers must manage the internal, human, often non-need related decision issues (facilitated by Buying Facilitation™) before they can consider a purchase (facilitated by sales). (See The Steps to Buying: remembering the human element)


Buying Facilitation™ is basically a change management model; every purchase is a change management problem because of the internal, private issues that buyers must resolve.  Unfortunately for sellers, these internal (often political) issues have little to do with their need or our solution, and we sit and wait while buyers to do this on their own: until they get the necessary buy-in and re-organize around a new solution, they can’t make a purchase. Sales just doesn’t address this end of the buyer’s journey. (See Why Sales Fail)

Here is a complete definition of Buying Facilitation™:
Buying Facilitation™ is a decision facilitation model that uses unique listening and questions skills and acts as an unbiased GPS tool to assist buyers in navigating through their behind-the-scenes change issues to get buy-in to bring in a new solution. It is used pre-sales, and is not oriented around placing a solution or discovering a need. It helps buyers navigate through the internal politics, relationship issues, rules, that fight to maintain the status quo but would need to change to accept a solution. Buying Facilitation™ uses very different skills than sales, and has very different goals.

I named my model Buying Facilitation™ because it’s precisely what we need to be doing as a precursor to our sales activity. It offers new skills (Facilitative Questions, Presumptive Summaries, Systems Listening, Decision Sequencing, all developed by me) to offer buyers capability to manage that important meeting between colleagues over lunch, the fight that needs to be resolved between department heads, or the political issues that always get in the way. (See Resistance to change: inexplicable, irrational, and real).

Buyers must manage their off-line, politically-driven change issues before they can consider making a purchase even if they have a need that is an absolute fit with a seller’s solution. (How many times have you seen the perfect client fail to buy? This is why.) Sales manages the tail end of the buying decision – the solution end. Sellers sometimes have a hard time with this concept because they are still thinking ’sales.’ But both models are necessary. We’ve just never had skills that help buyers navigate through the private stuff before.

My colleague David Deans recently used the term ‘buyer facilitation’ in a blog. Here is his definition: “The context in which I use the words buyer, seller, guidance, enablement or facilitation together is totally generic in nature — relative to the traditional commercial buying-cycle.” In other words, guiding and enabling the buyer toward a purchase. In that context, buyer facilitation is part of the sales process, and helps the sellers manage the placement of the solution, and how the solution will be chosen to fill the need: in relation to other vendors, price, solutions, and solution/need fit.


For those of you having difficulty understanding the difference between Buying Facilitation™ and buyer facilitation, or are having some confusion around sales thinking vs change management thinking, let me tell you in far greater detail than you ever wanted to know what I’m doing here. If you find yourself falling asleep, please feel free to stop reading. This is a level of detail I rarely, if ever, share.

Here are details of Buying Facilitation™ skills:

  1. Managing Internal Decision Making: I’ve coded the 3 phases all decisions go through as they go from unconscious to conscious, strategic to tactical. Everyone uses these decision phases, regardless of  the type of decision. These phases are written about in detail in my book Dirty Little Secrets.
  2. Managing How Appropriate Factors Get Considered: Different from conventional questions that pull data, Facilitative Questions pull unconscious criteria from where it’s ’stored’ in the brain (indexes, or indicies), using the proper words to ensure that the appropriate considerations are taken into account. To formulate Facilitative Questions demands the questioner listen for systems, not content, and be unbiased – biased only by the knowledge of systems and decision phases. Why is this necessary? Because people must pull together all of their conscious and unconscious criteria before making a decision; the time it takes them to do this is the length of the decision cycle. They need to do this anyway (We never make decisions that go against our values.). In sales, Facilitative Questions illuminate internal, private decision issues (people, policies, problems, vendor issues, money issues, alternate solution choices, rules, history, etc) that need to buy-in to any change.
  3. Managing How People Recognize All Options: Presumptive Summaries help with the thinking process. They bring together the underlying messages that are part of critical thinking. These actually make conscious some unconscious choices.
  4. Managing How Sellers Become GPS Systems And Change Agents: No one has ever taught us how to listen for systems. This skill enables the seller (or coach or influencer) to formulate the Facilitative Questions and Presumptive Summaries without bias.

As you can see, the skills of Buying Facilitation™ are based on being a neutral navigator to help Others manage the private decisions they must address before being willing to change… regardless of their need!

I hope I didn’t bore you.  But I hope that you now understand the difference between Buying Facilitation™ and buyer facilitation. If you’re using the term in sales, buyer facilitation is your term. I’m happy to start a discussion here, or contact me at


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