Buying Patterns, Buy Cycle, Buying Decisions

As sales professionals, I’m sure you recognize that the sales model is merely a solution placement model: it ignores the behind-the-scenes human issues that buyers must address and decide on prior to buying, leaving sales people outside the meat of the decisions during the largest portion of the buying decision path.

I realized the flaw in the model as an entrepreneur of a tech company in London. As a successful sales person during the 70s, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to start up a tech company in London  in 1983.  My personal situation drove my discovery. At that time my then-husband was the Tech Director and we were going through a tough divorce; when sellers came to pitch products I sorely needed,  they merely discussed needs and solutions, leaving me and my staff on our own to contend with to the  decisions we’d need to address to make a purchase, to make a change. That was the ‘aha’ moment:  sales does not offer a model to help buyers get the necessary buy-in and make the needed shifts to accept a solution that will (in almost every instance) somehow disrupt their status quo.

As a result, I developed a decision facilitation model based on systems thinking that helps buyers to navigate through their internal, private buying decision  path, handle their buy cycles, and recognize all of the behind-the-scenes buying patterns they’d need to put in place to get ready to buy.  I called the model Buying Facilitation(r) and taught both my sales folks and my tech guys in order to efficiently influence change management during both buying decisions and project management.

When I began writing about these issues in the 90s, I coined the terms  Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Path, Buying Decisions, Buying Patterns, Helping Buyers Buy. At the time, folks laughed when they heard them.  Then, the sales field took them over.


This week I heard Bill Gates talk about buying patterns . Lately I’ve noticed sellers world-wide talking about the buy cycle and buying decisions , and I watch while my coined terms become part of the sales vocabulary. Unfortunately, the  original intent of the terms  is being ignored and they are being used as the new buzz words in ‘sales’. But make no mistake: they were coined to address the behind-the-scenes issues buyers must handle before they can make a buying decision  – the internal politics, timing issues, relationship issues, tech issues, collaboration issues.

There are actually 13 steps buyers must take before making a purchase, and only 2 of them are handled by the sales model. And here is a rule: until or unless everyone who will touch the solution agrees to making a change, until old technology fits with new technology, until everyone who will share budget or touches the solution agrees, until the tech folks are talking with the sales and marketing folks, there will be no purchase as it will be too disruptive.

Obviously, use the terms as you wish. But please, please, do not ignore the behind-the-scenes decision issues the terms were meant to highlight. Sadly, the sales model doesn’t offer you a consistent, scalable tool kit to support relationship or political issues or manage change. And, it does little good to ‘know who the decision makers are’ as an outsider cannot comprehend or influence the insiders who share history.

I beg you to read Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it to learn about the buying decision process. You may choose to design another model to address these back-end issues since very different skills are needed to manage change. But since these issues make up 90% of the buying decision path, and you’re only focusing on needs assessment and solution placement while sitting and hoping for the buyer to drop in your lap, create your own model to manage this end of the path. Just don’t expect the sales model to do it for you.


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