Decision Facilitation: Influencing The Offline Decisions

buying decision to do listLately, I’ve heard a few folks using the term that I have been using for 20: decision facilitation.

But what, exactly, does that mean?

Since I suspect there is a good chance I was the person who first put those particular words together – especially in the sales field – I’d like to offer my definition.

Sales manages the solution placement end of the buying decision. It does a good job gathering data about needs, sharing data about products and solutions, and creating trusting relationships.

But it doesn’t handle the offline issues that buyers have to manage before they can buy.

What happens when the guy from the other department shows up with his favorite vendor who can handle a portion of what you want to resolve? How ’bout that new initiative that proclaims no new vendors? What about the tech team that wants to do it on their own? Or the new director who wants to be involved with everything, and doesn’t like your prospect?

We’ve sat and waited while our customers figure this stuff out.

We’d like to think that the strength of our solution and our relationship management will rule the day. But given our 10% (or less) closing ratios, we know that we’re missing a piece and out of control far more frequently than we’d like to think.

Decision Facilitation

There is actually a string of things that buyers need to address before they make a buying decision. I developed a decision facilitation model that I’ve named Buying Facilitation™ that leads the buyer (and their decision teams) through their path of unknowable stuff they need to address before they can choose a solution.

Unfortunately, it’s not stuff we can control. On the face of it, it’s stuff that has nothing to do with our solution. We’ve never been taught an additional set of skills to help buyers maneuver through the sorts of decisions around people and policies, rules or relationships, that only reside in their culture, and are often pretty personal in nature.

Mostly the stuff they need to figure out seems to have absolutely nothing to do with their need or our solution. It’s in-fighting, or historic stuff that has been hanging around out of everyone’s control.

It is possible to facilitate the entire range of systems-based, internal, offline decisions that buyers need to make before they are able to make a purchase. Until there is buy-in from the relevant stakeholders, or the rules are changed, or the budget gets freed up, or the internal vendor realizes they don’t have time, buyers will do nothing.

Once we take off our ‘sales’ hat, and recognize the necessity to lead buyers through the untangling of the junk they have to manage first, we can use our decision facilitation skills to help buyers manage change first.

The Buying System

Buyers live in a ‘system’ that is a culture, that maintains its status quo with every purchase, every hire, every rule, every initiative. Until or unless they can get buy in from all of the elements that touch the ‘need’ that your product can resolve – even if they have nothing whatsoever to do with need –  and until or unless they can be assured that anything new will not upset their system, they will take no action. That means relationships with other departments need to be resolved, or old partners need to be thrown out of the picture.

This is where buyers go when we wait. But we don’t have to wait. Figure out the rules and roles that need to buy in to change. Help your buyer think through the route they need to take through these issues. Once they figure out how to bring together the right people, manage the right issues that got them in the predicament to begin with, bend a few arms, and influence some of their bosses, they’ll be able to buy.

They have to do this anyway – with you or without you. We sit and wait for them to do it anyway. We might as well help.

But one huge caution: you’ll never understand that relationship, or why that rule is there, or how that initiative is creating problems – so don’t enter attempting to understand. Save that for sales.

Your job is to do decision facilitation: facilitating the bringing together of all of the internal, offline elements that need to buy in to change so they can purchase your product. It is not a sales skill. But it is the precursor to your buyer making a buying decision.


buyingfacilitationIf you’d like me to write a White Paper for you on understanding the decision issues your buyers face, please email me at

Or have a look at my book Buying Facilitation:the new way to sell that inluences and expands decisions. Click here for two free chapters. It will teach you how to understand and manage the route through the internal decision process. Will it help you make a sale? Maybe. Maybe not. But it sure will help you make a client.

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