Facilitating Buying Decisions: a definition

Recently, I’ve noticed many folks using the term ‘facilitating buying decisions.’ First, let me state that we have a program by that title, that can be licensed to train in companies. It’s a very fun program, teaching sellers how to sit in a buyer’s seat and learn every aspect of how they choose vendors and solutions. Learners not only learn how their buyer’s buy, but I teach them the 6 most powerful Facilitative Questions to help buyers make a decision in their favor. Here’s a preview of one of the questions: How would you and your Buying Decision Team know when it was time to bring in an additional resource that will fit with the ones you’re currently using?

That said, ‘Facilitating Buying Decisions’ is a term I’ve been using for decades, and it does my heart good to see that finally others are recognizing the validity of the activity. I’m so pleased that I was able to make a difference (See? One cranky person CAN make a difference with enough tenacity!). Sadly, I’m noticing that the term is being used as a ‘sales’ ploy, being thrown into the set of needs assessment/solution placement skills that exemplify sales, and ignoring the intent behind my coined term.

Here is the definition of the term as I intended it. Of course, I’ll have no authority to correct folks getting it wrong. The problem with the mis-use is that the intent of the phrase – the essence of what ‘facilitating buying decisions’ means – is being co-opted into the ‘sales’ field, and the new skill of helping buyers manage their behind-the-scenes buying decisions is getting lost in translation.

Definition: Facilitating Buying Decisions involves helping buyers recognize and manage all of the internal, off-line, behind-the-scenes decision issues they must manage so they can align all of the people, policies, partners, and rules, and enable them to buy-in to making a purchase.

It has absolutely nothing to do with a solution or vendor choice, and everything to do with a new set of skills which give the seller the ability to be a GPS system for your buyer – a neutral navigator and change management consultant, and systems thinker. As I say in Dirty Little Secrets this is not a sales tool, but a skill to be used as a precursor to sales.

Unfortunately for both buyers and sellers, sellers meet buyers far too early in their decision cycle, well before they even know the route they’ll have to take to agree on a solution or provider.

And, unfortunately for both buyers and sellers, sales merely handles the needs assessment/information-gathering and the solution placement aspects of the purchasing decision. It does not have the capacity to actually go behind-the-scenes and be at the meetings, or parts of the personal conversations that invariably take place as insiders figure out how to change. After all, bringing in a new solution becomes a change management issue with just about any size or type of sale. And, sales doesn’t handle this.

Because buying decisions are made off-line, and the time it takes buyers to come up with their own answers is the length of the sales cycle, sellers are helpless; the sales model is no help at all. Sure, sellers understand what buyers need, and their solution is absolutely appropriate. But if that’s all that’s needed, we would be closing a heckuva lot more sales. As I say in Dirty Little Secrets, the buyer just doesn’t know what they’ll need to be addressing at the start – or even in the middle – of their buying decision process.

Enter Buying Facilitation™. Buying Facilitation™ is a decision facilitation model. It’s not sales – sales comes after buyers figure out what needs to happen for all of their people and rules and relationship issues are in agreement that bringing in a new solution is necessary, now.

So when you think of the term ‘facilitating buying decisions,’ think helping systems manage change. I recently noticed that a training company is announcing a ‘revolutionary training program that facilitates buying decisions,’ and goes on to show how to push product better. It would be a shame if that thinking is replicated, and folks don’t take away the true meaning of the term. I understand that as an innovator, I’m supposed to be pleased that my ideas are being misused as they enter mainstream, but I’m not. I’m still fighting the good fight: Please use the term as intended. It will change your results, change your relationships, shorten your sales cycles, and differentiate you.

And if you want to learn more about it, let me know.


How to facilitate buying decisions.

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