How do you buy? Steps in a buying decision

People are getting confused about the terms buying decision journey, buying path, buy-cycle, helping buyers buy, and  buying  decisions. Using a case study, let’s look at how a real buying decision happens.

When I began using the terms in the 80s my meaning described a change management process to lead buyers through their non-solution/non-need-related, behind-the-scenes internal and political issues that enable all who touch the solution to buy-in. Lately I’ve noticed the terms applied to the sales end of the buying decision – that 10% of the buyer’s journey that manages the  pre-solution choice  behaviors, including  solution/vendor choice, time/money issues. In other words, sales.

But let’s stop a moment: We don’t buy this way.


Here’s is a case study to offer an example of how we actually buy.

Pretend you are the VP of Client Services of a $15 Million company, considering upgrading your website; you don’t like the job your internal tech folks have done. What needs to happen for you to get a site you need? Get your own guys to work better/smarter? Bring in a new vendor to fix the one you have? Let’s look at the actions you must take prior to moving forward.

  1. start a conversation with a colleague/friend to discuss ideas about the status quo.
  2. if the idea has merit, see if there is interest from the VPs of Sales and Marketing as they’d need to share budget with you.
  3. go on line and do some research to: look at several possible solutions, see how your competition is managing it, and call colleagues for vendor possibilities.
  4. talk with the internal Tech guys to discuss your displeasure and see what they’re willing to do differently, closer in line with what you’ve learned.
  5. have a meeting with VPs or Sales and Marketing to get the lay of the land, share some new ideas, gather their thoughts, discuss options to move forward with their support. This is the foundation of the Buying Decision Team (BDT).
  6. contact a few local vendors to ask them to give you a presentation so you can better understand what they do and what’s possible.
  7. attend vendor presentations that focus on strength of design, strength of technical and programming skills.
  8. meet with the BDT to discuss your take-aways from the vendor presentations. Everyone wants to do more research. Sales and Marketing  folks not talking with each other, and each want to take this in different directions.
  9. meet with CFO who manages the technology department. She wants to keep all work inhouse.
  10. meet to discuss with Sales, Marketing. Invite Technology folks, but they don’t come. Sales and Marketing must learn how to get along as they have a similar focus and don’t like the work the Tech team does.
  11. decisions must be made as per changing mind of the CFO. Group decides to look at vendors again and gather different sorts of data to offer proof to CFO.
  12. same vendors come in to do a presentation to you, Sales, Marketing. Tech folks refuse to come.
  13. group decides to use vendors rather then tech team, but must find a way to get buy-in from CFO.
  14. group writes a paper to convince CFO to use outside supplier. Head of Sales is chosen to get Tech folks on board.
  15. meeting set up with Tech VP, CFO, heads of Sales, Internal Consulting, Project Management, HR (to manage any outsourcing) Marketing, and you – the complete Buying Decision Team. All decide to use the Tech team to do the programming; vendor to do the design. You all decide to take a look at the vendors again to see who would be most capable of collaborating as well as designing, as they’d need to hand over, and work with, the tech folks.
  16. vendor meeting #3. The vendors with the slide about collaboration was chosen (that buying criteria was not even discussed with the vendors during earlier conversations or needs-assessment conversations).

This is a very very simplistic decision path during a year’s worth of meetings: there are only ‘people’ variables, and not any policies, internal politics, initiatives, etc.


In this situation, the sales model would have the potential vendors gather, and assume that the ‘need’ was for web design, rather than collaboration skills AND web design. And, the assumption would be that the entire Buying Decision Team – not fully formed until near the end – is already on board.

In this instance, you’d become involved in steps 6,7. You’d give a great presentation, recognize a need, get along well with your contact, and assume you were ‘in.’ When you didn’t hear back for a while, you’d start calling. And when you got your second presentation appointment, you’d assume you were in. And the rest is history.

If you were using Buying Facilitation® all of this would have been avoided for both you and your prospect. As the vendor, you would have helped the buyer recognize the problem lie with the CFO on the first call, helped design the make up of the full Buying Decision Team, and not gone in to do a presentation until there was agreement to have a vendor do some/all of the work. You’d go in only when the VPs of Sales, Marketing, Tech, and the CFO were present in the room. And it all would have taken a month or two.

If you want to learn how to do this, start by reading Dirty Little Secrets. Then get the Guided Study program and begin learning Buying Facilitation®. Or call me and we’ll discuss training.


Start the journey to help sellers get the skills they need to manage both ends of the buying decision journey – the off-line political and relational buy-in as well as the solution choice. Read Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it.

Listen to insights and illustrative examples regarding: what change is and why its fundamentally the same regardless of industry or organization type, what systems are and their role in the change management process.

Have Sharon-Drew speak on facilitating buying decisions at your next conference. Learn about her topics and see her in action on
Contact her directly at

12 thoughts on “How do you buy? Steps in a buying decision”

  1. Buying things is not a typical job if you have satisfying money with you. But always try to find nice deals spent by small amount. 

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