Written & Unwritten Rules – Focusing on Decision Process
Forecast slippage is a regular feature of most sales organisations. However, by better understanding our customer’s decision process, we can forecast more accurately to avoid those last-minute surprises which affect our business’ predictability.
A decision process is just that; a process that someone goes through, whether an individual or an organisation, whenever a decision has to be taken to make a purchase.
This can be as small as ordering a new item of stationary, or as large as a multi-million-pound contract on some new software but, small or large, everything has a process and steps to buy.
Unlike buying a new box of pens or printer paper, enterprise sales will involve more than one department within the organisation and each of these will have its own policy to work through for the decision process.
Examples of such company policies for buying enterprise technology are:
- how the company assesses need
- how they evaluate solutions
- how they create a shortlist for solutions & vendors
- how they technically validate solutions
- how the company creates and evaluates business cases
- how they go through the purchasing, the contracting, and issuing signed papers
Within each step above there will be multiple steps and processes that need to be followed and, from giving a demo of your solution onwards, you should be documenting each step of the process along the journey that you and your customer are on.
All told, by the end of the purchasing journey, for a large enterprise purchase, our experience tells us there are around 80 steps in your customer’s decision process; this will not be a short document.
THE PROCESS SETS THE AGENDA
Our job in sales is to understand this decision process in intricate detail.
Although making this decision process document (otherwise known as a close plan or mutual success plan) might sound like an arduous task, it has multiple benefits which will save time, energy and therefore money:
Documenting the decision process in a close plan or mutual success plan creates a living document, detailing the agenda for every customer meeting in the sales process, acting as a forecast document for the timeline of the deal.
Customer’s ChecklistThis document can help hold the customer to account by making sure they are progressing the deal as fast as they can
Identify Red FlagsMissed or delayed items on the document act as red flags, identifying risks which need to be mitigated by creating an action plan or reassessing where your opportunity is within the forecast.
Repeatable ProcessA very similar document will be applicable to each deal you sign; it will not have to be recreated from scratch with every new deal.
Accuracy in sales is built on our ability to forecast and mitigate risk. Documenting the customer’s process ensures we can be objectively paranoid about what we might have missed. The document can be used to discuss with your peers. Processes will be similar across all enterprise customers, so documenting the process can be used as a template again and again. These documents become checklists for other deals.
Your future self will thank you!
WHAT THE POLICY DOESN’T SAY
The written policy and process document, no matter how all-encompassing this might seem, is unfortunately only half of the story when it comes to the decision process.
Running alongside the written rules of the decision processes that each department will be working to are the unwritten rules. The unwritten rules are the politics of getting a deal signed in a purchasing cycle when something has to get done quickly. Understanding these unwritten rules can shrink the time to reach the finish line.
Typically this comes down to 'who' has the authority or 'who' can pull favours to get things done quickly, when company priorities compel them to rush the process.
Imagine a situation when selling security software. Often seen as an insurance policy, security software can naturally be something budgeted for a future date. However, if a competitor of your customer gets hacked, it’s easy to envisage a situation where a board will assess their own risk and rush an implementation of new software to ensure they do not suffer the same fate.
In these situations, as the risk becomes a board priority & business imperative, Champions of the solution are often bending the process to shortcut decisions and timelines.
SUCCESS IS MUTUAL
Our customers want value and outcomes. Whilst their procurement decision process is how they buy something, it only gives them a contractual commitment, not the value their business needs.
The end goal must be to get the customer live and receive value from the solution.
So, when working through this document with your customer, calling it a ‘Mutual Success Plan’ helps to put focus on the customer outcome; when they will start to see the benefits of the solution you are selling them.
Their value is the finish line and we can work back from there, understanding all of the key tasks and actions to be completed.
This change of focus helps motivate the customer to work with you to progress contracts & deals as part of their journey to the delivery of their success.
As this is a document that you will be sharing with the customer throughout the sales cycle, make sure that you word it accordingly and keep the focus on the customer outcomes.
If your customer can easily see, and be repeatedly reminded, of the successful outcome of purchasing your solution, focusing on their success will ultimately deliver your success.
If you are interested in new ideas, inspir’em sales meeting exercises and lesson plans are available to continue the development journey of your teams. Contact us today to further boost your sales and see your revenue grow.
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inspir’em was founded in 2019 delivering coaching, training & consultancy to help individuals and sales organisations grow.
inspir’em can help with: sales management training, sales and leadership training, Go To Market strategy, MEDDIC best practices, Hogan leadership assessments, sales organisational design and key hires/sales execution.
We run in-person MEDDIC sales management training programmes, and have an online sales management course for those who wish to work at their own pace.
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