Rule #39 – Use a Customer Decision Plan

There were five vendors competing for the business of a billion dollar organization. The solutions were similar but one vendor stuck out like a sore thumb and won the business. The sales rep was able to differentiate herself from the others in a subtle yet powerfully effective way — she developed and used a Customer Decision Plan.

As discussed in Rule 33, one of the most effective questions in qualifying an opportunity and finding out the key players and decision-making process is as follows: “What’s the process for making a decision on this and who would be involved?” Another key qualifying question is in uncovering information about the budget: “What’s the budget process and who would be involved?” Both of these questions utilize the magic word “Process.” Again, every customer has a Process by which they do things. The amazing thing about this word is that when you use it in a powerful question as stated the customers melt and start telling you everything you’d want to know about their internal processes. It’s like they’re so happy to tell someone about that which they know so well and work within. Try it; again you’ll be struck by the uncanny power of the “P” word.

In your early Stage Two discussions, while you’re conducting discovery and qualification, take good notes on the decision-making and budgetary processes they describe. This becomes the content for your Customer Decision Plan.

The Customer Decision Plan is a statement of the sequence of events or activities throughout the sales cycle, as articulated by the customer and discussed with the rep. These are work items or tasks that need to get done, meetings that need to happen, introductions to be made, milestones and dates that are known or need to be established, and finally decision-making dates and the implementation time-table.

These plans can be informally stated in an email, a document or a spreadsheet. It is to be sent to your key contact and hopefully Champion/Executive for input and approval. This now becomes a mutually important working document throughout the sales cycle.

The sales rep selling to that billion-dollar organization used this method in articulating back to the key contact all that had been discussed relative to the decision-making and budgeting processes. From the very first meeting, this rep stood out amongst her competitive peers in her professionalism, thoroughness, and listening skills. The key customer contact said that she held him accountable for each milestone and in essence helped him “keep the project on track and do his job well.” With a Decision Plan as a consistent guide, she effectively closed a significant contract with this significant customer.

Are you utilizing a Customer Decision Plan?