Decisions, Decisions (Issue 438)

"So, I had to make the decision," she said. "The tests said that I was in the middle zone for risk, which meant that the treatment options weren't precisely defined. Doctors are pretty clear about preferred treatment plans if you're in the low risk zone or the high risk zone, and it's confusing in the middle.... I talked to three different surgeons, two oncologists, and three plastic surgeons. Eventually I got clear that no test and no doctor would make this decision for me. I had to make it."

My cousin, talking about her breast cancer.

Imagine you’re one of the physicians to whom my cousin spoke. Your job is, first, to help people … and also to help your practice make money. How would you “sell” or influence my cousin to engage you and choose the procedure you recommend?

You could consider a standard sales conversation model. Standard sales conversation models are about “identifying needs” and “amplifying urgency to take action” for which our solutions are the answer – we advocate features and benefits based on the information we’ve drawn out with our questions.

So, it’s you and two other physicians pitching your points of view, leaving my cousin with three different alternatives. Now she has to decide… and standard sales conversation models don’t help with that.

“So, how did you decide,” I asked her?

“I talked to a lot of people. Appointments and more appointments with doctors. Conversations with friends and people I met who’d taken one approach or another. Research on the internet. Eventually, I got more clear about what’s important to me and the different options and tradeoffs with each procedure.”

Her exploration took several weeks and dozens of hours of conversation. And, then she made the decision.

And, it so it is for almost any BIG decision. BIG decisions involve significant uncertainties or unknowns; technical, cultural, emotional, and economic tradeoffs; and decisions about factors that buyers can’t see or anticipate before they start their decision processes and about which sellers know little or nothing.

And, until my cousin or our buyers identify and work through all of the complex, internal issues – sorting, considering, gathering information, discussing, more sorting – they don’t make decisions. The length of their buying cycle is determined by the time they need to sort through all of these issues.

What do we do, as sales people, while this sorting is going on? We wait. We call – “Have you made a decision yet?” We send reminders – “Hey, we’re still interested.” We advocate – “This is why our approach is best.” We offer help – “Anything we can do to help at this point?” In short, we irritate… because our sales models don’t help us or our clients through their sorting processes.

For this we need “decision tools” or “change tools” rather than “sales tools” to help our clients understand how they want to make decisions, identify criteria, see connections, learn new information, process the information, and (ultimately) decide. We need to be “facilitating decisions” rather than “selling.”

More about this next week…. and… HEADS UP! Our friend Sharon Drew Morgen is publishing a new book about decision facilitation and tools we can use to help our clients make their BIG decisions. The book is called “Dirty Little Secrets.” It will be published October 15. For more information, www.dirtylittlesecretsbook.com.

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