Every prospect who considers purchasing something usually makes a two separate buying decisions during the buying process.  That is, they decide twice, on two different levels, to make a purchase.

The sequence of those decisions looks like this.

Action decision >>>>>> Direction decision

The Action decision ALWAYS happens first.  It is the decision to take action, to make a different choice than the status quo.  For example, I am sitting in a restaurant and I decide to get up and leave.

The Direction decision comes as a result of the Action decision, and involves the specifics of what,where,when, and how the action decision is going to be executed.  In the same example, once I decide to leave the restaurant, the direction decision is what I am going to do next, where it will happen, and how I am going to get there.

For Example:

Action Decision – A prospect decides that getting new clients and more revenue is a priority, and decides that doing something, is better than doing nothing.  A decision to take action and buy advertising is made.

Direction Decision– The prospect decides that of all his options, a print publication will be the tool of choice, and secondarily, reviews all the options and chooses YOUR publication to advertise with.

This is an important distinction to make, because from your perspective as a sales person, the decision sequence looks like this:

Why Act?  >>>>>>>>>>>>  Why You?

To increase your success rate with prospects, you need to be selling within the sequence, and not trying to shortcut it.  I hear and see a lot of calls where sales people are trying to convince the merchant of why their product is the best choice (price, features, side benefits, etc) without first securing the primary decision that the prospect wants to do SOMETHING different from what they are doing now.

A prospect not committed to Action (Why act?) is likely to resist, causing sales people to try to make a better Direction argument (why my company?) by yielding on price, adding features, adding value, loosening terms, etc.  These tactics then seem ineffective because all along, we are trying to negotiate specifics with someone not motivated to act in the first place.

Your buyer’s motivation comes from the Action decision (and by the way, the Action decision is fueled by pain, and self-awareness of that pain).  Stated simply, no one decides what direction to walk in before first deciding to walk.

A sales rep and I once walked into what I would call a “hostile” appointment.  The prospect was visibly annoyed, and would not even sit down, asking us to stand at the counter.  Mr. Hostile then proceeded to dump absolutely all his frustrations on us.  In 3 minutes, we got to hear about how his zoning dispute with the city, the rising costs of beef, how annoying his customers are, and even the plumbing issue with his sewer system.  The signs were pointing at someone who was defeated and angry, and not inclined to do or risk anything.  Selling him on doing anything seemed impossible.

I asked him, “Before we start, lets make sure we are even on the same page.  Are you in a position right now where it even makes sense for you to add new customers or try to generate more revenue?”  In response to that question, I got a look.  The same look my dad gave me when I was 12 and announced my intention to walk our 80lb dog on leash while riding my bicycle. (that didn’t end well)

“Do I waaaaant more customers and more revenue?” asked Mr Hostile in a sardonic tone.

My response: “I know that seems like a silly question, but if your plumbing and zoning issues are making it hard to serve customers, or might make you move your business location, then now is certainly not the time for us to bring in new faces.  Maybe the timing is off.”

I rarely see someone change moods as quickly as this man did.  What he took from my statement was that we were NOT there to sell him something, but instead, were there to diagnose if any of his challenges were solvable by our solutions.  Within 90 seconds, he did three things

  1. He confirmed that he needs and wants more customers and more revenue. (Aware of Pain)
  2. He confirmed that he wanted to do something about it (Action Decision)
  3. He stated that he would be open to seeing some proposals about how we might be able to help (Direction Decision)

He went from hostile to cooperative because we focused our initial approach around identifying his pain, and confirming his willingness to try and do something about it.  We focused on the Action decision first.

Stop selling the features and benefits of your product until you confirm your customer’s need, and their commitment to act on it.  As a matter of fact, NEVER present your solution to someone who hasn’t taken the Action decision.  Not only are your odds bad, but you may be risking coming off as pushy and not listening, and may be damaging your chances with this customer in the future.