I have learned many different sales tactics over the years. When I worked at New York Life, I learned the “Live, Die, Quit” story, the “Hundred Man” story, and few other impressive scripts. When I worked at Xerox, I learned “SPIN Selling,” “Strategic Selling,” and a few other impressive processes. Working as a trainer for Xerox, we were given the task of training the sales people at the Xerox Authorized Dealerships who were selling Xerox products. It would have been easy to simply teach them the same process the Xerox sales force was using. One small problem: The selling process we used was only licensed to be taught to Xerox personnel. Dealerships may have been authorized to sell Xerox products, but they were not Xerox personnel.
Unfortunately, Xerox did not own a sales model of its own at that time. They previously had a program of their own, (Professional Selling Skills,) but Xerox sold it off for a tidy profit. So, in 1986, with no existing sales process of our own, we went about creating a program that would truly belong to us. We wanted our program to be as progressive as possible, and we wanted to include just about every persuasive tactic we could imagine. When the smoke cleared, we had a repeatable and predictable process we could use to teach selling, but then the question emerged; what about the customer? Is there a repeatable, predictable process that customers go through when making a decision for change?
Once we began looking at the ways customers make decisions, we began to see definable stages and decision points. It wasn’t just fascinating, it changed the way I viewed the art of influence forever. Initially, it was referred to as a “Buying Cycle.” But the more companies I worked with, the more I knew we had to find a new name for a process that was more universal. With clients like police departments, NASA engineers, teachers, lawyers, doctors, and more, I was working with people who did not necessarily think they were selling anything. They did realize, however, that they were working with people who were struggling to make certain decisions. They were all working with individuals who were demonstrating a true “Decision Cycle.”
The longer I have studied this side of the equation, the clearer the benefits have become. To this day, one of my favorite questions to ask an audience is this: “Do you believe that people go through repeatable, predictable processes when they are making a decision?” Interestingly enough, the audience reaction is usually mixed. Then I follow with this: “Suspend your disbelief for a moment, and suppose I can prove to you this process does exist. If you’re trying to help someone make a change he or she is struggling with, wouldn’t it be useful to understand what decision process they are going through, and where they are within that process?” I usually see some heads nodding at this point. This knowledge is not just an effective guide to working with others, it help you find the appropriate tactics to assist others who are struggling with decisions.
The rest is history. The proof comes from the over 50,000 people I have personally polled, over the past 25 years, regarding the decisions they have made. Knowing this not only helps you to see things from anther person’s perspective; it provides the blueprint to every step we take when we look at how to influence behavior, and ultimately change minds.