The Negotiator Magazine

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How Do Your Customers Make Decisions?

Ronald E. Karr

How do your prospects and customers get from point A to point B? How do they make decisions? And how can you influence those decisions? To determine how your prospect or customer wants what he or she needs, you have to have some idea of how he or she prioritizes important decisions.

In sales, we talk a lot about what prospects and customers want. The people we talk to day in and day out want to be understood; they want to tell us what they’re hoping to achieve, when they want to achieve it, why it is important to them, and what’s gone wrong (and right) in the past. They don’t want to be bombarded with predetermined features, functions and benefits that have no impact on their lives. They don’t want to hear about canned “solutions” offered before anyone has bothered to find out whom they are or what they are doing. They don’t want to be sold to in the traditional ‘old school’ way. They want to make their decisions on their own terms and in their own way.

All of this means you have to be able to acclimate yourself to the other person’s method of thinking, which is usually different than your own method of thinking — or a previous customer’s method of thinking. Gaining important insights into the other side’s decision-making processes takes time and attention on your part. What’s more, even attempting to learn more about the way your prospect or customer approaches key decisions, and altering your interview accordingly, instantly sets you apart from the pack.


Titans are professionals; they know decision-making cuts both ways. What do I mean by that? Well, as the prospect or customer’s decision-making priorities unfold, you have to be willing to ask yourself honestly: “Am I the right vendor for this person — and is this the right customer for me?”

Sometimes, the other person’s “yardstick” will point you toward the possibility of a mutually advantageous professional relationship. Sometimes, you’ll hit a brick wall. And, yes, sometimes you’ll wake up and realize you’re selling to a customer whose demands no longer match up with your capacities over the long haul. Yes, there are times when it makes sense to fire a customer and that’s when your decision making process comes into play.

Face it: You may not be able to be set up properly to service certain customers — and some customers, whether we like to admit it or not, are Customers from Down Under (and I’m not talking about Australia). We’ve all met those kinds of customers — they live to make things difficult. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to fire that customer!

You can actually fire a customer and make the person feel good about it — so good, in fact, that they will be motivated to act as a referral for you. What do you say? It sounds something like this:

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May/June 2005