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The Basis of Decision in B2B Sales; What it is and some tips on qualifying it

The basis of decision in B2B sales refers to the customer’s process of evaluating and selecting suppliers for goods and services they intend to buy. So, when your customer is considering your proposal, what are the things they will consider in their basis of decision process?

Cost, more specifically, the total cost of a product or service, including the initial purchase price, as well as any ongoing operating costs such as service, maintenance or time and resource required from them. Customers will also consider the potential cost savings that can be achieved through bulk purchasing or negotiating better terms with you.

Quality, customers want to ensure that the products or services they purchase are of high quality and will meet their needs. This may involve evaluating the supplier's track record, reviewing product samples, or testing the product or service before making a purchase. Their interest in cost always yields to quality; if they don’t think what your selling is fit for purpose, they won’t buy it.

Reliability is of paramount importance in the process, especially when the purchase is of high value and mission critical. Customers need to be able to depend on you to deliver goods and services on time and as promised. This includes not only meeting delivery deadlines but also having a consistent level of quality and customer service.

Reputation is another high-profile element of the basis of decision process. Customers want to work with suppliers that are known for their professionalism, integrity, and commitment to customer satisfaction. They may also look for suppliers that have a strong presence in their industry and can provide references and testimonials from similar organisations to those of the customer.

Solution Fit always plays amajor role in the basis of decision. Customers only ever consider investment in B2B services or products in order to satisfy an operational or strategic need, a need that will enable them to be more profitable, reduce cost or protect or enhance their brand or reputation. They will have objectives and outcomes they want to achieve. Their confidence in the solution you are proposing to help them achieve their objectives and deliver their outcomes will be a key factor in their basis of decision.

However, customers may also make purchasing decisions based on partly or solely on emotional bias.

Emotional bias may be exercised when customers have a long-standing relationship with a particular supplier and choose to continue working with them based purely on that relationship, making allowances for shortfalls in the cost, quality, reliability and any other logical decision-making factors.

Emotional bias can also lead (and often does) to customers making decisions on an illogical basis influenced by their personal experiences, cultural background, personalities and even the way information is presented to them.

In my experience, all decisions made by customers have an element of emotional bias attached to them, especially when a customer has a relationship with a supplier they trust. The strength of your credibility and relationship with the customer will always have a major impact on their basis of decision, either for or against your solution.

Qualification of the customer’s basis of decision is a key cornerstone of any sales campaign; if you don’t know the basis of decision you can’t align your solution to what the customer values most.

The information we need to qualify the basis of decision includes,

  • Who will contribute to making the decision? This allows us to identify who is in the decision-making unit and who will contribute to the decision on the choice of supplier.

  • What is of most value to each person involved in the decision-making process? This allows us to consider that each person in the decision-making unit might have a different basis of decision, so we need to cover multiple factors when presenting our solution.

  • How will the decision be made? This informs us of the decision-making process, who the final decision-maker is and (most importantly) if we have the right level of access and influence on them?

With regard to the decision-making process, a personal tip from me is don’t lead with asking “who makes the final decision” it can be a dead-end question. My preference is to ask, “How does your company make a decision on a project of this size?” This provides a more conversational/information gathering approach which invites the customer to share the information we are looking for (and more).

The answers to these questions will tell us of what the customer determines to be of most value in their basis of decision and the decision-making process they will use. This allows us to align our proposal to them and increases our chances of a successful sales campaign.

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