Decision-Making Process: the How and the Why Not

We did it! We’ve come to the third and final part of this blog series on your sales team’s decision-making process. So far, we’ve covered “who”, “when”, “why”, and “what” questions. In this blog, we’ll be evaluating “how” and “why not” questions. If you haven’t yet read the other two blogs, check them out here:

"Decision-Making Process: the Who and the When"

"Decision-Making Process: the What and the Why"

When I sit down with reps during our coaching calls and they’re debriefing me on their latest sales calls, oftentimes their frustrations on lack of forward momentum stem from missed questions in the decision step. (Hence, why I’ve spent time crafting this particular content as of late.) It’s interesting to me how hard we tend to make this step. For example, when I ask “what is their decision making process?” I hear a lot of assumptions that sound like “Well, I think they’ve based it on price in the past and from what I can tell it’s up to Suzy to decide, but I think Bob may have some say too….”etc. Inevitably I ask “Ok…did you ask them those questions. Did they tell you those things?” 8/10 times the answer is no. I always picture salespeople in sales calls like the meme of the woman thinking really hard, surrounded by the equations 10582752-3x2-940x627 when just asking them would be so much better. Besides, you know what assuming does.


Let’s look at the “how” question. Some reps ask “how do you typically make decisions like this?” or “how have you made decisions of this size in the past?”. Not bad. However, I still think it’s transparent that we’re looking for a “hidden decision-maker” and if you read the first blog you know that’s not ideal. Instead, here are a couple different options:


  1. For a project like this, how does the paperwork move throughout the organization?
  2. If there is ever misalignment in your decision-making process, how does that get resolved?
  3. How does your organization decide who is included in the decision-making process?
  4. How will you know you’re making the right decision?
  5. How will you overcome resistance to change that could slow your decision down?



Next, let’s review the one thing salespeople inherently don’t like to discuss – losing the sale. I know, I know, it’s like discussing clowns or spiders or other nightmares. Maybe that’s why so many skip the next question: “why not?”. By the way, if a prospect is telling you why you didn’t win AFTER the sale is over, they didn’t want you to win. Think about it this way, if you’ve ever had a spat with your spouse and you told them what you were upset about…why did you give them that information? You likely divulged how you were feeling so your spouse would change some action and “fix” the issue. When you don’t hear a peep from your prospect about what they don’t like until it’s too late to fix it, it’s because they didn’t want you to do so. My suggestion is to include a two-part “why not” question that will uncover this information before it’s too late. Other “why not” questions should be used to determine if this client really is right for you. Have you ever taken a project on that you wish you hadn’t?


  1. You mentioned you’re also evaluating a/b/c companies for this project; if I weren’t fortunate enough to be included in this process, which company do you think you’d go with? (Example prospect response: b company) Really, why b? Why not a or c?
    1. This question will help you uncover what they do and don’t like about the competition and provide you information on where you stand regarding those preferences.
  2. You mentioned you have had another provider in the past. It didn’t work out or we wouldn’t be having this conversation – why not?
    1. This is an opportunity to listen for responses that may be characteristics of your “red flag” client criteria.


There you have it! Your three-part series on asking questions in the decision-making step of your sales process. These are just some options; there are certainly more depending on each situation/sales cycle/lead generated. However, I hope that these questions have provided you food for thought and helped strengthen your sales approach.


Happy selling! 


Emily Shaw

Connect with Emily Shaw

For 25 years, Lushin has guided business leaders toward intentional, predictable growth.

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