Are Decision-Making Skills Innate or Learned By Salespeople?


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Are your sellers natural-born decision makers? Or is decision making a learned skill? While some people may be naturally adept at making decisions, it is likely that your sellers still need a little help refining their decision-making skills. Some may need a lot of help. After all, anyone can make a decision, but it takes skill to make the right decision at the right time. Sellers need to know how to make critical decisions early in the sales process. Before sellers even begin planning a sales call, they need to determine which prospects in a territory to focus on, where to apply selling effort, and who to contact within those accounts.

As you can see, the way a seller plans and conducts a sales call is but one of many important activities a seller must execute. Each of these important activities involves decision-making. Managers who focus coaching effort on helping sellers make these critical decisions can ensure that sellers are applying the right amount of selling effort in the right accounts for the right reasons with the right people to develop the right opportunities.

But here’s the bad news. Although decision making is an important skill for sellers, it is often not addressed in sales coaching. If you examine most sales coaching approaches, you will often find a focus on skills and behaviors, such as how to negotiate or how to conduct a sales call, but rarely will you find an emphasis on the underlying skill of decision making. Ignoring the importance of decision making is a miss because decision making impacts every other skill and sales activity. Let’s take a look at how decision making impacts the entire sales process, beginning with prospecting.

Identifying Prospects
One of the first decisions a seller must determine is which accounts to target. In order to properly prioritize their effort, sellers must have some method to segment accounts based on priority. Account segmentation is an important seller activity so sellers can expend their effort on accounts that will provide an adequate return. Sellers need the decision-making ability to properly determine which accounts are the best targets for the solutions they are selling. A little coaching at this stage can make sure sellers are pointed in the right direction to make quota.

Qualifying Prospects
Once sellers determine which accounts to target, they must determine who within those accounts to contact. This is a critical decision point because sellers can waste significant time expending selling effort with customer contacts that are not equipped to either influence or make decisions to buy. In addition to having to identify the best contacts, sellers must determine which of their solutions are likely to be the best fit for the customer. The fit between potential buyer needs and seller solutions drives much of the decision-making regarding how individual conversations should be conducted. Coaching sellers on how to make a sales call is irrelevant at this stage if the seller is not talking with the right person or if the seller is selling the wrong product.

Pursuing Prospects
When a seller is able to contact the right person, in the right account, and examine the right needs, an opportunity is created, but the deal is not closed. At this stage of the game, sellers have a lot invested in an account and there is a lot at stake. Coaching at this point can help sellers answer critical questions, including, “What is the decision-making process? Who is involved? Who should be involved? Which competitors are likely to be in the mix? How might budgetary constraints impact this opportunity?” All of these elements impact the decisions the seller will make regarding their approach to an individual opportunity.

What critical decisions are your sellers faced with right now? Are they targeting the right companies? Are they applying effort in the right places? Are they talking to the right people within the prospect account? If you don’t want to leave all of these important decisions to chance, it might be time to make a decision. You have to decide between attempting to hire sellers with a “natural born” ability to make all the right decisions or you can coach your sales team to make smart decisions throughout the sales process. This may be one of the easiest decisions you have to make all day…

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Michelle Vazzana
Michelle Vazzana is a partner at Vantage Point Performance and co-author of Cracking the Sales Management Code. Vazzana has more than 28 years of successful sales and management experience in the major account environment. For more information, visit


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