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Sales Coaching
May 19, 2023
Nishit Asnani
Learn the art of uncovering your prospect’s buying process without sounding pushy. Ask smart questions, understand the key players and timeline, and get the full story of their last purchase.

As SaaS sales reps, we often feel in the dark about a prospect’s buying process - how decisions get made, who’s involved, the timeline, priorities, and potential roadblocks. But with the right approach, you can crack their buying code and set yourself up for success. As the famous sales proverb goes, “People buy according to their buying process, not your sales process.” Your job is to uncover their process and make sure you optimize your way through it for fast decision-making, keeping the prospect at ease, and always being in control of the deal. 

Start with Smart Questions

Begin by building rapport and asking broadly about their business priorities. Then get specific: “What challenges are you looking to address by investing in a solution like ours?” Uncover the pain points driving the need for change.

Ask who will be involved in evaluating and approving a purchase. “When you go through a buying process like this, who analyzes the options and signs off on the final decision?”

Get the full list of key players and stakeholders. Remember, people buy according to their buying process, not your sales stages. So understand who needs to buy in and sign off at each point in their journey.

Find out how deeply they’ve researched solutions already. “How much have you explored options for addressing [priority] so far?” Gauge if they’re early-stage or ready to buy. The more knowledge they've gained, the further along in their buying process they are likely to be.

Smart questions are your superpower. With the right approach, you'll gather crucial details on their buying process, priorities, key players, and timeline. You'll start to see the path ahead and how to navigate it. But insights are worthless without the full story - you need to know exactly what to expect at each turn. So keep the conversation going and get ready to gather gold by asking about their last purchase. The story is in the details!

Get the Full Story

“Can you walk me through your last purchasing experience for a tool similar to ours? What did that process look like and how did the deal unfold?” 

This question is gold. You’ll learn their procedures, timeline, must-haves, roadblocks, and more. Take detailed notes on each step and who was involved.

Look for patterns across their stories to determine common priorities, players, and steps. Once you understand their buying DNA, you can position your solution and process to match what they expect and value most. After all, people buy according to their buying process.

Some examples of the valuable insights you may uncover:

  • “First, we defined our needs and priorities. Then researched various solutions online for about 3 months.” Long research cycles mean you need to provide lots of resources to help them self-educate.
  • “Legal and security had to do a deep evaluation of the two final options.” Be ready to provide details on your security, privacy, and compliance standards to pass this vital review.
  • “The CEO drove the final decision and negotiations.” Know that executive buy-in and sponsorship will make or break the deal. Build a strong business case and develop rapport with decision makers.
  • “We moved too quickly through vendor demos and didn’t have all the right people in them.” Ensure your demos are scheduled when the full buying committee is available and ready to engage. Send pre-reads so they arrive prepared with questions.
  • “The procurement process took longer than expected due to budget approvals.” Forecast a potentially lengthy final stage and avoid last-minute surprises. Provide a heads up on what they'll need for procurement to keep things on track.

Every story reveals a gem that brings you closer to cracking their buying code. Look for the timeline, priorities, roadblocks and buy-in needed at each stage. Then align your process to match their DNA and position yourself as the natural, inevitable choice. Your insider's view gives the power to navigate the path ahead!

Watch for Red Flags

Look for comments that signal potential roadblocks, like:

  • “Legal and compliance need to evaluate options as well.” Be prepared to provide details on security, privacy, and industry standards you meet. Without satisfying Legal's stringent requirements, the deal will never move forward.
  • “The CEO drove the last deal but isn’t involved in this one.” Without an executive champion, the deal may lack urgency or resources it needs. Look for ways to engage leadership’s support, or determine if you need a sponsor to drive the deal internally.
  • “Price was the determining factor last time.” If cost is their primary driver, you’ll need a compelling value story and the best possible deal to win out competitors. Focus your case on the ROI and measurable business results they'll achieve.
  • “We thought we wanted X but really needed Y.” Do deep discovery to fully understand their needs. What they say initially may not reflect the actual priorities and pain points. Continually revisit needs to ensure you're solving for the right ones.
  • “The project stalled for months waiting for next year's budget.” Determine if they have funds and resources in place to move forward on their timeline. Without a budget, the deal may be sidelined for longer than you expect. Either re-forecast your timeline or look for ways to enable the deal within current budget.
  • “Halfway through, management priorities changed directions.” Be prepared for shifting needs, stakeholders and timelines. Ask regularly about changes in priorities or personnel that could impact the deal. Then adapt your strategy quickly to suit the new direction.

Red flags are warnings, not stop signs. With awareness of potential roadblocks, you have the power to navigate around them. Address issues directly, engage the right parties, provide resources to resolve objections, and ensure you stay aligned with the prospect's journey - wherever it may lead! The path is never smooth, but insight and patience pay off.

Determine Their Buying Stages

With the information gathered, map out the common stages in their purchasing process. It may follow a typical pattern:

  1. Identifying the need (the pain points and priorities driving them to explore solutions)
  2. Researching options (the solutions and vendors they're comparing)
  3. Evaluating the shortlist (the 2-3 options that meet their criteria)
  4. Selecting the winner (the solution that proved it could meet needs and provided the best value)
  5. Procurement (finalizing contracts and paperwork to make it official)

Seeing their process in stages helps ensure you're presenting your solution at the right time, with the right level of detail for where they are in the buyer's journey. Meet them where they already are, remembering that people buy according to their buying process.

For example:

  • If they’re early-stage, focus discovery on determining needs and educating them on options. Share resources for researching and evaluating.
  • When evaluating 2-3 finalists, provide a highly tailored proposal, demo and value case based on their needs. Show a clear comparison between options.
  • During final selection and procurement, prepare to negotiate price and terms suited to their priorities and continue reinforcing the measurable value they'll gain. Be ready with responses to any objections.

Without insight into the complete buying journey, from the beginning priority that started it all to the final sign-off, you risk presenting your solution at the wrong time or with the wrong details. See each stage clearly to navigate it smoothly, build credibility and win the natural next step - whether that's a demo, proposal or deal!

Equipped with your prospect's buying DNA - the full story of their needs, priorities, process, cycle, and more - you hold the power to guide them on the journey most likely to end in your solution. Meet each stage and roadblock as a helpful resource, not an pushy sales rep. Success is guiding them to become another win and long-term partnership!

Build Your Tailored Action Plan

With a view into your prospect’s buying DNA, priorities, stages, and potential roadblocks, you have everything needed to assemble a tailored action plan:

  • Focus your discovery on the pain points and needs that really matter to them. Have case studies and stats ready to prove you meet those needs.
  • Identify and build rapport with all decision makers and stakeholders from the start. Know their role, priorities, and objectives to address. People buy according to their buying process, so ensure all key players are engaged and ready to buy in at the right stages.
  • Share customer stories that mirror their typical buying experience and timeline. This builds confidence you understand them and can deliver what they expect. Showcase how you guided other clients on a similar journey to success.
  • Prepare to invest extra time and effort in prospects where legal, compliance or C-suite support may be lacking. Overcome obstacles early by engaging the right teams and executives.
  • Determine if you need an executive sponsor to champion the deal. If cost is a main concern, develop the strongest business case around the value and ROI they'll achieve.
  • Clearly demonstrate how you'll achieve the measurable business outcomes that matter most to them. Share case studies and metrics highlighting real results from customers with similar priorities.
  • Anticipate potential buying stage delays and adapt your timeline and activities to match the prospect’s shifting or stalled journey. But continue providing value to keep the deal progressing.
  • Move the prospect to the next buying stage by showing how you meet their current needs and priorities. Help them progress in the journey towards becoming your customer! Guide them each step of the way.

Your action plan is the roadmap to winning the deal by navigating their buying process with insight and confidence. While the prospect determines the journey, you have the power to direct it by understanding the DNA that shapes their decisions and adapting your strategy to those cues. Meet them where they are and lead them where you both want to go - a win and lasting partnership! Victory is never assured, but your action plan gets you fighting chance!


Understanding your prospect's buying DNA - their unique process, priorities, obstacles, and triggers - is the superpower that lets you guide the journey to a win. Ask smart questions, gather the full story, and look for cues that strengthen your strategy or signal roadblocks ahead. Then build an action plan tailored to navigate their path at every stage.

While the prospect determines if and how they buy, you shape the journey by being the helpful resource they need each step of the way. Meet them where they are - whether identifying needs, comparing options or negotiating terms - and lead them to see you as the natural choice, the partner that understands them best. Success comes from guiding what you can't control.

Victory belongs to those with patience and perspective. Insights prepare you for the long game by revealing what to expect in your prospect's cycle and how to address each challenge. With the right knowledge and plan, you have the power to navigate detours and delays. Keep adapting to the changing needs and priorities that emerge, but never stop adding value and moving the deal forward.

Cracking the buying code gives you a fighting chance to be the one still standing when the prospect is finally ready to buy. While others stumble in the dark, you have the map to navigate the terrain and overcome each obstacle. Use your superpower - the insight into what drives their decisions - to guide the journey to your solution. Meet their buying process and make their priorities your own.

When you understand what a prospect really values, you know how to become what they need. So ask the right questions, learn their every quirk and cue. Their buying DNA holds the secrets to how you win deals together! Keep listening and be their guide. The partnership you forge will transform how you sell - and serve them - for the long run.

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