I’ve been a long-time fan of Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the books “Made to Stick” and “Switch.” The subjects of both books are decidedly applicable to the field of Sales and Marketing. Made to Stick explores why some ideas thrive while others die. Switch explores the reasons why it’s so hard to make lasting changes in our companies and private lives. As I read both books, I asked myself what they tell us about how and what our prospects go through when they make decisions (either to believe in an idea, or to make a change). Interestingly enough, the topic of decision-making is one the Heath brothers chose to tackle in their new book.

Decisive (available March 26), asks and answers the questions: How do people make choices and how can we make better choices. Research confirms that decisions are disrupted by an array of biases and irrationalities. No one understands this better than a Sales Professional. After-all, why wouldn’t everyone buy your products and services once you explained the rational for purchasing?

Decisive by Chip Heath & Dan HeathWhile Decisive is designed to help readers understand and improve on their own decision-making, I challenge you to make the translation into what you as a seller can do to help your prospects be decisive. Often buyers will get stuck in their heads when it comes to making decisions (any one ever have a deal stall?).

In Decisive, the Heaths analyze the four biggest decision biases and introduce a four-step process designed to counteract them;

1. Widen your options beyond ‘This OR That’
2. Reality-test against confirmation bias
3. Attain distance to overcome short-term emotion
4. Prepare to be wrong to avoid overconfidence

When asked to make a decision, buyers will often get trapped by their own decision biases and we’re partly to blame. Consider asking a prospect to buy your product, in this example, an expense reporting tool. You are pitching an either-or-proposition. Either buy an expense reporting tool, or keep doing things the way you are today, manually. We are narrowing their options to just two; do things a new way or keep doing things the current way.

The two options represent a big chasm for our prospect to jump across. What if instead, we helped prospects widen their options? Think how you can expand the decision options so prospects don’t feel pressured to pick from two extremes. What if, for instance, you suggested to prospects that they simply change one small aspect of their expense reporting as an experiment? Prospects can test how receptive their people are, the degree of difficulty of asking (and getting) people to change their habits, and the outcomes of making such a change.

In Decisive, the Heaths would consider this approach “ooching.”

To “ooch” is to construct small experiments to test one’s hypothesis. As the authors explained, the expression was new to them, but apparently it’s not new or uncommon in parts of the South. As the vendor of an expense reporting system, an obvious ooch would be to offer prospects a free product that lets their people take photos of receipts with their smart phones. You’re not asking the buyer for a decision on your expense reporting solution. You’re expanding their options with something in the middle. This middle option (between status quo and a purchase) is to eliminate the hassles of stuffing receipts into wallets and brief-cases only to have to sort through and make sense of them later. That small experiment will allow the prospect to test the receptiveness to changing the way expenses are reported.

When you ask a prospect to ooch, you help them bring real-world experience into their decision-making. You don’t ask them to predict whether a particular option will be right for them (This OR That). You give them a simple way to test it out. Ooching is different from trial-ing. Asking a prospect to trial your software is much like asking for a decision to buy. Either way, you’re asking them to invest their time, effort, and money. Even though no money is exchanged in a trial, the ‘money’ element is still present in the mind of the buyer. After-all, they know that if they trial something, they need to be willing to buy it. A prospect may not know yet, whether they’d be willing to buy it. That’s where ooching helps.

I’m sure that there are many ways that ooching can come into play in our marketing and sales strategies. And the application of ooching in my example may not be what the Heaths had in mind. You’ll want to buy the book and think through it for yourself. The point is that there are plenty of opportunities for applying the many approaches you’ll learn about in “Decisive” to our field of B2B Sales and Marketing.

Selling in today’s world involves more than relaying value to your buyer. You must act as the catalyst to help the buyer make a decision. That means you need to know how people make decisions and the mistakes they (and we all) make in the process. You goal is not to sell some one something. Your goal is to help your prospect be “Decisive.”