by Bette Price

   Today's sales managers are increasingly faced with the need to make quick, on-the-spot decisions-decisions that inevitably impact the overall performance of their sales team. Sometimes, the pressure to act quickly results in indecision. When this happens it can impact the sales team in four important ways:

  • A perceived lack of support from the team.
  • A signal that management in general doesn't care about input from the sales force.
  • A perception that mediocre performance will be tolerated, or
  • A perceived or real jeopardy of future sales.

   If you should find yourself paralyzed by the pressure to make quick decisions, here's a systematic approach that can be help to ease the pressure and enable you to feel confident about moving forward. This five-stage process can be applied to any type of decision-making and will help you to make wiser, more confident decisions that will positively impact overall sales performance:

Stage 1: Clearly identify the situation/problem at hand.

   To begin with, be clear about whether this is your decision to make. If not, don't hesitate to refer it to the appropriate person. If it is your decision to make, make sure you are focused on the "real" issue that underlies the situation/problem. Describe very specifically what tactics need to be used to make the right decision and don't hesitate to solicit input from key stakeholders who would be affected by actions resulting from the decision. Don't think just short-term; consider all the implications that could result from the final decision long-term as well.

Stage 2. Identify specific criterion.

   The appropriate criteria to be considered can come from a variety of sources-company policies, prospect concerns, client concerns, and sales staff knowledge of the situation. Look for measures, standards or conditions that will effect the decision. Write them down and be sure to consider factors such as costs, schedules, time constraints, risks, etc.

Stage 3. Assign weight to your chosen criteria.

   Weighting the criterion will help you to identify the relative value that each carries in the final decision.

Stage 4. Identify and list possible alternatives.

   Brainstorm as many alternative decisions as you can imagine. Here's a good way to involve your stakeholders. Let your imagination run free. Try not to censure any ideas. Get as much information on the table as you can. Sometimes, when you least expect it, additional information can quickly point to more alternatives, or a better solution.

Stage 5. Select your best decision.

   Evaluate all your alternatives based on the criteria previously identified. Picture what the outcome of each possible decision would look like. Then identify which of the decisions is most likely to happen, given all your insights. Select the decision that best meets the values of your sales team and your company. Evaluate them against potential risks and if you feel you can live with the outcome you've pictured, this is likely the decision you should go with.

   It's understandable that indecision can easily take hold when you consider the immense weight on sales managers to meet budgets, be accountable for results, and model good decision-making for their sales team. But, with these five steps you should be able to follow a realistic process that helps to bring out the best decisions. Once you've made your decision, don't second-guess yourself. Move forward with confidence because after all,

  • You've considered and are aware of all the potential risks,
  • You've involved others so you haven't been solely motivated by your own emotions and biases,
  • And, you can more easily defend your decisions because you engaged in a process and involved stakeholders as well.

   If the outcome doesn't turn out to be exactly as expected or you're not happy with it, you will have an easier time making and getting acceptance for changes because you've involved stakeholders throughout the process. Using this clear blueprint for decision-making, you can expect not only improvements in your ability to make better decisions, but you should be able to begin to see visible improvements in performance as well.