Framework for Decision Making

Amar Pandit , CFA , CFP

Amar Pandit

A respected entrepreneur with 25+ years of Experience, Amar Pandit is the Founder of several companies that are making a Happy difference in the lives of people. He is currently the Founder of Happyness Factory, a world-class online investment & goal-based financial planning platform through which he aims to help every Indian family save and invest wisely. He is very passionate about spreading financial literacy and is the author of 4 bestselling books (+ 2 more to release in 2020), 8 Sketch Books, Board Game and 700 + columns.

Have you ever had a prospect tell you “Let Me Think (LMT)”?

All of us are likely to hear these gems every now and then. As the number of people you speak to with goes up, the number of LMTs you hear is also likely to go up.

Handling this conversation effectively and making sense of what’s really happening will save you loads of time, energy, and money. 

99.9% of the time what the person truly means is “I don’t see the real value here and I don’t want to go ahead with this. I am unable to make a decision now or I don’t know how to say NO.” In some cases, the person will also say “I see a lot of value and I value you too, but I am still not sure, and I don’t know how to say NO to you.”

The reality is that most people don’t have a framework for decision making. That’s why it’s easy to say, “Let Me Think”. The only time they will really think is the next time you call them. The moment your number shows up is when they start thinking about what to tell you. Many might even stop picking your calls because they have no answer to give you.

So how do you help them make a decision and in the process help yourself?

There is a framework that I have practiced and refined over the last few decades. I continue to improve this framework but even in its current form, it will be useful for you. 

Recently I was on a call with Ajay (a financial professional), when he said, “Let me think.”

I knew that he was unable to make a decision. So, I shared the above lines with him and told him “I understand that you are unable to make a decision. Once we are done with this call, you will get busy with 100 things. Unless you set a dedicated time to think about this issue and come to a decision, you will simply be unable to think at all. I recommend that you block 30 minutes or 1 hour on your calendar to think through our conversation. My colleague and I are happy to hop on a quick 5-minute call at the end of your thinking time or during your thinking time to answer any questions that might come up during your thinking process.”

Ajay loved the thought and was eagerly listening.

1. Set 30 minutes to an hour max at a time when you are at your sharpest. Needless to say, this happens to be in the morning.

2. The key question to ask yourself is “What’s the worst that can happen if I go ahead with this?

Write the answers down.

This is a very important question so take some time to answer this. Most of the time, you will come to the conclusion that it’s not that bad. I use this all the time whether I have to invest $100 a month or $15000-100000 a year in a program that I believe will be useful for the organization.

I even do this with any new project (where the risk is significantly higher) – producing a movie or angel investment.

99% of the time, this has worked for me in ways that I could have never imagined.

3. The next but obvious question is What’s the best that can happen if I go ahead with this?

If you are a quick decision-maker, you can skip this step, but I would recommend that you rather not.

Write this down and see how this fills up fast.

During the thinking time Ajay had blocked, he came up with the following (he shared these with me later).

  1. Improve the time that we take today by 90%. This will help me quickly build scale
  2. Sign up clients in the first meeting.
  3. Be the only Real Financial Professional serving my clients.
  4. Avoid Costly mistakes and benefit from your wisdom.
  5. Scale-up firm faster. What I could probably do on my own in 7 years, I will be able to achieve in 3 years with your guidance and help. I am not even sure if I can do this on my own.
  6. The invaluable thing of having a passionate team on my side and who I can rely on. 

There were 15 other benefits that he had written.

What do you think was Ajay’s response to the worst that can happen?

Ajay actually struggled to come up with reasons. One was “What if I don’t get along with them? Since Ajay had already worked with our team and knew our philosophy inside out, he knew this was not even a reason. So, he himself cancelled it. The indecision seemed to be more about change and overcoming the status quo. Why change if something is not really broken? Why fix the ship for a very small hole that is not even bothering us that much?”

4. The next important thing is to compare the above Risk and Reward. Compare your responses to Questions 2 and 3. Quantify them in terms of Time and Money.

5. Once you are done with the above, you will have arrived at a decision. If you still haven’t, ask the following questions:

  • What’s the cost of not doing this?
  • Are these people good? 
  • Do they have the skills to help me? Are they truly world-class? 
  • Have they done this before themselves?

These are again some simple yet powerful questions that you should think through in your thinking session. Needless to say, write your answers down. 

You will come to a decision after doing all of the above. If you are still unable to come up with a decision, then help yourself and the other person by saying “NO.” Don’t kid yourself and others by saying “Let Me Think.”

Michael Kitces had shared the biggest regret that almost all financial professionals had: “I wish I had done it sooner.

The ability to make decisions quickly (and thoughtfully) is a superpower.

Start Building this superpower – TODAY (rather NOW) – with this framework.

I would love to hear your thoughts.