Who’s Who in Sales

By Heather Baldwin

Everyone talks about getting to the decision maker in sales. In truth, your sales reps deal with four categories of people and they need to know how to handle each of them to build a solid case for your product or service. In his book, Getting the Second Appointment: How to Close Any Sale in Two Calls (John Wiley & Sons, 2004), Anthony Parinello discusses the four categories of people your salespeople deal with throughout the sales process and the best way to interact with them and their different agendas.

Recommenders. As their name suggests, recommenders make recommendations. They may be receptionists, editors, analysts, assistants or other contributors, but they have one thing in common – they spend their days doing what other people plan. Their recommendations can carry weight, though not always. They are users of systems in the enterprise, they know what’s working and what’s not and they’re usually happy to share with you the information you need. Any attempt to sell this group on your product is a waste of time. Instead, use recommenders as a resource by asking questions about their current operations, where the problems are and what happens when those problems occur.

Influencers. These are usually technical experts who love to win arguments and correctly identify the problem and solution. They often closely guard their information and criteria so don’t bother asking them things such as who your competition is for their business. Influencers will not help you sell and cannot make the decision to buy, but they are important because they can change the mind of the decision maker. To win with influencers, help them eliminate problems by identifying flaws in other people’s ideas. “Find an influencer early on in the sales process, prove your credential as an error-spotting ally and help the person influence whoever needs to be influenced about the merits of your solution,” says Parinello.

Decision Maker. This is the person who can endorse something a recommender and/or influencer signs off on. The decision maker’s (DM) job is to say yes, so if you get a no, it simply means someone else has gotten the yes. The big win for DMs happens when you make the sale and deliver the results you promised because DMs want to be the hero, the one who saved the company $2 million. You want direct interaction with the DM during your second meeting. “When you interact with DMs you must constantly match and map your ideas to their personal and professional goals,” says Parinello. “You’re learning what matters to them, exactly how they define victory. Then you’re drawing as many parallels as possible between their vision of a win and the resources you’ve got that can make that vision a reality.”

Approver. The approver sits at the top of the totem pole, issuing strategic commands that the DM of choice then takes tactical steps to make happen. Approvers’ role in purchase decisions is far greater today than most salespeople imagine. Approvers in similar market niches have similar goals and tend to use similar language. Sales reps dealing with them must be industry marketplace and niche experts and be willing to articulate, with credibility and passion, both hard- and soft-dollar value results.