Getting To Decision-Makers

By Geoffrey James

Most software sales involve multiple decision-makers from multiple departments, according to Neil Rackham, author of the best-selling book Spin Selling (McGraw-Hill). Here are the three generic types of decision-makers and how you need to sell to them.

1. The access owner. This person typically is a technical guru whose opinion is respected but who has no management responsibility. Your goal is to convince the access owner to sponsor your ideas and introduce you to the rest of the organization, especially the other two types of decision-makers. Key action: Provide valuable insights that convince the access owner of your credibility so he or she will take the career risk of sponsoring you.

2. The problem owner. This person typically is a line manager or IT manager (or both) who owns the problem your software is intended to address. The problem owner generally is too busy to talk to sales reps, which is why you need the sponsorship of the access owner. Your goal is to convince the problem owner that your software will solve his or her problem. Key action: Show you understand the customer’s problem in terms of the customer’s own vocabulary and business viewpoint.

3. The budget owner. This person typically is a financial type, such as a CFO, or other top executive. The budget owner generally isn’t interested in product features. Instead, the budget owner is interested in seeing that any money spent on software will be well spent. Your goal is to convince the budget owner that your software will result in a swift return on investment. Key action: Use real-world examples that demonstrate how your software increases revenue and reduces costs.

If you have handled each of these decision-makers appropriately, closing the sale is simply a matter of gathering the decision-makers in a single room and then confirming that the sale should go forward.