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To Win the Sale, Engage 3 Key Decision Makers
by On July 29, 2009

This article was recently in the Workplace Issues section of and thought it would be of interest to all of the sales superstars that read our blog. I would love to hear how this technique works for everyone.
Many sales reps think that somewhere inside their customer’s headquarters is a single decision maker. But today, even CEOs reach consensus with their direct reports before making important decisions, according to Neil Rackham, author of SPIN Selling.

Meet the Decision Makers

In a recent Selling Power magazine article, Rackham observes that decision making for the purchase of any significant product is shared by three individuals:

  1. The Access Owner
    This person is prepared to talk to you and give you inside information and access to the other decision makers.

    His/Her Key Question for You: Are you a credible solution provider?

  2. The Problem Owner
    This person owns the problem that your product addresses and will not normally be willing to spend time educating you about the organization.

    His/Her Key Question for You: Will your solution fix my problem?

  3. The Budget Owner
    This person has control of the money the problem owner needs to purchase your solution.

    His/Her Key Question for You: What’s the return on investment (ROI)?

Most major sales decisions are made if and only if the access owner says, “This guy can be trusted to deliver,” the problem owner says, “This product will fix my problem,” and the budget owner says, “This purchase makes sense financially.

Getting the Decision Makers’ Buy-In

Here’s a five-step guide to how you can set up this situation:

  1. Approach the Access Owner
    Access owners tend to be technical types. To recruit one, you’ll need to demonstrate that you offer significant value by providing dramatic insights into his company and industry. Here’s an example of what you can say to engage him:

    “I just read your white paper about framistats and was wondering if you might be interested in some thoughts about why sales of framistats have leveled off. I’d love to come by and talk with you about that and see if there’s anything that my company can do to help you get ready for the increased demand…”

  2. Convert the Access Owner into a Sponsor
    Once you’ve engaged the access owner, trade your expertise for additional information about the prospective customer and for access to the other decision makers, namely the problem owner. Remember, when you try to get the access owner to gather information and contacts for you, you’re essentially asking him to put his career and credibility on the line. Your goal is to act and sound like a consultant who adds value, as opposed to a talking brochure.
  3. Sell a Solution to the Problem Owner
    Problem owners tend to be managers responsible for a segment of the company’s business. Therefore, to complete the sale, your goal is not only to convince the problem owner that you have a workable solution but also to convince him to give you access to the budget owner. Ideally, your solution shouldn’t be based on what you have to sell, but rather on what the customer actually needs. The idea here is to play the role of such a great consultant that the prospect will feel as if he should be paying for the sales call.
  4. Sell the ROI to the Budget Owner
    Budget owners tend to be finance specialists. Forget about chitchat or product/solution presentations. Instead, focus on how much your product will cost, how the problem owner is convinced it will work and how long it will take to achieve an acceptable ROI. Stress the potential ROI impact of your product, and calculate and express this impact in multiple, valid ways.
  5. Close the Sale
    Once you have successfully worked through the previous steps, gather all three decision makers and confirm the sale.

By Geoffrey James, Monster Contributing Writer


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Dave Denis

  1. Dave Denis

    Thanks Charlie. Just to note, I didn’t write this article. I found it on, and thought I would bring to your good folks here on our blog. It is good stuff.

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