Decision influencers: who are they, and how can you work effectively with them?
Even if the user, or the person in charge of an area, does not have the level of Authority, Need, and Dollars to be the actual Decision Maker, they may nonetheless be an important "Decision Influencer."
That is, even though this person at this time may be considered a Decision Influencer (because they currently lack some elements of the proper Authority, Need, or Budget Dollars, their ideas, advice and suggestions are listened to with respect.
For example, while they may be the actual users, and hence may have the Need and Authority to sign, nonetheless the necessary budget Dollars (or "sign-off") reside with their boss, or boss' boss.
You don't want to offend them by first seeing them, then appearing to skip over their head.
For instance, if you are selling printers, you may find that the head of the graphics department has the Need for what you offer, but not the Authority or Dollars to allow them to sign the order.
Still, they will be very significant to your maiking that sale, as they are perhaps a key shaper of how that decision goes.
Decision Influencers may include,
Those who will be the actual users of your product or service. That is, the CEO may make the decision on which new "Widget Engine" to buy, but the key influencer of that decision may be Old Joe down on the factory floor who's worked with every Widget Engine ever sold. Get to Old Joe, win him over, and he can influence the decision your way.
Financial advisors such as the firm's accountant or Chief Financial Officer: they may say whether or not the firm can afford what you offer, and may also have input on finance alternatives, such as leasing versus purchasing, and the like.
The Decision Maker's Mentor may play a crucial role in the making of that decision. That is, the person who has Decision Making Authority, Need, and Dollars, may still want to check it with the "old hand" in the company who has helped him along the way. Chances are, you won't know who that Mentor (or other kinds of covert decision influencers) are, and may never meet them; just be aware there may be one, feeding suggestions, questions and other concerns to the Decision Maker.
The Purchasing Manager may also have a say, though typically more on the technical aspects of how to make the purchase happen within the organization's policies on purchasing. The fact that the Purchasing Manager may have this kind of influence is a good reason not to antagonize him or her. Go around them to get to the real Decision Maker, but do it quietly and in a nice, unobtrusive way.
When to and not to begin with the Purchasing or Training departments?