Selling to Decisions Makers at Different Levels

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When you're selling B2B, you may end up speaking with decision-makers at any of three different levels. In fact, it's quite possible that you'll be pitching to decision-makers at every level on a single sale because it's not uncommon for a decision-maker to kick you up or down a level so that you can pitch to those decision-makers as well.

The only problem is, decision-makers at these three different levels have different definitions of value. It is "baked in" to the fact that that particular decision-maker is at that particular level. In other words, it's part of his job. If you don't know how to switch gears when faced with different levels, you'll find yourself succeeding brilliantly with one type of decision-maker but crashing and burning when you speak with decision-makers at other levels.

Manager and Buyer

The first and lowest level of B2B decision-makers is the department manager and professional buyer or both. It's unlikely you'll find someone with buying authority at a lower level than that. Managerial decision-makers are most interested in the product itself and how it will work for them. These are the decision-makers who are most likely to speak in technicalese, and they will expect salespeople to be familiar with and comfortable discussing technical aspects of the product.

When selling at the managerial level, you need strong product knowledge and a good grasp of the prospect's industry. These decision-makers want to hear how the product will make their jobs easier. Benefit statements are a powerful tool to prove value to managerial decision-makers, especially statements related to using the product itself. Managerial decision-makers are also very interested in the easy implementation and strong support from your company because these decision-makers are the people who will be responsible for making the product work.

Vice President

The second level of B2B decision-makers is the vice president. Vice presidents don't care about how the product works because that's the department manager's problem. What a vice president cares about is reaching his corporate goals. These goals rotate around money, so what these decision-makers want to hear is how your product will either increase revenues or decrease costs.

When selling at the vice presidential level, you need to be able to demonstrate Return on Investment (ROI). If a company wants to be profitable, it has to have a strong ROI — in other words, the money it invests has to result in a positive return. So your task for these decision-makers is to show them the financial benefit that buying your product will offer. To do so, you'll need to get the background information from the decision-maker about their current situation and where they would like to be in the future. Armed with that information, you'll be able to give them specific numbers that prove your product's ROI.

CEOs and Presidents

The third and highest decision-maker level belongs to top-level executives — CEOs, presidents, and so on. Decision-makers at this level don't care about product details; talking about how the product works will get you swiftly sent down to the managerial level. Senior executives are focused on market size. They want to grow the company's control of the market and take customers away from their competitors.

When selling at the senior executive level, you need to be able to sell to the big picture. These decision-makers are interested in how your product will help the company increase market share and achieve its long-term goals. One powerful approach for selling to senior executive decision-makers is addressing risk. Because senior executives are often focused on the company's future, they are very interested in products and services that will reduce the risks to their companies.