Once you’ve located the level in the buying organization from which approval must come for your sale, you need to confirm that the person you think has final approval will actually wield that authority on this sale. There are three ways you can do this. You can:
- ask the suspected economic buyer directly;
- get coaching
Only the first two ways are acceptable. Representatives who think they know who the economic buyer is for their sale, or who have a pretty good idea who controls the funds, very often guess wrong. If you don’t know who the economic buying influence is for the sales objective you’re working on. Then zero in on the actual economic buyer by asking and /or getting coaching. If you do know who the economic buying influence is and have covered that base well, you can regard that crucial piece of information as strength.
Asking the buyer directly:
It would be hard to get more direct than that, and if you’re comfortable with such blunt methods, fine: close with your suspected economic buying influence and see if he or she comes up with the money. If, like us you prefer a little more finesse, you can ask less direct questions. In framing them, remember what the economic buyer actually does. By definition this is the person who releases the money to pay for your particular sales objective or proposal.
When the decision is made, Dan, whose budget will the funds come out of?
- Is there anybody who can veto this proposal?
- After you give your OK, Dan, how does the final decision process work?
- Is there anybody at a senior level whose approval we need?
Such questions are designed to cut through the baloney of referrals and recommendations tentative approvals and provisional orders by focusing on this key individual’s role in that sale. If Farley actually is the economic buying influence his responses – words or actions – will let you know that.
But only, of course, if he tells you the truth because that isn’t always the case, we recommend a second method of identification.
Asking your suspected economic buyers if they really have the authority to release the needed funds may or may not get you a straight answer. Not only are ultimate authorities adept at hiding within corporate structures, but, as we mentioned earlier, technical buyers are occupationally addicted to passing themselves off as economic buyers, and some of them are very good at the game. If you asked a technical buying influence the above questions, for example, the person could easily tell you, with a straight face, it’s my budget and I alone make the decisions. There’s nobody else you should see or need to see.
Because people who are that defensive about their authority are almost never true economic buyers, such an answer might well make you suspicious. But you’d still need a second opinion to help you sort things out. That’s the significant advantage of having good coaching. By asking a reliable coach questions like these, you will often get clearer information than you will from the suspected economic buyer (or those economic buyer wannabes) about who actually releases the money for your sale.
It’s not uncommon to identify an economic buying influence correctly and then be frustrated in your objective because he or she is out of reach. The individual may, for example, be in a remote geographical location: the real approval for your sale may have to come from a home office located hundreds of miles from your territory. Or the economic buyer may be isolated from outside calls by a professional screen – the secretary who tells you, every time you try to get to the boss “He is in a meeting”. Or you may be blocked by one of those technical buying influences who specialize in masquerading as economic buyers.
Dealing with geographical remoteness and protective secretaries often requires merely the use of good proxies. You can often get to an inaccessible final authority by letting someone else in your organization cover that particular base for you. The best choice for that someone else is often a person at the same organizational level as the economic buying influence. We’ll return to this point in a minute, when we discuss like rank selling.
Dealing with buying influence who’s actively trying to block you from seeing the economic buyer can be a more difficult scenario.