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Formal Approvers of Buying Decisions: Why Ignoring Them Will Make You Lose.


I came across scores of salespeople treating Formal Approvers in buying decision processes as roadblocks one just needs to run over with brute force. I have never seen this work. Instead, I have seen lower-level approvers like Data Privacy Officers block even decisions from the entire board of directors for months.


Formal Approvers are implemented for a reason: they are part of an organization’s control system. They prevent the organization from violating laws, regulations, compliance, and governance rules. They identify risks and enforce their mitigation. They protect the interests of the stakeholders of an organization like owners, employees, and customers.


They are not implemented to make salespeople’s life miserable. Actually, they don’t care about salespeople at all because, unlike the Economical Buyer of a solution, they don’t benefit directly from what the seller brings to the table.


In the narrative Buying Decision Influences: The Formal Approvers I look at 5 typical Formal Approvers with Finance/Controlling, Legal, Procurement, Security, and Strategy in more detail explaining their roles and how they impact the sales cycle.


Their approval comes typically very late in the buying decision process, after the Economical Buyer has triggered a purchase request. However, a clever salesperson will engage them as early as possible in the sales cycle. Why? Because they want to turn them from a potential blocker into a supporter!


Let’s use Security as an example. Approvers from this domain are accountable for minimizing and mitigating the risk of theft, damage, or abuse of corporate assets. For this they establish threat scenarios and define rules and mechanisms to prevent their occurrence. Implementing a disruptive innovation regularly impacts these scenarios by introducing new, yet to be fully understood threats, e.g. implementing new AI technologies.


So if your job was to sell these new AI technologies waiting until Security becomes involved to approve the purchase will put your sales cycle to a grinding halt: They will qualify it as an unacceptable risk with mitigation missing. You won’t be able to educate them on this new technology and help them integrate it into their security framework within just a couple of days. As a result, your deal will be put on hold, and you will lose all the momentum you built up until then, increasing the risk of changes in the customer organization and competitive counter-tactics.


So what you want to do instead is tackle this in one of your first conversations with the Economical Buyer: Ask them whether the organization has already integrated AI technologies in their security framework and who is responsible for it. Offer to take care of this yourself relieving the buyer from this burden.


Next you want to bring your best security specialists to the table and start educating the customer. They will tell you about all the no-go areas they have defined so you have the opportunity to factor this into your non-traditional value proposition.


For Security you will become an asset rather than a challenger. Based on your education they will be able to proactively engage with their own organization to enable usage of AI technologies. And they will provide positive feedback to the Economical Buyer adding to your image as a source of business improvement.


By the time the puck stops with them, they will approve your solution right away while a competitive solution they haven’t seen before will be stopped until they were able to judge its compliance with the security framework.


In Disruption Selling we put understanding the Formal Buying Process in the very detail right at the beginning of the sales cycle and this is where we also learn about the Formal Approvers.

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