The Sales Cycle Challenge

In the sales cycle, the single most challenging aspect is actually closing a deal. The second is discovering opportunities on your own without a lead or interest.

“I have rubbed shoulders with the rich, the powerful, and the armless. It’s how to network when handshakes aren’t an option.”

While browsing the blogosphere the other day, I came across that quote which really resonated with me. Jarod Kintz, author of How to Put Out Forest Fires With Your Naked Body, touches on the most significant factor for success in sales: cultivating and growing your professional network.

As a Senior Commercial Business Development Representative at Apttus, shaking hands isn’t really part of my job description. However, as an individual who devotes the majority of his day to honing in on the most effective way to reach out to a prospect, this quote really got me thinking about my strategy.

finding decision maker is key in sales process

Over the last few years, I have come to understand the significance of having an established professional network. In fact, in the tech sales role, your professional network can singlehandedly make or break a career. Being able to identify and connect with key decision makers within a company is not an exact science, which is why there are many schools of thought on best practices.

According to Mohit Garg, today nearly one-third of the technology purchasing power has transferred over to Executives outside of IT. In certain instances, managers and users control the decision-making process from beginning to end (with little to no involvement from the CIO and/or IT). It is causing startup sales teams to get creative, collaborate, and dissect “typical” problematic areas to create value propositions geared towards various departments and roles within an organization.

When looking to expand your network into companies you are unfamiliar with, there are five main decision makers you should be aware of. Now these aren’t always five different people. In some cases one person may embody all five of these roles, but in others you may have to deal with 2, 3, or even more depending on the size of the project team. For example, a Director of Sales might be the initiator and influencer when it comes to purchasing a configuration and quoting application like CPQ.

The Five Key Decision Makers in the Sales Process

influencer is key in the sales process

1. The Initiator

The person who decides to start the buying process:
This is typically a Director or SVP who is tasked by their CIO/CTO or CFO with putting together current business challenges and get a feel for the process architecture to create requirements for a software purchase.

2. The Influencer

The person who tries to convince others they need the product:
This is typically an end user in a company. Whether this is a member of the sales team, or an individual in the legal counsel, they understand the inefficiencies with their procedures since they interact with it as part of their daily routine.

decision maker in sales process

3. The Decider

The person who makes the final decision to purchase:
This is probably most important person in the sales process to have on your side. This can be the initiator, who spent time evaluating vendors and narrowing it down to one. This can also be the Director of a department whose team will be utilizing the software.

4. The Buyer

The person who is going to write you the check:
This is most always a C-Level Executive. The buyer trusts the decider to make the best decision for the entire business. Once he/she selects their vendor of choice, have done their due diligence, and can provide evidence to back up the suggestion, they will sign off on the purchase.

end user is important in the sales process

5. The User

The person who ends up using your product, whether he had a say in the buying process or not:
As I stated earlier this can be the initiator. Once the software has been purchased, you still must ensure user adoption, so that these individuals appreciate the new solution. They can convince friends in other companies of the success of their product, creating the engine that drives the need and starts this entire process over again.

Sales Process End Goal

In the business world, we all want to be valued and appreciated, which is why you must tactically uncover the decision maker. The end goal is to find The Decider. If there is no decider, then there is no deal. Craig Jamieson, an expert in social selling, states that when outreaching and conversing with potential influencers, you should use questions such as “In addition to yourself, who else will be involved in the decision-making process?” Then follow this up with “And, what role does each play” and “Can we get them involved now to ensure that each of their needs/interests are met?”

Taking a birds eye view of today’s business world, you will see how fast it is changing every day. It’s our responsibility to dig deep and figure out the intricacies within an organization to uncover the most effective influencer for financial decisions. With all of this being said, remember:

“Business is a game, played for fantastic stakes, and you’re in competition with experts. If you want to win, you have to learn to be a master of the game.” – Sidney Sheldon


When it comes to closing deals, is your sales process an asset or a liability? Apttus and Adobe partnered on a survey to understand how sales leaders in Fortune 1000 companies are performing in regard to sales effectiveness and process efficiency. The results show many organizations are unaware that the processes they have are lengthening sales cycles and bleeding top-line revenue.

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