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Last week, we explained the what and why of thinking about buyers as playing four different roles and wearing four different hats. We portrayed two of the four:

  • Spec Hat
  • Hands-On Hat

Here are the remaining two roles/hats:

The Financial Hat is the one person who, for this sale only, can authorize and release funds, find unbudgeted funds, and say "yes" when others say "no."

This is the person whom your other stakeholders will nominate as the logical champion for your idea, who will lead the sponsorship group.

Match your message to the audience

The Financial Hat is interested in return on investment—the relationship between total cost and value received—not the nuts and bolts of how you'll manage the legal matter.

Remember, though, that the Financial Hat may also wear a SpecHands-On or Guide hat. Begin by assuming she's only wearing the financial hat and remain focused on big-picture and ROI considerations. If you discuss Spec or Hands-On considerations, you'll degrade your relevance, and forfeit future access to her. If she also has Spec or Hands-On concerns, she'll raise them.

This role in the sale has nothing to do with organization titles, and may change with each sales initiative. There is only one per sale. However, to satisfy an emotional need to feel important, others may claim or imply such authority. (For more about emotional needs, reread The Most Important Steps in the Sales Process.)  

Effort expended to find the source of funds will help you avoid the 30% of situations in which the outcome is No Decision.

The single most frequent cause of stalled sales is failure to identify the source of funds.  As early as possible, we must identify and earn contact with the Financial Hat.

The Guide. With the exception of the Financial Hat, no one plays a more important role in the sale than the Guide, who, motivated by self-interest, wants us to make this sale.  By giving us unique information about the sales situation, the other stakeholder Hats involved and their respective needs, the Guide helps us know what is really going on and how to make this sale.

Without a Guide, we're flying blind, guessing about the most important elements in the sale:

  • the identity of the Hats and their respective needs;
  • internal politics and sponsorship;
  • competition;
  • timing and how our solution should be configured, positioned, expressed and presented.  

Therefore, we must develop at least one for each sale.  In a perfect world, we develop theFinancial Hat as our Guide.  To make your life easy, develop as many Guides as possible to show you the easiest way to more sales.  

Here's one more consideration:

The Float Factor

The identity of the Financial Hat has nothing to do with corporate titles.  Funding authority "floats" up or down within the company according to the potential impact our sales proposition has on the organization.  This is determined by relative risk:

  1. The amount of financial commitment in relation to the size of the company. There may be many people at a Fortune 500 who can spend $100,000, but perhaps only the CEO at a $5 million company.
  2. Business climate.  In good times, companies allow greater purchasing authority at lower levels; in bad times, they restrict buying authority to higher levels.
  3. Experience with our firm or us.  A major commitment to a first-time vendor usually requires an OK at the top.  A client who buys from you often will allow lower level authorization.
  4. Experience buying legal services.  First time buyers don't often allow lower level employees to make such commitments.

Since everyone wants to be important, many people may misrepresent themselves as the Financial Hat. Compare these claims against the Float Factor to test for legitimacy, and make sure your stakeholder group includes someone serving in this critical role.

Mike O'Horo

Do you spend too much time "following up" on supposed prospects that have languished in your pipeline far too long? They don't buy, they don't progress, they just eat up your limited sales time. It's probably because your fear of hearing "no" prevents you from pursuing a decision. Learn a reliable process for aligning all the Hats behind a decision.