Unless your client is a one-person operation, there are probably many levels of people you deal with. Knowing how decisions are made, who makes them, and what the relationships are among colleagues is critical to your ability to cultivate a successful long-term relationship with your clients. Recognize the following types of people involved in decision making:
Decision Makers are the ones who actually pull the trigger. If you don’t know who they are, find out! You need their trust and respect to get their business, but they won’t necessarily be the ones to sing your praises or open doors elsewhere in the company.
Influencers have the ear of the decision makers. They may be the number-two person, maybe a colleague, a department head, or even an assistant. These are the people who the decision makers trust to make recommendations and give their opinions about business matters. It’s crucial to find out who these people are at the organizations you’re trying to penetrate.
Advocates speak out on your behalf and recommend you to others, especially if you’re successful and make them look good. They’re your champions who will open doors at the company to enable you to spread your net wide and deep. The strongest client relationships are those where you have multiple advocates speaking highly of your performance, goods or services.
Mentors play the role of your coach. Sometimes, though not always, they’re the gatekeepers. They provide insight about the key people in the organization and tell you who you need to meet and what buttons to press. They won’t necessarily open the door for you, though, so it’s important to cultivate these relationships with frequent–though not overbearing—contact. An occasional lunch or coffee meeting can go a long way in helping to make them feel important.
Knowing the key players and their roles within their organizations allows you to Access Your Ability to become the go-to person the client relies on to help solve problems, meet sales quotas and satisfy their customers. It enables you to penetrate deep within the organization and convert a one-time sale to on ongoing relationship.