Live

Watch CBSN Live

Which Customer Contact Has Real Power?

You may think you know who's got decision-making power inside your target customer, but chances are you're missing the real power players. Here are three profiles of mid-level players inside an IT company that's known for having a "collaborative" culture. You're selling a product that will be widely used throughout this organization. You've got to make this sale or your quota will come up short.

Can you spot the player who's got the most clout?

  • Jose. Job title: Systems Architect. Jose comes off like a really nice guy. Everybody seems to like him and managers ask his advice about how to handle their own staffs. He's usually in attendance at key meetings, but usually doesn't say very much.
  • Mary. Job title: Engineering Director. While most of the managers at this firm tend to build consensus, Mary is known for making decisions quickly and then sticking with them, regardless of what others think. As a result, she's gotten the reputation as a real "go-getter."
  • Fred. Job title: Department Head. Recently hired from another company, where he was CEO, Fred has spent the past two months "learning the lay of the land" and conducting one-on-one interviews with the executives that work for him.

Click here to get the correct answer »

You may think you know who's got decision-making power inside your target customer, but chances are you're missing the real power players. Here are three profiles of mid-level players inside an IT company that's known for having a "collaborative" culture. You're selling a product that will be widely used throughout this organization. You've got to make this sale or your quota will come up short.

Can you spot the player who's got the most clout?

  • Jose. Job title: Systems Architect. Jose comes off like a really nice guy. Everybody seems to like him and managers ask his advice about how to handle their own staffs. He's usually in attendance at key meetings, but usually doesn't say very much.
  • Mary. Job title: Engineering Director. While most of the managers at this firm tend to build consensus, Mary is known for making decisions quickly and then sticking with them, regardless of what others think. As a result, she's gotten the reputation as a real "go-getter."
  • Fred. Job title: Department Head. Recently hired from another company, where he was CEO, Fred has spent the past two months "learning the lay of the land" and conducting one-on-one interviews with the executives that work for him.

The correct answer is Jose.
The article "The Authority That's Not on Any Chart" in last Sunday's New York Times pointed out that in most organization "informal" power often carries more weight than the "formal" power that's defined on the org chart.

In the example above, purchasing power technically lies with Fred. However, Fred has already failed to establish his power in the organization and is obviously content to let other people make the decisions. While he "signs the check" he's going to go along with whatever "the deparment" decides to do.

So the REAL power actually resides elsewhere. If you go strictly by the org chart, and by a quick assessment of the personalities involved, it seems like Mary has the most power, if only because she'll move hell and high water to get her way.

However, in a company that's consensus driven, Mary isn't going to have much power because her decisions will seem arbitrary. She finds herself constantly blocked by other managers and by the passive-aggressive behavior of her own employees.

That's why Jose has the most power. Since this is an IT company, a systems architect is a key role and is likely to be consulted on any important purchase. Since everybody respects him -- including Mary's peers -- if Jose says "no" to a purchase, it simply won't happen.

In other words, it's possible to "sell around" Mary and Fred, but not Jose. You MUST get Jose on board in order to make a sale. So Jose has the most power, even though his job title suggests otherwise.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue