Mar 29, 2021 • Podcast

How do different decision makers think?

Paul dives deep into the three levels of decision makers in Value-Added Selling.

Value is personal. Each type of decision maker is going to define value in a different way.

Level I

This decision maker needs a _____________ solution.

“Don’t take a no from someone who can’t say yes.”

Level II

Level IIs influence the …. 

Demonstrate how you can make their life easier. 

Level III (High-level Decision Makers)

High-level decision makers (HLDMs) need partnerships to achieve their business goals.

“HLDMs are the least likely to….”

Remember, everyone is afraid of something more than paying a higher price.


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How do different decision makers think?

(Transcribed from podcast)

On today’s episode, we’re going to talk about different decision makers. In a recent virtual training seminar, I had a group of salespeople ask about the different types of decision makers you’re going to encounter. What they think about; how they buy. So we’re going to dive a little bit deeper into that.

Before we get into that question, though, a quick shout-out to Andrea over at The Creative Impostor Studios. Andrea is such a great resource. Her and her company, The Creative Impostor Studios, they do a wonderful job helping with the podcast, getting ideas out there and also keeping me updated on what’s new to podcasting and all that good stuff. So if you’re thinking of starting a podcast, if you’re almost ready to start one, wherever you are at in your podcasting journey, reach out to Andrea and her team.

Also, in Value-Added Selling, we have an entire chapter dedicated to how decision makers think and also how price shoppers think. So it is a wealth of knowledge. It’s your go-to guide for selling value. So pick up your copy of Value-Added Selling. It’s available wherever you get your books: on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, you name it, you can find it there. So pick up your copy today.

Let’s get back to that question. How do different decision makers think? How do they define value? That’s what we’re going to answer on today’s show.

Before we get into that question, a little background on how different decision makers think. We have to remember that value is personal. Each type of decision maker is going to define value in a different way. Your engineer’s going to define value differently than your procurement buyer; your business owner’s going to define value differently than an executive. Everyone defines value in a different way. And you, as a value-added salesperson, it’s up to you to figure out how they do define value so that you can shape and mold the right image and the right solution for that customer. So keep that in mind—that value is personal and so it’s going to be different for each type of decision maker.

With that being said, we’re going to use some Value-Added Selling language here for a moment because I mean, there’s thousands of different types of decision makers. So we’re just going to use some language from Value-Added Selling to help explain how different decision makers think.

So we have three levels of decision makers we focus on in Value-Added Selling. The first is what we call a Level-I decision maker. A Level-I decision maker is a traditional procurement-type buyer. This is going to be someone responsible for handling contracts, processing purchase orders, meeting with vendors, sending out requests for quotes, things like that. That is a Level-I purchasing person. So if their title says procurement manager, buyer, anything procurement related there, they’re probably a Level-I decision maker.

Now here’s what they need. They need a logistical solution. Their needs are primarily logistical. And what I mean by that, they’re concerned about the supply side of products.

They want to order a product or service, they want it to show up, and they want it to be available for the people who made the request to them. That’s what they want. And since they live in this transactional world where it’s all about getting a purchase order, processing it, and getting it off of their desk, they’re going to be mostly concerned about price.

In fact, our research shows that of all the different types of decision makers, procurement buyers are the most price-sensitive of all the different types of decision-makers. So if you’re a value-added seller listening to this podcast, ask yourself this question: Why would I try to sell value to the one buyer that is least likely to buy value? I see this all the time where salespeople will tell me, “Well, I have to talk to procurement. That’s where they want me to start. That’s who they want me to meet with. That’s where I’m supposed to go.” And it’s basically a salesperson focusing on trying to sell their solution to a customer they know is going to be price-sensitive.

So we can’t just meet with a Level-I procurement-type buyer. Just meeting with a Level-I procurement-type buyer, you are begging for price objections. You’re absolutely begging for price resistance. And you might be listening to this and saying, “Well, Paul, my procurement manager told me I have to meet with them. I have to sell to them. They’re the only one I can contact.” I’m here to tell you that’s not the case. They might tell you that. They might tell you, “You have to meet with me or else you’re not going to get any business.” They might tell you that. What they’re attempting to do is wield their power. They’re trying to tell you that you have to meet with them so that they can focus the conversation on price.

So my thought is, don’t ever take a no from someone who can’t say yes. If you have a procurement buyer that cannot agree to your price, that won’t agree to move forward with your solution, then why would you accept a no from them? Don’t accept no from someone who can’t say yes. So Level-I logistical-type buyers, that’s what they need. They need a logistical solution.

Now here’s a little secret about Level-I procurement-type people. I’ve had a chance to meet with several procurement people throughout my training career. When I go to speak at company meetings, kickoff events, every now and then procurement people will sit in on our session. And I always tell them, “Hey, if you sit in on this Value-Added Selling session, you can’t use this against the salespeople trying to sell to you.” And they kind of laughingly agree, but they’re probably using it against them. But anyway, I digress. When I’ve talked to these procurement people, I want to know what they think about, what they’re concerned about, what their fear is.

And one thing I’ve noticed, this position is a thankless position. It really is. Within an organization, think about what happens. Procurement people are going to place orders. They’re going to process orders. And if something goes wrong, which inevitably something will go wrong occasionally, they get blamed for it. But when things go well, and everything’s going the way they should: when product shows up on time, when it shows up on spec, like it should, and it shows up, everything’s correct, they don’t get a pat on the back. They don’t get any sort of recognition. It’s a thankless position. The only time they really get noticed by the organization is when something goes wrong. So be aware of that, that the Level-I procurement-type people, man, they’re not getting a lot of “attaboys” and pats on the back. No, instead they’re getting a lot of calls like “Where’s our product?” “Why did you switch to that vendor?” “This isn’t working out.” They’re getting challenged or questioned. And for that reason, one of their primary motivations beyond what they need, but what they really want. They want safety. They want low-risk solutions that are going to work. So when you’re thinking about that, ask yourself, “Okay. If I’m meeting with a procurement-type buyer, what is it that they’re trying to avoid? What are they afraid of?”

In fact, I remember talking to a group of procurement people at a convention. This was at a happy hour, and I asked them, I said, “Hey, what’s your biggest concern? Going into work that day, what is your biggest concern?” And it was interesting. Each one of them was a fear-based response. One procurement manager said, “Well, my biggest fear is just going in and having the boss just rip me a new one ’cause I made the wrong decision.” Another procurement manager said, “Well, my big fear or concern is I don’t want to make the wrong decision. I don’t want the salespeople to come in and yell at me because I bought the wrong material.” So, they’re getting yelled at for all of these different things.

So just to summarize Level-I decision makers, they’re making decisions based on, yeah, what they need, which is going to be those logistical things I mentioned earlier, but also there’s a big fear there of making the wrong decision. Now think about how that relates to price for a moment. Everyone is afraid of something more than paying a higher price. So, if you can think about that when you’re dealing with Level-I’s that’s going to help you sell your value-added solution because you can weigh in on that fear. You can emphasize the safety of your solution, how it’s low risk, how you’re going to be able to support them. And by doing that, it’s going to help you sell value. But you just can’t stop with Level-I decision makers.

The next group that we need to talk to: Level-II decision makers. Level-II is a catch-all term that could mean several different things—catch all term meaning, it could be an engineer specifying your product. It could be an operations manager. It could be an end user or an installer that likes the way your product works. It could be a number of different people that fall into this Level-II category. Generally speaking, Level-II decision makers—they want performance. They want something that’s going to work for them. And that’s what they care about. They don’t mind paying a higher price. They don’t really concern themselves with how much the initial, upfront cost is going to be. What they want to know is if it’s going to perform on the back end, if it’s going to do what you say it’s going to do, if it’s going to meet up to the quality standards, if it’s easy to maintain, if it’s safe for their workers, if it’s going to help them achieve their departmental goals. That’s what they really care about. That’s what they need.

Now, when you think about it at a deeper level, what they really want, Level-II decision makers, they want you to make their life easier. And I know everyone wants that. Every type of decision maker wants you to make their life easier, but Level-II decision makers, they typically are supervising people. They have a fair amount of responsibility. They have a lot on their plate. They just want you to make their life easier. So if you’re meeting with the Level-II type of decision maker, again—that end-user, that influencer—be able to demonstrate how you can make their life easier.

These Level-II, they also can be your champions. They can help sell your solution to their own people, to other departments, to the procurement people. So you want to befriend them. You want to get to know them and build relationships with them, understand what they need and understand what they want. At a basic level, their needs are going to be performance. What they want? They want you to make their life easier.

Moving on to the next group. We’ll call these Level-III decision makers. Level-III decision makers are high-level decision makers. These are people that can say yes without having to check with anyone else. That’s what makes them so important. That’s why we call them high-level decision makers, because they can say yes where other people can just say no. And they can say yes regardless of how high your prices are, regardless of the change that is required, they can say yes. It doesn’t mean they’re going to just say yes without incorporating other people, but they do have the authority and the ability. So they say yes.

Now they need something bigger than just products. They need something more than just a cheap price; they need partnerships. That’s what they care about. They want to buy into a partnership. And again, a partnership is when two companies get together and work towards a common goal. As a seller, that means you’re partnering with your customer to help them achieve their business goals. So they need a partner. They need someone they can rely on. And what they really want is to achieve their business goals. A high-level decision maker—think about a business owner, an executive, a VP, whoever it might be—they want to know how you’re going to help them achieve their business goals. They want to know how you’re going to help them be more competitive, reduce their cost, improve profitability. These are the things that matter to them—or how you can improve their company’s culture if that’s part of your value proposition. They want to know how you’re going to make that happen. And if you can prove and demonstrate that you can make that happen, they’re more likely to say yes.

And also, and this is critical to selling value, Level-III decision makers are the least likely to focus on price. Our research shows that high-level decision makers are the least likely to focus on price. That’s why you absolutely have to sell to this level within an organization. They will say yes to your solution where others can say no. They will say yes if you can demonstrate the value. They will say yes. That’s why we have to get to this level.

All right, folks. Well, that is the show for today. Again, the question was: How do different decision-makers think? We went through the different decision makers, the three levels of decision makers from Value-Added Selling.

So just as a reminder, make sure you visit the While you’re there, you can ask a question and I will turn it into a future show. Make sure you check out that new search feature. We’ve got the search feature on the website. That way you can search previous questions and, some of the questions you might have we’ve probably already answered on previous shows, so check it out. Also share it with your colleagues, hit that subscribe button.

But most importantly, you know what to do—make it a big day.

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