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Who Will Feed the Dog? Decision Makers at the Table


Project management and procurement teams have evolved and completely changed the way purchasing decisions are made. The old-school approach of going straight to the top decision maker or check-signer is obsolete.

Today’s salespeople understand that while there may be one person who leads the decision process, there are a number of people who influence it – and no one person should be treated better or differently from the rest.

Procurement’s main goals are about getting the best price and ensuring the vendor has accountability measures in place for quality, service, and support. Project management plays a larger part though. They’ve probably experienced overruns and failed projects, and are concerned about things like time, cost, and scope management. When the salesperson understands project management’s priorities, the two parties can work together since they share the same intentions.
Teaming up to identify the correct information helps all parties involved.

In complex organizations, it might be difficult to understand who the main players are and what their roles will be. Will they be implementing the solution or providing oversight? You need to understand the dynamics of the organization and accept that you’ll likely spend your time with the influencers and NOT the executive suite who is signing off on the purchase.

Generally, it’s best to spend time with the people who will directly benefit from your solution. By learning their needs and showing how you can help make their lives easier, you turn them into your advocates. There comes a time however, when you need to find out who will be signing off on the purchase. It’s CRITICAL that you do so in a way that doesn’t offend your contact!

Bad example: “Who’s the decision maker?”
Great example: “How have you handled similar projects in the past?”

When they describe the how, the who is often revealed!

You may find there’s a project team who implements all new solutions. That’s great! It gives you an opportunity to better understand your client’s structure and who plays what roles. Something along the lines of  “I’ve seen it done this way in the past; how would your team tackle it?” Again, the how tells you the who — and you’ve now learned about each of the players and their roles.

Another way of understanding even more about their potential implementation is to look for trigger dates. Start with the end in mind and work backward. For example:
“If we are going to have the system up and running X date, what decisions need to be made, by whom, and by when?”
That question gives you a clear timeline and a full list of who the key people are.

The next logical step for you as the salesperson is to ask for some time with the team who will be implementing the solution. Likely their leader will be protective of your time, but saying something like this will help break the ice and lead you to a deeper understanding:
“Because the rest of the team is involved in this process and they all have different roles, I’d love to know what success looks like to them. It will help me answer their questions and explore how this can be a winning solution for everyone.”



1. How is your client going to make a decision?

2. What is the client’s process and timeline?

3. What is the expected completion dates and why?

4. Who is involved in the decision making?

  • What are the individual roles?

5. What are the decision criteria?

6. How do the criteria differ for each stakeholder?

7. Identify the who and discuss the how.


When you present a solution that shows you understand its implementation at all levels of the organization, addresses the challenges each area has outlined, and will not only solve their problem but will do so with the least chaos possible, you’ll have a leg up on your competitors.


The Mongrel method teaches sales and marketing tactics for the technology age using the fun -and memorable- personality of Steve’s dog Samuel to help the concepts stick. You can buy your copy here: https://mongrelmethod.com/buy-the-book/