For years I had determined that title was not necessarily an accurate clue as to the power a person possessed. Yet, it was more of a gut feeling rather than an objective fact. So, I looked for an objective source to validate this feeling about decision makers.
The most common methods used by b2b sales people is to find a title within the organization that appears to be a match to the authority needed to buy or budget for your solution. Again, not true all the time. There are many variables used to make this guess plausible for us.
Variables we commonly look at include numbers of people reporting to this person or titles of others reporting directly to this person. Who does this person report to? Other factors such as length of time with the company have been used. And, the old catch all – advice from others who sell to this organization.
Yet, there is a key factor to uncover early in the discussions with any titled individual to uncover their true level of power. This factor is their time horizon for looking into the future.
A Canadian researcher – Eliot Jacques – researched what determines the true power of an individual – particularly one who would be willing to change the direction of the company. He found it was all related to the time horizon possessed by individuals that determined their level of true power within the organization. Especially when it came to making decisions involving major change initiatives.
Jacques actually studied decision making power many times during his decades of research and the conclusions were consistent – the people with the most decision making power possessed the longest time horizons.
Our Strategic Business Partner for Assessments involving people and organizations has long documented their findings for top leaders. One of the most interesting elements is the competency of “Futurist Thinking.” The best leaders show a mastery in this competency, yet, the overall mean in the statistical data shows very few actually possess any mastery of futurist thinking. I use this information to conclude that the people who possess this competency move up the ladder of success and have few real competitors.
Okay, so how do you determine who has an extended time line or futurist thinking? By asking them about their vision of the future specifically requesting time lines in your discussion. When you find people who think past the end of the month, quarter or year – you are dealing with someone who understands how improvement and change processes actually work. The key is knowing their time lines and the speed they want to cover this time in space, so you can figure out how to balance both short and long term implementation objectives.
Once again, you start with the questioning model to uncover time lines with potential customers and decision makers. If no one you meet has an extended time line, this is probably a company (and decision maker) who prefers the status quo or no change! Unless you are already in this company, your chances of gaining access are really limited due to the lack of change mentality. Find the people who think forward and can relate to the need for change to improve.