Vendors Take Note: Should You Ever Sell to Middle Management?

Over on ZD Net, my colleague and friend Brian Sommer recently took a somewhat cynical look at selling into middle management. Citing a new book by Paul Osterman, "The Truth About Middle Managers: Who They Are, How They Work, Why They Matter", Brian suggests that most middle managers are "resentful, overworked, not very committed to their employer or business strategy and disengaged." This, obviously, makes for a sales cocktail that goes down anything but easy when selling into middle management. Brian recommends that if your company is selling a solution (either software or services in our case) that they should ask themselves: "Why should they buy this? Really, why should they? If they don't care about their employer, why should they care about my product/service? If this mid-manager is not fully committed to the success of his firm, won't he just play safe and pass on anything with even a hint of risk associated with it?”

I'm not sure if I agree with Brian, especially in the procurement, finance and supply chain world. I speak with middle managers every week who are passionate about what they do and excited about the opportunity the downturn presents. Sure, I've met a good many old-school buyer types throughout my travels -- the types of folk who do deserve to be put out to pasture -- but when it comes to those making Spend Management investment decisions today, these types of individuals are getting pushed off to the side. So Brian, I'll disagree with you, at least when it comes to Spend Management. Middle managers can be great customers. But it's up to a good salesperson to figure out whether or not the person they're talking to is not only senior enough in title, but also influential enough when it comes to making a decision. As SaaS applications become more affordable and IT becomes less and less relevant aside from managing the back-bone, I believe we could see a renaissance of middle managers driving Spend Management buying decisions, especially when it comes to point solutions.

- Jason Busch

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