Are your sales and marketing messages targeted at budget makers or budget takers? In most complex, high-value sales environments, of course, you need to appeal to both. But the marketing messages you need to use – and the sales conversations you need to have – differ dramatically.

Budget makers vs. budget takers

Here’s the key difference between the two roles: a budget maker has the power and authority to find the money required for a favoured project, even if a budget does not yet exist. Budget takers, on the other hand, need someone else to have created a budget before they can proceed – and even then they may not get the approval to spend it.

It’s a critical distinction in any “considered purchase” environment and it’s particularly important for any vendor that is trying to bring a new category of solution to market or seeking to disrupt an existing category when getting to a budget maker can often be critical to winning the deal.

A different attitude to risk

One of the most profound differences between budget markers and budget takers lies in their attitude and approach to one word: risk. Budget makers – typically C-Level executives – see risk as something that needs to be managed if they are to achieve competitive advantage.

On the other hand, budget takers – typically operational managers and users – see risk as something that needs to be avoided and if possible eliminated if they are to improve functional efficiency and effectiveness. It’s a subtle difference, but one that your messages and your sales conversations need to play to.

Problems and strategies vs. processes and tactics

Budget makers tend to focus on problems and strategies. They are rewarded for taking a long-term perspective, and for making decisions that affect their organisation’s future. They typically see their critical challenges in terms of journeys that need to be undertaken or change programmes that need to be navigated.

Budget takers tend to focus instead on processes and tactics. They are rewarded for doing the best thing for their department in the here-and-now. They typically see their challenges in terms of destinations that need to be reached, and on making sure they get there on time and within budget.

Urgent needs

There’s a similar difference in the urgent needs that drive their behaviour: budget makers – particularly newly-appointed C-Level executives – often think in terms of “wins on their watch” and of dealing with the frustrating feeling of being in charge but not in control. They need to show progress.

The urgent needs expressed by budget takers, on the other hand, are often much more operational: they think in terms of specific tactical problems that need to be solved, or key features, functions or capabilities that they believe are required.

Tailoring the messages and the conversations

Your marketing messages and sales conversations need to reflect the different perspectives of these two important audiences. And don’t think that even successfully pitching to C-Level budget makers will bring automatic sales success.

Even when the budget maker has agreed to the mandate for change, today’s executives need to ensure that they bring their operational colleagues with them. They need to be sure that your solution also has their recommendation if the project is to succeed.

So you need to appeal to both constituencies. You need to make the budget makers believe that you can equip them to manage the risk of addressing key issues or opportunities within their business and to persuade the budget takers that you will enable them to achieve their desired outcomes on time and within budget.

And, of course, you need to convince them both that the likely costs and risks of doing nothing and sticking with the status quo or choosing an alternative approach far outweigh any potential costs and risks of adopting your solution.

How well are your current marketing messages and sales conversations addressing the needs of these two communities?

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Bob Apollo is the Managing Partner of Inflexion-Point, and an accredited Funnel Coach. To read more of his insights, go to the Inflexion-Point blog.