Most decision rights conversations are about who gets to make which decisions. Applying next level strategic selling logic takes into account economic, user and technical buyers and coaches, and encourages them to work together to improve instead of block decisions. Miller & Heinman’s strategic selling framework suggests:

  • Economic buyers give final approval. They can say “yes” when others say “no”, and can veto other buyers’ approvals.
  • User buyers use the product or service; and their success is tied to it. They can veto or delay decisions with how they do or do not implement things.
  • Technical buyers screen out options. They can’t give a final “yes,” but often give a “no”.
  • Coaches provide decision-making frameworks, and help others navigate the process and ratchet up others’ best current thinking.

Let’s look at each of these in terms of next level decision rights. Note the same people play different roles in different decisions at different times. Map decisions across buyers instead of mapping the buyers across decisions.

Economic Buyers

Everyone has a boss. Unit presidents and functional leaders report to CEOs. CEOs report to boards. Boards report to shareholders. Sole-practitioner entrepreneurs report to their customers. Even autocratic dictators can dictate only as long as those under their thumbs allow that to go on.

So, at one level, economic buyers do make final decisions. At the next level, their decisions are subject to veto by their various bosses.

This is why informing your boss of a decision you’re about to make or implement is so different from reporting a decision to your boss after the fact.

In the first case, you’re enabling your boss’s veto rights. They have the choice to say “Thank you for informing me,” ask for more information, or overrule your decision.

In the second case, when you report what you’re already done, they can’t change it.

Not suggesting one approach is always better than the other. Just suggesting you be deliberate about which approach you’re taking to each particular decision.

User Buyers

User buyers implement decisions. That implementation is different if they choose to:


  • Commit to the decision and hold themselves accountable for its success
  • Contribute to the decision, helping others ratchet up their best current thinking and implementation
  • Comply with the decision, doing the bare minimum they must, and no more
  • Not comply with the decision – either directly or passive-aggressively


Leaders get the engagement they deserve. If you want others to do more than comply, invite their contribution. If you want them to commit, inspire, enable and empower them to co-create.

Technical Buyers

Technical buyers are people with particular expertise in things like laws and regulations, finance, operations, information technology, people and the like. Less helpful technical buyers leverage their power to say “no” to things that don’t meet their standards. The more helpful look for ways to get to “yes.” With that in mind,

  • Lawyers help keep decisions within laws and regulations.
  • Financial people help keep decisions within plans, budgets and cash realities.
  • Operational people help keep decisions within operating policies and procedures.
  • Information technology people help optimize decisions from an information technology perspective.
  • Human resource professionals help keep decisions within HR policies and procedures and help others think through the unintended consequences of some decisions.


When Legal said “No” to less confident people at Procter & Gamble, those people went back into their cubicle holes and cried themselves to sleep.

When Legal said “No” to more confident people, those people would ask Legal to assign a risk level (e.g. Division Manager, Officer, CEO, Board.) Then they’d go make the case to those able to take that risk.

The less helpful Legal people got mad at being challenged and exacted retribution on their challengers when they could. The more helpful engaged in conversations about how to get to “Yes” in a way that minimized legal risks.

The same was true in different ways with different technical buyers.

Things don’t work well when people emphasize their right to say “No” to what they see as bad decisions. Things work best when all buyers see themselves as coaches, applying their own perspective to help others ratchet up the best current thinking to make next level better decisions together.

Click here for a list of my Forbes articles (of which this is #772) and a summary of my book on executive onboarding: The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan.

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