C-Suite Leadership

How To Get Buy-in For Buying In A Hard Market

Hard markets and tight budgets don’t need to delay the spending you need now. Buy-in isn’t about the budget. It’s about the right decision. And that’s something you can lead.

Joe Woodruff


March 21, 2024

Photo credit:
Alexander Mils

Buying is a decision. Budgets are a strategy.

We forget this when we seek funding. We are given a budget to work within, often reduced these days, and we accept it as a reality of which we have no control and little influence.

We might be right about that. But our premise is wrong to begin with.

Buying is different from budgeting (just ask our government).

We can be late to the table when it comes to budgeting; we can influence buying despite budgets.

When getting buy-in, we are really talking about the anatomy of a decision, not the strategy of a budget. Buy-in is about the best decision for the greatest return in a maximized window.

How do you help decision makers make the best decision on spending even if a budget is in place and the market is hard?

Anatomy Of A Decision

Decisions comprise of four elements:

Motivation. Journey. Fatigue. Choice.


Your key in motivation is to connect with decision makers. You are moving them from the opposite side of a table to the same side of the table. You are “on their side.”

Connecting to motivation is leveraged through four catalysts. 

The first has to do with your company’s vision, mission criticals, values and strategies. Assuming that these are defined (and they so often are not), then you are able to relate spending to something they have already declared to be a priority.

Beyond stating a priority, all decision makers live with a desired state versus their current state. They want something. They do not currently have it. Your spend request must get them from where they are to where they want to be. You are moving them from pain to gain.

You strengthen your position when you demonstrate not only the need it meets, but how it counters a common enemy (say a hard market - how do we get ahead when it feels like we are moving backwards).

Finally, decision makers typically sit on decisions until there is a trigger. You watch for triggers - an economic report, a competitor’s news, an emergency, a short window of opportunity. 

Tie your request to mission criticals, to what decision makers want, to what they want to overcome, and to triggers that spur on action. .


The buying-decision journey consists of four stages.

The first is Awareness. Your request fights for attention. It can easily be lost in noise shouted down by other aggressors. You elevate awareness by advocating for the decision maker’s needs, not yours. You separate yourself from the pack by tapping into the motivation as we addressed above. You defeat competition by collaboration.

The second stage is Consideration. You help the decision maker understand how your solution brings the best value and return on investment. The key is to be flexible. Stage two is where counter-thinking comes into play. You need to be responsive to narrow vision, short-term thinking, and bias. You move with opposition by asking questions, keeping them focused on what they want and the solution you have.

The third stage is Intent. The decision maker affirms your request. But intent is often derailed by delay. Questions come up. Other voices chime in. Your role is to be clear consistently: this is the need that is met; this is what the request does.

The final stage is the buy. The buy is not the end. You must serve well through implementation and user adoption because you are seeding the next request you bring to the table (and because you care that your product, etc does what you foretold).


No decision is without friction.

Competition is met by collaboration.

Counter-thinking is overcome by flexible reasoning and thought-provoking questions.

Delay is compensated for by clarity.

Buyer’s remorse is offset by user adoption and proven value.

In all of this, we are getting buy-in because we realize that decision makers are human - they have desires that must be met, journeys that are not unique, and common points of friction that can be anticipated and answered.


In other words, decision makers must make a choice. In hard markets or situations where buy-in is critical, indecision must be demonstrated to be the worst decision. No choice is more essential to make than when the time to make a choice is hard. 

That’s why you take it out of the realm of budget and into the realm of mission critical leverage and preferred state fulfillment.

One of my favorite moments was talking with an owner of a successful company. I had just led his team through a couple days of clarifying mission, values and strategies. We were out to dinner. I asked the owner what his vision was. He said, “Crush the competition.” 

And that declaration said it all. There is a budget that must be wise. 

Then there is spend that must crush the competition. 

When you buy-in to what the decision makers want, they buy-in to what you have to give.

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