Breaking Down the Buying Committee: How to Communicate with COOs

Learn the hot buttons of COOs during the purchasing cycle, and learn to model your sales lead generation tactics to fit their needs.

February 15, 2015


Every organization has its own internal workflows and processes, owned by the executive in charge of day-to-day operations. Even as the responsibilities of these executives can vary between businesses, their goal is to keep the business running smoothly and its employees effective.

These people are the Chief Operating Officers (COO), and they can have significant influence on the rest of the buying committee. Learn to frame your sales lead generation tactics for their specific perspectives and you can build strong support throughout the buying process.


Ideas may be infinite, but resources are finite. COOs are primarily concerned with resource management, though they also provide input on proposed impact, and necessary process changes for any new project. They champion efficiency, and are always searching for solutions that can increase workplace productivity.

The Harvard Business Review identifies the COO as the second-in-command within an organization.  Specific duties may vary based on industry sector, the size of the company, and several other factors.

The COO’s Priorities

COO responsibilities vary among industries, but generally involve resource management, revenue and operating cost management, mission statement development, and company productivity calculation.  COOs focus their attention on how new solutions can impact the operational side of their business. Be prepared to answer these questions when selling to COOs:

  • What is the transition plan? When companies source new products or services, there is often an adjustment process. During this transition phase, staff must become familiar with the new processes and let go of the old. COOs want to ensure that this transition process is mapped out and done so with ample lead up time, effective training, and frequent follow-up.
  • How will this make our business more effective? COOs weigh new solutions against their current resources, with clear expectations that new options will increase effectiveness or efficiency – or both.
  • What are the contingency plans? COOs are masters at looking ahead and having back-up plans. Be prepared to offer your Plan B should something knock the project off track.

Once you understand these major talking points, you can frame your solutions to fit COO expectations.

Communicating with the COO

While the COOs role is varied depending on the executive team structure, these second-in-command executives have a direct line to the CEO. You’ll need to impress them to have any chance of convincing the CEOs. Use these tactics when communicating with COOs to earn their approval:

  • Provide practical applications from other customers. The best argument for a new process or solution is its successful application with a similar customer. Show how your solutions increased your customer’s productivity, provided cost savings, or generated more revenue.
  • Map out the processes and transitions. COOs lead the strategy and execution of major projects, so have your processes mapped to their existing resources. Explain how your solutions will fit within their current infrastructure, and how long will it take to make a full transition.
  • Detail your risk management plan. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Include examples of how your company has addressed major operational concerns for previous clients.

The COO is the wild card on the buying committee. While they primarily deal with operational issues, they have a hand in multiple other facets of their organization. Earning their buy-in will give you great leverage with their immediate superiors: the CEOs.