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Today’s salespeople need to know more about their prospects before making contact than ever before. And, the bigger your customer, the more likely it is that they’ll need to get to know someone other than just the decision maker.

When I started my sales career, you could call senior executives and it was easier to gain access to the decision maker. Now, the people you want to talk to can isolate themselves with caller ID, email filters, and assistants.

When you finally manage to speak to someone, understanding the role they play in the decision-making process is critical.

Understanding the type of prospect you’re speaking with is critical. Will they help you make the sale or will they (knowingly or unknowingly) stop you from talking to the right person? Here are some of the characters you’re likely to encounter along the way.

The Gatekeeper – usually an assistant or associate to the decision maker who will control your access to the decision maker. Should you sell to them, befriend them, or try and circumvent them?

The Influencer – traditionally a junior-level employee who’s asked to research options before their boss is briefed. They don’t have the budget or authority to make a final decision, but they do have the power to influence the decision maker. How much time should you focus on them and when’s the right time to ask for an introduction to the real decision maker?

The Decision Maker – typically a senior level exec, the person who authorises the purchase order, allocates budget and is able to say “yes” without reference to someone else. Sometimes, decision makers will conduct their own research. How should you talk to these individuals? What should you do if they refer you to someone else in the business? How do you know that they really are the decision maker and not someone who’d like to think that they are?

The Time Waster – these individuals have all the qualities of an influencer. They’re usually junior or mid-level, research solutions for their team or company and are your primary contact and communication source for the company. They appear to be useful but eventually they stop answering your calls and emails. How do you know if it’s time
to walk away from the company or if you should or if you should or try to find a new lead there?

Identifying who you’re speaking with and who you need to speak with is a crucial part of every sales process.

If you, your sales team or your clients are struggling to work their way through the complicated maze that makes up decision making processes, perhaps we can help.

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