There’s nothing more frustrating than getting your prospect’s commitment to buy, before realising they’re not the decision maker. It’s going to take much longer to get the deal done than you’d anticipated (that is, if you close at all).
Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence for sales people, but you can avoid the situation completely by researching your contacts and asking the right questions during the discovery process.
Before we discuss how to find the decision maker, let’s get clear on who the decision maker is.
During the sales process, the decision maker is the individual who can make the decision to make a purchase without having to refer to anyone else. In B2B sales, they are typically in the C-suite and authorise payment when the sale is made. When looking for the decision maker, do not reach out to the first person you can get hold of and ask, “Are you the decision maker?” Everyone wants to feel important and valued, even if they’re not the ones signing on the dotted line. This question could make your point of contact feel unimportant.
The first person you talk to will usually be a gatekeeper who is still a valuable contact to have. Sabotage this relationship, and you’ll lose their influence.
Let’s review how to identify and connect with decision makers the right way.
1. Know your unique value proposition.
First and foremost, make sure you are clear on the value your offering provides so you are ready to have a meaningful conversation with the decision maker when the time comes. As you begin identifying who to reach out to, outline the benefits of your product, and be able to clearly articulate how your product can be of value.
2. Create a decision maker persona.
As a sales professional, you should be no stranger to buyer personas and you hopefully already have your ideal customer clearly mapped out. When looking for the decision maker, you should take the same approach. Before approaching a company looking for the right contact, make sure you understand what qualities that contact should have. This will help narrow down your search.
Some key qualities of a decision maker include:
• Job title — A key decision maker will often be a manager, executive, director, or vice president.
• Manages budget — Has the authority to make purchasing decisions on behalf of their company or department.
• Oversees strategy — Those who are responsible for implementing strategy at their company are often looking to solve problems their company is facing. They are often on the lookout for solutions that can help their company overcome a challenge.
• Tenure — Whilst the amount of time spent at a company does not always correlate to one’s decision-making authority, an individual with longer tenure may have more institutional knowledge that is relied upon for purchasing decisions.
You may want to refer to your CRM to review commonalities amongst decision makers who you have sold to in the past. Keep these qualities in mind as you identify your decision maker.
3. Research the company.
Next, learn as much as you can about their company. Familiarise yourself with their org chart to understand how the company is structured. Look to see if they have been mentioned in the press. Understand what is happening in their industry as a whole. This will give you the information you need to deliver a strong pitch to the right person.
4. Use LinkedIn to learn more about your contact.
Many professionals keep their LinkedIn profiles up-to-date with their title and information about their statement of work. With advanced filtering on LinkedIn you can search for specific job titles at the company you are looking to get in contact with, allowing you to pinpoint exactly who you’re looking for.
5. Identify common connections.
Once you identify your contacts, look to see if you have any common connections. These connections can help make referrals or can verify if the person you want to get in touch with is, in fact, the right decision maker for your sale.
6. Connect with an associated gatekeeper.
A gatekeeper is typically an executive assistant or associate who has direct contact with the decision maker. In many instances, it is challenging to connect with the decision maker without connecting with the gatekeeper first. This can actually be a good thing, as gatekeepers are often a valued partner to the decision maker. By building trust with the gatekeeper, you can gain a trusted ally who can help you identify the right decision maker, and who can vouch for you when it comes time to pitch the sale.
7. Ask qualifying questions.
Once you have a contact on the phone who can point you in the right direction, you can begin asking qualifying questions lead you to the right decision maker.
Use the following list of questions to work out who the ultimate decision maker is without stepping on any toes.
Qualifying Questions About the Decision Maker
1. Who else is involved in this process?
2. Who will be using the product? (If they say, “I will,” follow up with, “Is your manager reviewing this purchase as well? What will they be assessing?”)
3. Which evaluation criteria are the other stakeholders using?
4. What was the last product in this category you bought? Who was involved in buying it?
5. What’s the purchase approval process like?
6. Have you bought a product like this before? (If they say no, ask, “Would you like my help figuring out who to bring in, based on my experience selling to companies like yours?”)
7. In the past, my customers have asked [job title] and [job title] to participate in this decision. Would that be the case in [prospect’s company]?
8. Will any other teams or departments be using [product]? Will they want a say in the selection process?
9. How have decisions like this been made previously?
10. At the end of the day, how can I help you get this purchase approved?
11. Is there anyone else I should be meeting with to get the full picture of how you and your colleagues will be using [product] and what your needs are?
12. [Name], do you handle [product category] decisions for [prospect’s company]?
13. I’ve found the person with [X responsibility] almost always wants a say in this decision. Should we bring them into this conversation?
14. I’m sure you’ve seen first-hand how complex the average buying decision is these days. Let’s work together so [company] can start experiencing [specific benefit] as soon as possible. Who do we need to meet with?
15. How does your [team, department, business] make buying decisions?
16. Is there a committee assigned to choosing a [vendor, supplier, solution]?
17. What’s your role in the decision making process?
18. Should I be aware of any priorities or concerns from other stakeholders?
19. Who will sign on the dotted line? Would you like any insights I’ve picked up on positioning the solution to people in [X role]?
20. How long have you been looking into this type of solution, and why did you start? (Their answer will reveal if they’re a junior decision maker responsible for the initial supplier research.)
21. With my other customers, it’s typically the case that [X professional] likes to share her thoughts. Should we invite her on the call?
22. Would [likely decision maker] be interested in speaking to [person of matching rank at your company]? (This question helps you get to the budget authority if your prospect is reluctant to give you access.)
23. Are you the sole owner of this [project, initiative, purchase]?
24. How can I help you sell this internally?
25. Do you need any materials from me to present this to your boss?
Selling to larger organisations can be a complex process. If you’d like some guidance on how to do this successfully, then let’s talk.
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