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Decision Maker

Are You Absolutely Sure You’re Talking to the Decision Maker?

How many times have you been stonewalled…feeling frustrated because you don’t seem to be getting anywhere with the prospect? How many prospects seem to be the bottleneck…stopping the progress of the sale at every turn? Do you know all the decision makers for the prospect you’re calling on?

Are you absolutely sure you’re talking to the decision maker?

Or are you talking to an imposter?

See if this sounds familiar….

You’ve done weeks of work learning about the prospect. It’s the day of your sales pitch. During your pitch, you’ve developed rapport. The decision maker is nodding. You’ve confirmed he’s the one that can make the decision to say yes. It’s the end of the pitch, and you ask for the sale. With a big smile, the decision maker says

“Oh, I’ll need to run this by the board.”


You’ve been meeting with an imposter! Take a deep breath before you say something rash.

Decision makers many times are more difficult to identify because of the imposters who assume the authority. It could be a power grab on the part of the imposter. Maybe it’s part of the company’s vetting system. More than likely you’re talking to the wrong level decision maker.  And in today’s marketplace, the decision makers are more difficult to reach physically and psychologically.

Since this key person, the real decision maker is essential in moving the sale forward it’s only common sense to uncover the key person early in the sales process. And it’s essential to understand the key person as thoroughly as possible.

Here are a few responses I’ve received from my clients about the decision maker.

“I thought I was speaking to the right person but now I find out there are 3 others I need to present too.”

“ALL his calls are screened.”

“She refuses to talk to sales reps.”

Sound familiar? Very typical responses.

3 Common Problems with the decision maker:

  1. You can’t identify the decision maker
  2. You’re blocked from the decision maker
  3. You are uncomfortable talking to the decision maker


Think about the prospect’s organization. Chances are if the person you’re prospecting doesn’t fit into one or all of the situations below, you’re talking to an imposter.

  • This person’s role is for a specific sale objective not for an account.
  • Often this person is in a senior management role
  • And is paid well for the ability to see into the future of the organization.

For the most part, only a number of key people in the organization have the authority to be the decision maker. That’s why it’s important for you to understand the organizational structure of the company. Just because the lead list identifies Susan as the decision maker, doesn’t make it so.

In the book, The New Strategic Selling, Robert Miller, and Stephen Heiman warn…

“..you have to be attentive to the Complex Sale float factor. By float factor, we mean the fact that the Economic Buying Influencer role can shift, or float, up or down in the corporate ladder, between one sale and the next, and sometimes during the sale cycle.”

They go on to stress that even experienced salespeople will ignore this factor and assume “Susan” who gave the final approval for the last sale or is listed on the lead list as the right person must be the decision maker on the sale they’re currently working on now.

So how do you avoid this mistake? Who is the…

Decision Maker

  1. The higher dollar amount of the sale, the higher up in the organization the real decision maker will be.
  2. The economic climate of the company when suffering from slow sales, and setbacks, middle managers will not be the decision makers. It will no doubt come from the higher-ups.
  3. How well do they know you and your company? If this is the first sale, higher decision makers are your best shot. Once you’ve established yourself with a proven history, the decision makers further down the corporate ladder will be able to say yes to future sales.
  4. Does your proposal have a longterm impact? If yes, then you should focus on the higher-ups as the decision makers to work with. They are the ones in charge of the organizations longterm planning and stability.

Keep this in mind…the greater the perceived risk, the higher you should “float up” to the decision makers as Miller and Heiman describe it. 

Here are two questions you should always ask yourself when determining….

The Right Decision Maker

  1. What level within the organization should I target for a final approval on a sale of this type?
  2. What is the perceived risk in my proposal and does it fit into the role of a higher or lower decision maker?


Many salespeople start too low in the organization they’re prospecting. Take time to understand the organization your targeting. Learn who the key decision makers are on all levels. Decide where your proposal fits into the perceived risk level.

Be sure to check back next week because I’ll continue this series. You’ll learn what to do when you’re BLOCKED! 

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