Identifying the Decision Maker: Who’s in charge here?

When it comes to pitching a deal, it is important to establish that a lead is qualified and that you are talking to a decision maker.  The decision maker can vary depending on the type of products or services that you are selling.

Many people’s inclination is to go to the top floor to look for the decision maker.  While the president or owner oversees the entire company it doesn’t mean that they are the audience for your pitch. For example, if you are selling office supplies, the decision maker that you are looking for is likely the office manager, and not the president of the company.

When you pitch the wrong person and they try to relay your value proposition to the ultimate decision maker, key points can often be lost in a game of corporate telephone.  By pitching to the wrong person you decrease your likelihood of making the sale.

So how do we find out who the ultimate decision maker is for your product or service?  When going after a new lead it is important to do your homework to identify the key decision maker.

Start with your lead’s company website. There is generally a page that lists the staff and executives. You can often get the name and title of the person that would be responsible for the department that you need to speak with.  In some instances you can also get an email address or telephone number to make an introduction prior to your pitch.

If you cannot locate a staff list or if it is a large company and the person in charge of the department is far removed from purchasing decisions, you need to go another route.

A good second source of information is press releases from the company or articles written about them. If you are approaching a company because they just started a project that your product would be perfect for, there will often be a quote from the person heading up the project.  Even if this person ends up not being your decision maker, you are dealing directly with a person of influence at the company and that’s a good start.

When you have targeted your decision maker, take a minute to qualify that you truly have the right individual. During your first contact with the would-be decision maker establish answers to the following questions:

  • Do they sit over their budget?
  • Do they make the purchasing decisions for these types of products?
  • Who else might need to be involved in the decision?
  • What is the process for these types of purchasing decisions?

Based on these answers you should be able to establish if you have reached the right decision maker for your offering.

When in doubt, a good rule of thumb is that it is easier to get a buy-in going down the food chain than up.  However, through the entire vetting process, one thing to be cognizant of is that decisions are rarely made in a vacuum.  Lower level employees may play a role as a key influencer to the ultimate decision maker.

Once you establish the decision maker for your deal you will be on your way to make the sale!

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About Doug Cannon

Doug Cannon has spent over a decade providing technical assistance to small and medium sized businesses from idea stage to maturity. He has helped companies with strategic planning and accessing capital. Doug is a frequent lecturer at Loyola Law School and The City Colleges of Chicago.
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