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Getting to Tough Decision Makers

One of the biggest time wasters in the sales game is when the salesperson fails to get to the real decision maker, an end up and presenting their products and/or services to people who cannot say “Yes!” or only have the authority to say “No.” Since many organisations are undergoing sweeping changes in management as well as the way they make purchases from vendors, it’s increasingly difficult to identify who is really in charge or responsible.

This is not to suggest that at certain times in the sales process it’s inappropriate to give a presentation to someone who can only recommend your products…but more that you bear in mind, every time you present to a non-decision maker, you lose an important ingredient in the sales process: CONTROL.

There is a school of thinking that says, “selling is a numbers game…if you will see enough people, you will eventually make enough sales.” Many knowledgeable veterans don’t subscribe to this philosophy, and in the short message here it would be difficult to change your mind if that happens to be yours.

However, it’s important to note that one of the major causes of sales failure is simply the fear of rejection. If your sales strategy is to see lots of people, regardless of how qualified they are, then you’re setting yourself up for even more rejection.

Back to decision makers. There are two prospecting strategies you can follow. Bottom-up, or top-down prospecting. Using bottom-up, you would start anywhere in the organisation where someone will see you. Using top-down, you’d begin with the most senior person responsible for the decision, and then work your way down – with his/her blessings.

It’s been found that once you’ve identified a prospect as qualified, the best approach is using both top-down, and bottom-up prospecting, simultaneously. The bottom-up element is the easier of the two, since it’s here you gather additional, pertinent information about needs, wants, current suppliers, etc. It’s with top-down that you sell the big picture, benefits, results, or outcomes.

There are a number of devices or strategies advanced by a variety of sales trainers and sales managers. One that has most frequently worked is when the salesperson has a lead and is not sure of the decision ability/authority of the lead (person).

When calling a new prospect, ask the contact, “who is the person in your organisation who makes the buying decision for (or about)? The next question should then usually be, “who is that person’s supervisor?” The next step is easy. Say “thank you,” and then call back asking for the supervisor. It could be the Business Owner, a Senior manager, or even the CEO, it doesn’t really matter. What you’re looking for here is the ultimate decision maker at that location (i.e. branch, division, or subsidiary, etc.). At this point it’s advisable to avoid leaving a voice mail message.

Remember…you have to get someone’s attention before you can create interest and desire. So, before making a call to the decision maker you’ll need to know what their dominant problem, challenge, interest, or need is that your product or service will solve. Otherwise you’re just logging yet another cold call likely to end up in failure. Best to do some detective work before you call the ultimate decision maker. The best approach is to work primarily from referrals. This can save time, frustration and resources as well as speed up the sales cycle.

Sales thought:

Only actions give to life its strength, as only moderation gives it its charm.

-Jean Paul Richter