Decision-makers are people within a company who have the power to make strategic decisions like acquisitions, expansion, or investment.
Some of the types of decision-making may include tactical, organizational, policy, operating, personal, programmed, and non-programmed decisions. In B2B sales, the most important types of decision-making are financial and purchasing decisions about what to buy, at what price, and from whom. Often such decision-makers are the business’s head buyers.
Determining who is the decision-maker is one of the first things you need to do, as contacting the company without knowing who you’re supposed to be selling to is equal to going in blind. This results in wasted time and resources as you’re likely to approach the wrong person, especially when selling to large organizations.
So how do you find out who decision-makers are (often there is more than one in any given company), and how do you approach them? There are no strict formulas for this, and it often comes down to doing some sleuth work.
How to find decision-makers
LinkedIn is a great place to start this search. If you are connected to someone who works for the company you would like to sell to, asking them can be as easy as that. Often, even if they are in a different department, employees know who’s in charge of corporate decision-making, and they won’t mind telling you.
Another way to use LinkedIn is to browse employees of the company, paying attention to their titles. Chances are you can identify who has what power.
A third option is really simple. Call the company and say you are looking for the person to talk to regarding whatever your product or service is. More often than not, the person who answers will know who you are looking for and will point you in their direction. If this doesn’t work, try changing up how you word your request or reconsider whether your targeting is right.
The decision maker’s title is going to vary from company to company. As a very general rule, you can make an educated guess based on its size, which you can find on LinkedIn itself.
The decision-maker is usually the CEO unless the company has co-founders in the vertical you are selling into (e.g., CTO for the product, CMO for marketing) or has already hired experienced VPs.
Look for VPs, as generally, they have buying power in small companies.
Look for specialized roles, such as Sales Manager, Business Development Manager, etc.
Look for the regional, specialized role, such as East Coast rep, Northern Europe rep, London rep, etc.
Once you have identified decision-makers, you need to make an offer aimed specifically at them, and of course, get it in front of them. The thing is, many decision-makers are going to have gatekeepers, whether they be secretaries or executive assistants.
And you want them on your side. While you’re more often than not are not going to be presenting your offer to the gatekeeper, they have the power to keep you from making one to the decision-maker.
The best tactic would not just get past the gatekeeper, but to befriend the gatekeeper. This way not only will you be able to get through to the person in charge of corporate decision-making, but you will also already have someone on your side in the eyes of the decision-maker.
Don’t be tempted to seem arrogant or presumptuous if your offer is big or important. You are a human interacting with another human, and it’s important to never forget that.
Once you’ve identified decision-makers, take a moment to confirm your choice. While everyone usually wants to talk to the CEO (which we’ve already established, isn’t always the best strategy) your actual decision-maker depends on the size of your offer. Check out this video for a simple example of how to reconfirm your guess.
As you now know who you need to speak to, you will need to decide how best to approach them. This can vary widely based on the decision maker’s age, the company’s politics and climate, and especially individuals’ personalities.
Make sure to take detailed notes as you go along, including anything you learn about these individuals and their preferred approach. After all, if you dislike a challenge, sales may not be for you.
Once you start, use well-placed questions to help you figure out the answers you need to move forward with your sale. Always keep in mind that being helpful and resourceful makes the best impression. Find out what they need from your product, as well as what they need more broadly, and help them get exactly that. That is the quickest way to the next step: negotiating a sale.
Two main negotiation tips
Do your research.
No decision-maker wants to waste their time watching a salesperson fumble and flit through their sales pitch, not quite sure what they’re after. Have your goals ready, know your product inside and out, know exactly how your product can help this particular company.
Build a relationship with the decision-maker (and the gatekeeper).
Yes, you are selling to the company. But you are talking to a person who happens to be the decision-maker. Make your offer personal and take into consideration the needs and values of that person. And never forget about the gatekeeper.
Decision-makers are not that hard to spot
Everyone wants to sell their product or service. To do so, you have to make sure your efforts are not sabotaged by failing to prepare. Take the time to identify who’s in charge of the corporate decision-making, find their contacts on the web, and make them an offer they can’t refuse.