Who are the Decision-makers at a company: how to identify and approach

Decision-makers are the people within a company who have the power to make financial decisions. In B2B sales, one of the biggest challenges is figuring out who in the company has the power to make purchasing decisions about what to buy, at what price, and from whom. Often, these are the company’s head buyers.

Determining who is the decision-maker at a company 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 companies.

If you want to make a sale, you want to be talking to is the decision-maker, aka the person who has the authority to buy and make other important decisions for their company.

So how do you find out who the 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 who the decision-makers are can be as easy as that. Often, even if they are in a different department, employees know who the decision-makers are and they won’t mind telling you. 

Another way to use LinkedIn is to browse the employees of the company, paying attention to their titles. Chances are you can identify who has what power in the company.

A third option is really simple: just 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 the company’s size, which you can find on LinkedIn itself.

0-10 employees:
the decision-maker is usually the CEO unless the company has co-founders in the vertical you are selling into (e.g., CTO for product, CMO for marketing) or has already hired experienced VPs.

10-50 employees:
look for VPs, as generally, they have buying power in small companies.

50-500 employees:
look for specialized roles, such as Sales Manager, Business Development Manager, etc.

>500 employees:
look for the regional specialized role, such as East Coast rep, Northern Europe rep, London rep, etc.


Once you have identified the 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 so you can get to the decision-makers. 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 decision-maker, but you will also already have someone on your side in the eyes of the decision-maker.

Do not be tempted to seem arrogant or presumptuous if your offer is big or important – you are a human interacting with another human, and it is important to never forget that. 

Approaching decision-makers

Once you’ve identified the 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.

Once you have identified who you need to speak to, you will need to decide how best to approach them. This can vary widely: the decision maker’s age and generation, the company’s politics and climate, and especially individuals’ personalities are all part of the hedge maze of figuring out how to approach decision-makers. 

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.

This may sound ridiculous, but I will reiterate: always make sure you are actually speaking with the decision-maker. There are many people in a company and it may not always be obvious who exactly you should talk to. Figure that out before you make your move!

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.

The 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, and to do so, you have to make sure your efforts are not sabotaged by failing to prepare. Taking the time to identify a company’s decision-maker, find their contacts on the web, and make them an offer they can’t refuse.

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