4 Tips for Meeting With the Decision Maker

Building Relationships | Closing | Complex Sales

"Yes, but I need to meet with the real decision-maker"

“I’m stuck with a lower-level contact and they don’t want to give me access to their boss.”

If I go over my contact’s head, I’m afraid I’ll ruin my relationship.

As sales professionals, I’m sure we’ve all had these thoughts go through our minds as we pursue new opportunities.

Getting access higher in the organization can certainly be challenging, but insinuating that the person you’re talking with isn't empowered or important enough for your presentation isn't a great way to build trust and rapport. And it’s not a good excuse to give up on the deal either.

You need another approach.

You need to get more stakeholders involved, and access to senior-level decision-makers. If you can bust through these barriers, your chances of winning that deal go up substantially.

Getting to the Decision Maker

How can you respond to this sales challenge?

  1. Map the Organization: Research and map the account before each call using LinkedIn and other sources, and then reference the names you’ve identified to test the waters. "Will Jill and Dave also be involved in this decision?" Even if you’re off base, the prospect will likely share who will be involved. “Oh, Jill isn’t involved, it’s John instead.” (Good to know.) They may even help you fill out an org chart if you’ve done your homework in advance and have a good starting point.
  2. Understand the Decision Making Process and Players: You’ve probably worked hard to get the initial meeting, but it’s critical to expand your presence inside the account and learn how decisions are made. “Who else besides yourself will be involved in this initiative? Can you help me understand who the final decision-making committee will be? What other departments need to be represented?" “Can you help me understand what steps you typically go through to select a new partner and finalize a contract?”
  3. Focus on the Business Need: As you strengthen your relationship with your key contact, ask business-focused discovery questions that your contact may not be able to answer. If trust has been built, they can suggest a meeting with others who can respond. You may need to be a bit presumptive and assertive: "We are most successful helping our clients when we ensure our solution is aligned with all of the business stakeholders. When can we set up a meeting to address these questions?"
  4. Expand the Footprint: If you are dealing with a mid-level manager, they may not be as aware that other departments may need to get involved at the last minute. Suggest a path forward and test the waters. “We typically see stakeholders from other departments such as IT, Finance, Marketing, and Legal involved in this type of initiative. Is that the case here? Can you share who those people are so I can keep track of their names and roles?”

There's no magic formula but gaining access at higher levels early in the sales cycle can improve win rates, shorten cycle times, and expand the value of deals. It's worth a little extra effort to build a strategy early in your deal to get broader and higher access within the account.

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About Ray Makela

Ray Makela is CEO and Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He oversees all client engagements as well as serves as a senior facilitator on sales management, coaching, negotiation and sales training workshops. Ray has over 20 years of management, consulting, and sales experience and writes frequently on best practices for coaching and developing sales teams.