How many times have you found out about a hidden decision-maker at the end of a sales process? Just about every salesperson can relate to this situation. You think you have given your final presentation to the ultimate decision-maker and then the prospect says, “This all looks great and I want to move forward but I need to get approval from just one more person.” In this scenario, you have given them everything and you have no more leverage. You must now rely on the non-decision-maker’s ability to sell your product or service. This can often delay or kill the sale.
Presenting to a non-decision-maker is a common sales problem. It does not mean that in the end, you won’t get the deal, but it significantly decreases the probability of success. To minimize this risk, you need to find out who the ultimate decision-maker is as early in the sales process as possible and get them involved when you are presenting your solution.
Here are four strategies that can make you more effective at reaching the decision-maker:
1. Check your mindset
In many cases your mindset will define whether or not you will get an audience with the final decision-maker. Many salespeople believe that they can’t get access to the decision-maker so they don’t push back when the prospect says, “I need you to present the solution to me and I will present it to my boss.” The salesperson caves and doesn’t even ask why. Your mindset should be “I must talk to the decision-maker and get their perspective on our solution, especially when I am closing the deal.”
2. Stop asking, “Are you the decision-maker?”
Many prospects expect you to ask, “Are you the decision-maker?” This can make the prospect defensive and they may not tell you the truth. They may be afraid that you will resist giving them information they need. They may worry that you will try to go around them to reach the decision-maker. A better way to ask about the decision-making process is to say, “Who else besides yourself is impacted by this decision?” This will help open up the conversation and give you a better sense of the decision-making process.
3. Make sure you understand all the elements of the decision-making process
You need to understand who, what, where, when, why and how the decision is being made along with any hidden decision-makers. In many cases the salesperson asks one or two surface level questions and then moves on. It is important to hang in there and get a full picture of how the actual decision will be made. If not, you might discover that the assumptions you made early in the sale were prove wrong at the end.
4. Use “Let’s Pretend”
A great technique to use to understand the decision-making process is, “let’s pretend.” If the prospect asks you to do a presentation, demonstration or proposal, you should ask, “Let’s pretend we do the demonstration and you love it. Can you walk me through what happens next in the decision-making process?” When you say “let’s pretend” the prospect thinks about the entire decision-making process and then enables them to articulate possible next steps. Understanding the entire decision-making process will help you eliminate surprises at the end.
While you might not be able to meet with the ultimate decision-maker at the beginning of the sales process, it is important to set the expectation that you will have to meet with them either at or before the final presentation. Remember, when you present to non-decision makers, you put the fate of the sale, and ultimately your pay check in their hands. It’s unlikely that they will be able to sell your product or service better than you can. Reach the decision maker, and you put yourself in the best possible position to achieve sales success.