Is your POC the decision maker? Here’s how to tell.
Countless hours of research. Sales training after sales training. You’re actively perfecting your demo, editing your sales email template, and finetuning your cold call script. You’re even bantering like a seasoned pro. But none of that matters if you’re pouring time and energy into trying to convert somebody who isn’t even the decision maker.
Learning what to say to decision-makers is only half the battle. First, you have to figure out who the decision maker really is. And you may be surprised to find that the person you’re talking to has no power at all.
The best ways to identify the right decision maker
Trying to identify whether you’re chatting with a decision maker or just another cog in the wheel? Use these criteria to evaluate how much power your contact really has.
They show understanding of the buying process
In most cases, your pitch or demo won’t be the decision maker’s first rodeo. That means they should be on top of what’s next in the buying process. An inexperienced person might not be familiar with what goes into solidifying a deal. Talking to someone who seems ready to sign a hefty contract the first time you connect might be exciting at first. But in reality, that signifies a faux decision maker who is likely to get overruled by the real one.
A decision maker will answer key questions
Decision makers are willing to answer questions integral to the buying process. They want a good deal but also one that’s targeted to their unique needs. That requires due diligence on your part, including asking a lot of questions about timeline, budget, etc.
Real decision-makers also know the answers to questions they should get all the time. And they’ll have those answers on the tip of their tongue because it’s their job to know their organization from the inside out.
Those questions may include:
- What is your business’s unique value proposition?
- Who will be using the product?
- What’s your goal? (Should be quantifiable, like a percentage increase in a particular metric)
- Are there stakeholders or other people of interest who would be directly affected by this purchase?
- What was the last product you bought in this category? Who bought it?
- What were your objections/challenges with that purchase, and how do you want this purchase to be different?
- What steps are involved in your internal purchasing process?
They ask closing questions
As important as your questions are, questions from the prospect may be even more critical. A true decision maker wants information. Even C-level executives usually have to answer to partners, a board or stockholders. They can’t unilaterally accept or deny your sales proposal based on pure gut feeling. Instead, they ask questions.
You’ll know you’re likely dealing with a decision maker if they ask questions like:
- How quickly can we get onboarded?
- Can we conduct our own trials?
- What is your customer service plan like?
- How does the package price change if we alter the length of the contract?
- One of our challenges is XXX. How does your product offer a viable solution?
They don’t defer to others
Decision makers may need to answer to other people for their decisions, but they don’t have to get approval. Someone who says, “I need to talk to my boss,” isn’t going to give you a yes or no. The same goes for someone who says, “I need to get the okay before we go any further.” People who need help deciding probably aren’t the ones you should be pitching in the first place.
Yes, many organizations have gatekeepers but identify those players early on. Then, ask outright when the conversation should move to those with more decision-making power. It’s as easy as saying, “Are there other people who should be involved in this decision?” Imagine you’re talking to an assistant, and you know their boss has the key to the kingdom. There’s a way to diplomatically suggest they join the call. “I know Ms. Adamson will be hands-on with the roll-out and oversee the software long-term. Should we schedule her on the next call so that we can cover her questions as well?”
The decision maker offers feedback
Decision makers are professionals. Unless a pitch really tanks, the first call isn’t the end of the conversation. Pros will ask for information, pore over the materials you send, and have questions they need answered before considering the deal further. For that reason, expect real decision makers to be willing to schedule additional time for feedback after the initial call.
If you start a pitch and get wishy-washy objections like, “I’m not sure we need this” or “I think this is out of budget,” that’s a red flag. Decision makers know there are layers to every deal, and they’re willing to invest in uncovering them.
Once you identify the decision maker, it’s time to go for the close. To hone your skills, check out these top sales podcasts that will help you access new tools and learn from industry examples.