Getting Access to the Decision Maker

The more complex the sales opportunity the more complex the decision process will be.  Salespeople must be very assertive in gaining access to the decision maker or risk losing the sale. Failure to gain access to the final decision maker (where the buck stops) will reduce your chances of getting the business by up to 50% and is the number one reason why sales become stalled or fail. 

It’s important to understand that people who don’t have the authority to make decisions present you with two serious obstacles:

  • They can’t say “yes” (but they can say “no”), and usually they just say, “maybe” or “let me think about it.”
  • They’re not very effective at selling your solutions to their superiors, certainly not as good or as committed as you would be.

When you are not at the highest level, you probably won’t even know the real issues the company is trying to rectify.  You’ll easily double your closing rate by working harder to get yourself in front of the right people.

Here a few tactics for gaining access to the decision maker:

  • Start at the top. One of the toughest challenges for salespeople these days is to get access to the real decision makers.  Calling at lower levels in the target company is easier to get an appointment, but ultimately is a losing strategy.  Selling is not for sissies. When you get stuck at a lower level, here are some tactics to move up the ladder.
  • Assume it.  Early in the sales call ask, “When am I meeting with the decision maker?”   If you get some resistance, you need to say, “I’m confused; why can’t I meet with her?”
  • Bargain for access.  Some lower level folks who want to protect their “turf” or are on an ego trip may deny you access until you’ve “proven” yourself.  In cases like this it’s important to find out under what circumstances they would introduce you to the decision maker.
  • Justification.  Simply say, “I need to understand the issues from everyone’s point of view.  If I don’t understand what the decision maker’s issues are, my proposal may miss the mark.  That’s probably not a good strategy for either of us, is it?”
  • “Biggest concern.”  “My biggest concern is that I won’t be able to meet with the decision maker and that might hurt my ability to completely understand the company’s challenges and hurt my chances to ultimately present a really good solution.  Can we try to avoid that?”
  • Asking for help.  People want to help other people.  Use comments like, “I’ve got a problem and I need your help” or “I’m a little confused.”  You’ll be surprised at how much mileage you get from this tactic.

Self-Study Assignment:  Make a list of the negative consequences that occur when you don’t have access to the decision maker and you are forced to present your solutions to someone else.  Make a commitment to doing a better job of getting in front of the decision maker in the future.