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  • Writer's pictureBrian Burns

SALESPEOPLE: How to Find the Mysterious Decision Maker

In sales, the term Decision Maker is so overused and yet misunderstood that it has people focused on the wrong objective. When I hear someone ask who is the decision, maker? I flipped it back and ask what decision? It is here where there is a huge difference between great salespeople and ok salespeople. An ok salesperson will respond with a “The person who decide to purchase or not” which seems like a logical answer but what it shows is a lack of understanding of the complex sale.

In the simple sales where one person is buying something which only involves themselves it is clear who and how the decision is made. When we go to lunch by ourselves we decide where and what we want but when we eat with others there is decision process. We ask where would you like to eat? When we order our lunch what others want may affect what we order and when the bill arrives we need to determine how it will be paid and by whom. So who and how the decision gets made becomes more complex with the number of people involved.

A skilled salesperson will know that they should not be looking for “The Decision Maker” and instead look for HOW the decision will be made. The Decision in a complex sale quickly becomes an aggregate of several decisions. Someone will make the decision to talk with you, someone will decide to meet you, someone will decide to evaluate your product, someone will decide to pick your product over someone else's and someone will determine if your product is worth the cost and on and on...

The Decision Maker in the complex sales is a myth it is the Loch-ness Monster, Bigfoot and Santa Clause of B2B sales. We believe they exist but they are myths and they mislead us into a false understanding of the situation. In the larger more complex sales the over-focus on the single person who is believed to be “The Decision Maker” is the largest single cause of lost deals. We naively believe that meeting with even the CEO and getting her approval means that we have a decision, you may have part of THE decision but you do not have an order. Even with a CEO’s approval, there may be a board of directors approval required, oh and how about legal’s approval? What, now purchasing wants to add their value to the process... Still, think there is a single decision maker?

This focus on a single person regardless of how high up in the organization or how powerful will leave your deal in one person’s hands, theirs - NOT YOURS.

The salesperson who has been burned by depending on their decision maker/champion to marshal support and approval for their order and then being let down at the end of the quarter can vouch for the tragic error of believing in THE Decision maker myth.

So the secret to finding the decision makers is to define what decisions need to be made to complete a transaction.

Here are some of the typical ones but yours will vary:

  • Who would be interested?

  • Who will talk with you?

  • Who will meet with you?

  • Who will determine if they are interested?

  • Who will your product impact?

  • Who can say no?

  • Who’s budget will the funds come from?

  • Who creates the purchase request?

  • Who has to sign the purchase request?

  • Does legal have to approve anything?

  • Are there a standards or compliance person who needs to approve it?

Companies do not make purchasing easy nor do they teach their employees how to be change agents and spend the company’s money. So as salespeople, we can either depend on our "Champion" or we can guide the whole decision to completion. We need to own the direction of the decision and the process. We need to act like deal Sherpa's instead Big Foot hunters.

Most salespeople at this point would ask what if I do not know the decision process? The fastest and most fun way to learn it is to listen to my PodCast “The Brutal Truth about Sales & Selling” or you can keep looking for THE Decision Maker. The PodCast can be found on iTunes and Stitcher smartphone apps.

Would it be a rediculous request to help spread the Brutal Truth by “Liking” it and please comment and let me know what thoughts you have? I'm open to connecting on LinkedIn.



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