Decision Maker

I often find myself pitching the wrong person who claims to be the decision-maker and it turns out another person (s) needs to get involved in the decision-making process. Is there anything I can do to avoid this?


It’s always a difficult one because if you ask the prospect If they are the decision-maker and they say they are, you can’t start accusing them of lying! There are some set questions I always recommend asking, which reduces your chances of this happening; however, I wish I’d have taken my own advice with a big hotel group I train.

I cold-called this particular hotel group and asked the receptionist ‘who is responsible for choosing external training companies to work with?’ and she replied ‘the head of learning and development and her name is Jane Smith’.

For many weeks after Leaving voice mail after voice mail, email after email; I even managed to get Jane’s mobile number and left numerous messages and texts. She finally came back to me after three months of persistent calling to ask ‘what’s it regarding?’ I explained I deliver sales training to many hotel groups and started to explain how I have helped them, where Jane stopped me in my tracks and explained her remit is to select companies to deliver health & safety training, legal training, IT skills, etc. and sales training has nothing to do with her.

I began to think back to that annoying receptionist and started to curse her in my mind, however, on reflection had she done anything wrong? Not at all, she was right in saying ‘Jane was responsible for choosing external training companies’, just not sales training companies, which I foolishly didn’t ask. Jane kindly gave me the right contact and within a month they were a client of mine, just 3 months later than they should have been.

When I am in front of a prospective customer I now ask the following, ‘aside from yourself John, who else needs to be involved in making the decision?’ By asking this question in such a way, it avoids any offense and allows the prospect to share any other people who are involved in the decision-making process. If they say they are the sole decision-maker, I ask as well making the decision, do you sign off the budgets. If other contact names are mentioned I ask ‘what will you base the ultimate decision on and what are important to both you and X? This gets the prospects to share his and his peer’s priorities.

After my lesson learned with my hotel client, when I am given a contact name, I always ask who they report to. If they are the top of the food chain, I will ask who reports to them and who do they work alongside. I make contact with these people to confirm I am chasing the right person after all.

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