Determining the final decision maker and other high level influencers is one of the most difficult tasks for a sales person. Subordinates and info gatherers claim to be the final decision maker which confuses sales people. Others guard that information for fear the sales person will try to approach these high level influencers and the ultimate buyer. So not knowing who the most important people are makes it very challenging for the sales person to control the selling process.

Besides sales people usually assume their primary contact or the next level of command beyond will make the decision. They then try to move to that level and typically stop trying to get to others. Sometimes there’s a a committee and it’s believed they make the decision. But who assigned the committee and who gets the committee’s recommendation.

Many people influence B2B sales (especially those over $10,000) even though these influencers maintain a low or invisible profile. These people who are up an out from the direct purchasing path are impacted and are usually not considered involved by vendors. However, their inputs are heard by the ultimate decision maker. Purchases are discussed in staff meetings, at lunches, and in casual office conversations, and these other managers have opinions. If the sales person hasn’t talked with these influencers and the leader, he will be hoping that his persuasive information is being run up the flag pole favorably by whomever. This is called lack of control which is a key indicator for failure.

So Prepare Yourself

1. Determine who the top people are – those that report directly to the profit center leader. Look at an org chart, and ask people who’s really in control of what happens.

2. Spread like a virus. Look up and out beyond your main contact. Keep asking you contact for introductions to others at the same level and above. The reason you use is that you want to learn about other impacted peoples’ expectations of this purchase or desired benefits.

3. Ask who can give final approval without going to anyone else. Then consider one more level up. Ask yourself, “Will the person I feel is the final authority discuss this project with anyone above him before he gives his approval to buy?” If so, that higher person is involved.

4. Consider the other people this leader meets with regularly. This is his or her sphere of influence and they have something to say about everything. Have you met these people, yet?

5. Be careful of PO’s or check signing authorities. Lawyers and purchasing managers sign, but get their directions from others. Key managers have signing limits for approved projects or purchases. Check limits and where your sale fits? Realize also that budgets are not authorizations for spending.

6. Don’t ever believe someone is only a rubber stamp. That stamp is there for a reason and will want to be assured of certain things before s/he stamps. Do you know for sure what those certain things are?

7. Will the very top people be impacted? For example, a change in health benefits impacts everyone, including the top exec’s. Therefore, they will get involved even though it’s the responsibility of the HR, person. A change in a product component or maintenance suppliers won’t go high unless it presents a significant change, a competitive advantage or a financial impact. However, don’t underestimate what affects the top directly – and not just financially.

8. Will your sale or this contract be discussed at a staff meeting – even just as a point of information? As a rule, anything over $10,000 will be discussed by the staff. That’s because there a limited resources and who gets that money and who doesn’t it a hot topic.

9. Ask other vendors who finally approved their purchases of equal magnitude and impact. Talk to your contacts, your Golden Network people, your service people, their admins and functional people about who got involved in similar projects.

So Take This To The Street

Select an existing account where there is more business to be had. Who are the functional people you tend to deal with. Who are their associates – the outs? Who are the senior staff and profit center leader – the ups? Who are the administrators – purchasing, admins, lawyers, etc.? If you don’t know the names of people, list their titles and mark it with a big question mark “?”. It’s your alert to dig deeper. If you know who you don’t know, then you can make a plan to get to them. If you don’t know who’s calling the shots, you’re in jeopardy.

Here’s an example of what I’m discussing.

A client of mine – a top manager as well as a skilled sales person – recently closed a huge engineering contract from Midwestern state agency. When I interviewed him about who approved the deal, he said it was the Secretary of Transportation for the state. So I ask if the project was worth a lot of money and/or had a lot of visibility. He said, “Yes” to both. I then ask, “Well, do you think the secretary bounced his choice of consultants off the Governor, before he committed to you?” He took his time with this one and finally said, “Yes.” He went on to say that they had partnered with another firm because of the connections that firm had in the Governors office.

Even though he said it was the Secretary of Transportation, he knew intuitively that the Governor would be involved because of the size and visibility. That’s why he had partnered with a firm that could cover that base.

See governors, CEOs, and presidents get involved – sometimes heavily and other times very subtlety. A company name is casually discussed at lunch. An eyebrow is raise or there’s an elongated, “Well….” and the Secretary gets the message. On the other hand he could be blatant and just say, “No”.

Hopefully my message is clear. The leader and his staff get involved and then the decision is made. If no one is there on your behalf, it’s a big red flag.

And now I invite you to learn more.

Bonus Tip: FREE E-Book Getting Past Gatekeepers and Handling Blockers”. Also, learn how to handle 50 tough selling situations and difficult closing problems with my TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER$ Problem Solving Manual

Author's Bio: 

Sam Manfer is the leading expert on selling to CEO’s and other influential people – doctors, gov’t officials, etc. Sam is a sales strategist, entertaining key note speaker and author of TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER$, The Complete Guide to C-Level Selling. That is, getting to and influencing top level decision-makers. Sam makes it easy for any sales person to generate quality leads, and become a 70% closer. Grab your FREE E-Books, Videos, Articles and other Advanced Sales Training Tips at

Bonus Tip: FREE E-book “Getting Past Gatekeepers and Handling Blockers”

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