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A Simple Strategy for Getting to the Decision-Maker


One of the questions that you probably ask yourself when you're trying to understand what it will take to get an organization to say "YES" is, “How do I know I’m talking to the real decision-maker?” There are lots of ways to ask that question; however, I think many of them are fraught with peril. You don't ask a blatant question like, “So, who is the decision-maker around here?” because you would likely insult the person with whom you’re speaking by suggesting that other people have to be involved in the decision. Maybe this person actually is the lone wolf who makes the decisions and has all the power in the world.

A Simple Strategy for Getting to the Decision-Maker

By far, the most elegant way that I've seen to ferret out who is actually going to make the decision is one that was suggested by Jeffrey Gitomer in his Little Red Book of Selling. It goes like this: "Bill, how will this decision be made?" After you ask the question, just zip it. This approach really falls flat if you don't give enough silence after the question to allow the other person to formulate and share an accurate answer. Learn to be comfortable with silence. When you ask a question, especially a tough question, just stop. Breathe for one or two seconds, pick up a glass of the water, take a sip, and put the glass down. You will buy yourself between seven and ten seconds of silence, and you won't find it to be uncomfortable at all because you were just drinking from a glass of water.

Bottom line, ask your prospect, “How will this decision be made?” Take notes while they speak. After they give a response, simply ask, "And then what?" Stop. Take notes. "And then what?” Stop.  Take notes. “And then what?" Continue to gently prod your prospect until he or she finally gets around to saying, "And then we give you a purchase order, and as soon as you can do the job, we'll accept an invoice from you that we will pay within 'x' days."

Until you traverse that whole cavalcade of steps, you will not know how many players will need to be involved in the decision or what it’s really going to take to seal the deal with this organization.

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Posted by Mark Jewell