How to Identify the Decision Maker in a Company + Qualifying Questions

If you’re in sales, then speaking with the decision maker is the ultimate goal of your prospecting efforts. But there can be up to 10 decision makers in today’s B2B purchases. So in this article, we’ll cover how to identify the decision makers in a company, including the questions to ask.

Who’s the Decision Maker at a Company?

The decision maker at any company is the person who ultimately decides whether or not to purchase your solution. In a B2B sales cycle, the decision maker tends to hold a C-suite level title, enabling them to “sign the check” without others approval.

When selling to other businesses, it is crucial to present to the decision maker. They are the only people who can truly say “yes.” If you sell to non-decision makers, such as an administrative assistant, they only have the authorization to tell you “no.”

There is nothing more demoralizing for a salesperson than spending an hour or so presenting to someone, just to find out they are not the decision maker. That is why it is crucial to know who the decision maker is and how to adapt your presentation for them.

For instance, selling to a decision maker who is a finance executive requires a different approach than selling to a marketing director. The finance executive may be more concerned about reducing expenses, whereas the marketing director may find increased revenues to be more appealing.

Keep in mind that there may be more than one decision maker for a particular purchase. That makes knowing how to find them all the more essential.

How to Find Decision Makers

Now you know what a decision maker is, but how do you find them? If you don’t know where to start, you risk wasting time prospecting instead of presenting. Therefore, there is one place you should always start:

LinkedIn

There are various tools and platforms used by professionals today. But LinkedIn is the golden standard. It is the world’s “business hub.” If Facebook is the social network for friends and family, LinkedIn is the social network for B2B.

There are two main ways to leverage LinkedIn for identifying decision makers:

  • Use Your Connections – If you’re already connected to the decision maker on LI, you just need to send them a message. Otherwise, if you are connected with someone in a different department of the same company, you can ask them who the decision maker is.
  • Look for Titles – If you don’t have any luck with the above method, you can browse the company on LI for certain job titles that tend to be decision makers. You’re likely to come across the right person, or at least narrow the search.
  • Make a Call – It sounds old school, but sometimes picking up the phone is the best way to find the decision maker. The person answering the phone is usually happy to tell you who you should reach out to.

Additional avenues to find decision makers include: events and conferences, cold calling, cold emails, and door knocking. Trial and error will help determine which strategy is most effective for your company.

Groups of Decision Makers

At the B2B level, there is often more than one decision maker involved in a purchasing decision. This is particularly true if various departments will need to implement your product.

In addition, decision makers with final purchase approval may wish to include others as decision makers for morale reasons. Few account executives want to risk implementing a new tool or policy that causes resentment among their employees.

Companies may even have a policy that certain purchases — such as those affecting important business systems or surpassing a predefined dollar figure — must be made by a committee.

When there are multiple decision makers such as in the cases above, it can cause problems for the salesperson. You can gain commitment from one of the decision makers, only for someone else to tell you no.

Influencers

You should also be aware of influencers within the company. These individuals do not have the authority to be decision makers. However, they influence the decision maker with their input.

Influencers can also increase or decrease the salesperson’s chance of presenting to the decision maker in the first place — such as secretaries (often known as “gatekeepers”).

Why Job Titles Aren’t Enough Info

Job titles are an excellent heuristic — or shortcut — for identifying decision makers. For instance, imagine that your prospects are typically CEOs. Attempting to get an appointment with the CEO will be the right move more often than not.

But don’t rely on job titles as your only prospecting metric. Hunting purely for job titles creates lost opportunities. You may end up skipping over companies that don’t have that particular role listed. Or you could reach out to someone with the seemingly correct title, just to discover they are not the decision maker.

Other Ways to Identify Decision Makers

If job titles are not the end-all-be-all, what other information can you use to identify decision makers? The following data can give you clues as to who you should target for prospecting:

  • Organizational Structure – What is the hierarchy of the company? Is it a flat organization, with shared decision making? Or do a few people make most of the decisions?
  • Company Size – A large company of 1,000+ employees has more decision makers. A startup with 20 employees likely only has one or two.
  • Industry – Differing industry standards and regulations can determine who the usual decision makers are.

Qualifying Questions to Find the Decision Maker

If you think you have the decision maker on the phone, you still need to confirm it. Otherwise, you risk presenting all over again to additional decision makers. Here are some qualifying questions you can ask to identify every decision maker that will have input on the purchase:

  • Who else is involved in this decision?
  • Who will the end user be of this product?
  • Which criteria are the other decision makers using to evaluate the purchase?
  • What was the last product you purchased in this same category? What did you like about it? And what didn’t you like?
  • What’s the typical purchasing process for a product in this category?
  • Aside from yourself, who else will be involved in this decision?
  • From my experience, customers often bring in (job title) to weigh in on this decision as well. Is that the case here?
  • Aside from (x) department, what other departments will use or benefit from the product?
  • What needs to happen for this purchase to be completely approved?
  • Who should I show this solution to as well that might have a say in the final purchase?
  • I want to ensure all the stakeholders are fully informed. What are the names of the others who will be providing input on this decision?
  • In order to do my presentation, I need everyone involved in the decision to be on the call. That way, there’s no confusion about the product and what it does. So who else would that be?
  • It’s my experience that (job title) always wants a say when buying a product like this. Do you think we should loop them in on this decision?
  • Implementing solutions like this can get complicated. Let’s make sure it goes as smoothly as possible. Who else should we involve to ensure that happens?
  • Are you the only decision maker, or is there a committee involved?
  • What is your role in approving this decision?
  • How can I help you explain this to your other stakeholders?

Final Thoughts

You can’t make a sale until your proposal makes its way directly to a company’s decision maker. But in B2B, identifying the decision maker requires strategic planning and good questions. So ensure you implement the tips above to decrease prospecting time and streamline your overall sales process.

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