One of the most important – and potentially challenging – parts of B2B sales is finding the decision maker who ultimately approves your deal. While this remains fairly simple in smaller companies with less than 20 employees, it can be an uphill climb in large and mid-sized enterprises.
There are three main reasons for that:
More People are Involved in Buying Decisions
Consensus sales involving multiple people are becoming much more common, especially in the B2B arena. With consensus sales, companies have the opportunity to ensure that those directly involved in implementing and maintaining a solution are part of the process.
Although each stakeholder has some influence, there's still usually a final decision-maker who gives the go ahead unilaterally.
Delegation Divides Researchers from Purchasers
Some decision makers take a hands on approach, but most of them look for ways to delegate early research on products and services, even those that are mission critical.
With that in mind, the person who receives your early content or subscribes to your newsletter could well have limited say in the final product selection. The faster you identify the true “decider,” the more time and effort you'll save.
B2B Firms Take More Time to Finally Decide
Thanks to the other two factors, sales cycles are getting longer and longer. What once took weeks now takes months and what once took months may demand close to a year of on again, off again research and deliberation.
Although digital marketing best practices (and good ol' sales follow-up) can help, your message will land with greater impact if you're talking to the right audience from the start.
15 Questions to Identify the Decision Maker Faster
When you're pinning down the decision maker, a light touch is best. Too many questions and your lead might decide you're more focused on who can sign a check the fastest than whether your solution is the best fit in the situation. With that in mind, try to steer the conversation with just two or three questions.
You can learn a lot about whether you're dealing with a decision maker by obvious signals, such as job title, as well as how confident they sound when discussing the details and implementation of a solution.
Always try to tune into the message behind a prospect's words to choose the right question for the job.
Let's look at fifteen of the most useful clarifying questions for ID'ing a decision maker:
1. Who will be using this product day-to-day?
2. Have you ever bought a product like this before?
3. Will any other departments be using the product?
4. How can I help you get this purchase approved?
5. Is there a committee dedicated to making this buy?
6. How long have you been researching these solutions, and when did the process start?
7. Who made the decision that a new solution was needed in this category?
8. Who will be signing off on this purchase at the end of the day?
9. How can I help you to win buy-in for this purchase?
10. Do you need any materials from me to present this to other stakeholders?
11. Who else should we invite to the conference call or product demo?
12. Who is going to be in charge of making sure this solution is fully adopted?
13. Who ultimately approves the funds for this purchase?
14. Two or three quarters down the road, who decides if this project was a success?
15. And possibly the simplest of all: Is there anyone else we should include in this discussion?
Of course, you're bound to come up with other questions that work for you based on your industry, your offerings, and the temperament of your leads.
No matter what approach you take, it's essential that the question sounds natural coming from you – so let your personal style be a guide, too.
Integrating a few of these questions into your sales toolkit will get you on the right track faster – you get to loop everyone in, they feel properly included and respected, and the relationship starts off stronger.