What is a decision maker? We all make decisions. Thousands and thousands every day. What clothes to wear. Pick up the toothbrush first or the hairbrush? Former President Bill Clinton recently said that George W. Bush had it right: the President, ultimately, is The Decider. (Too bad he hadn’t just picked up a hair brush instead of bombing Baghdad). But in the context of B2B sales, the Decision Maker is generally thought of as the person who can make substantive decisions about the sales process – your sales process. It often means the person has budget authority. Maybe not ultimate budget authority, but someone who knows and can influence the budgeting process should your solution be judged as a viable investment.
Another way to think about it is who along the buyer’s journey makes the go/no go decision. The person who can move the decision forward, upward, but who can also derail it. In a formal sales process context, those are really influencers. So let’s think in terms of the decision maker as those who can substantively respond to the tasteless, unsubtle demand, “Show me the money!” How do you find decision makers?
The title often does not help. Oh, you can assume that, for example, someone quite senior, a C-level executive, is a decision-maker. But they might ONLY be concerned about budget, and not about the substance or context of what’s being decided upon. The title can help if the person’s function is explicitly expressed on their business card on Linked In page. “Director of Data Center Infrastructure.” “Manager of Mobile Security”.
Failing that, there aren’t too many ways to find out other than asking around. You can try calling into the organization, and innocently inquiring who does what. This carries with it three potential perils.
1. You can irritate before you’ve even begun. The last thing you want to do is start the gossip rolling: “Hey, there’s a guy from InsuranceSoft calling around.”
2. You risk getting incorrect intelligence. You might get no farther than a gatekeeper, a secretary, a low-level immature manager who either doesn’t understand your question, or who deliberately misguides you with false information.
3. You might run smack into the person, maybe the only person, who you need to reach. “Yes, I’m that guy,” might be the words. Now you’re on. Showtime! Are you ready with your pitch? You probably aren’t.
So what are the alternatives to finding decision makers? You can find an intelligent third party to make these calls for you. What do I mean? If they’re intelligent, they understand precisely whom it is you’re trying to identify. They know the issue, the solution, the reason for the exercise. And if they’re savvy they might be able to detect when they’re being misled. Most importantly, if they run into the decision-maker themselves, or if in their calling they veer into irritation territory, they will not identify the organization on who’s behalf they’re doing the research. Often they have a name that identifies who they are, but it’s a generic research company name that sounds legitimate and innocent. And certainly doesn’t reveal who you are.
Finding decision makers is a critical first step in reaching those individuals. The list that results from this exercise is a hugely important document, the beginning of drawing a map of where the money is. It is an imminently justifiable investment, particularly if the firm used to build that list of decision-makers is professional, knowledgeable and skilled in the art of contact development.