There are several tips and strategies for negotiating successfully, but among the most important is understanding who you are talking to and what their role is within the organization. A key part of the negotiation process is finding out early on if the person you are dealing with is the actual decision maker. You may have the perfect sales pitch prepared, but if you are engaging with the wrong person, it could be a big waste of your time. Sometimes it’s an intentional strategy used by the customer and other times it’s lack of preparation on the part of the sales person, but either way, dealing with the wrong person can result in lost time and even lost sales.
How to Find Out if You are Dealing with the Decision Maker
One great tip for identifying whether or not you are dealing with the decision maker is to ask this important question early on in the discussion: How have you handled other similar purchasing situations? You are then listening for a sense of confidence on the part of the customer that they have done this before. They may not come right out and tell you if they are a decision maker, but you can generally get a good idea by paying attention to things like tone, body language, and verbal cues.
Another way to identify the decision maker is to research the organizational hierarchy of the company. For instance, when dealing with smaller businesses, the decision maker is usually the owner, founder, or CEO. However, when dealing with larger businesses, you may have to put in more work to find out who has the final say. Oftentimes, you may have to speak with a junior staff member or gatekeeper, such as an assistant or secretary, before interacting with a senior employee. You can do some research to find out how the company is organized and you can also speak to contacts within your network that can help you identify the final decision maker.
What to Do if You Are Not Dealing with the Decision Maker
Be mindful that many businesses have a buying process and it’s unlikely you are directly connected with the final decision maker right away. This doesn’t mean you have to demand to speak with the decision maker nor does it mean you have to terminate the discussion. Rather, be careful with what information you share and do not give any indication that you would be willing to negotiate. Use your time with the “non-decision maker” to learn helpful insights that can assist you when you do finally deal with the decision maker.
Your objective in any negotiation is to never allow yourself to negotiate with anyone who is not the final decision maker. You can politely inform the non-decision maker that you would love to continue the conversation with someone who has the authority to approve the deal. This saves you from having to negotiate twice. Your confidence and persistence in reaching the final decision maker could ultimately be a key factor in being able to close the deal.