One of the most significant challenges for any sales professional is gaining access to the ultimate decision-maker(s), particularly when we have a contact who engages us in our sales effort, but he or she is not making the final decision. A lack of direct access to the decision-maker is frustrating for many reasons. We have no way of knowing what is lost in translation when our value proposition and proposal are pitched to the ultimate decision-maker by someone other than us.We all want to work directly with the person who makes the decisions because they have a broader, more strategic perspective that will facilitate a long and productive partnership. The decision-maker can be more attuned to the full value potential of your solution - and less sensitive to price. Usually, their responsibilities and objectives exceed a singular budget typical of lower and middle-level employees.So how do you get past your current contact to the actual decision-maker? Consider these suggestions:

  • Know your objective. Make sure you ask, "In addition to you, who else will be involved in the decision-making process?"
  • Treat your current contact with respect. They may not be the ultimate decision-maker, but they can (and will) control your access to others in the organization, and you may lose that access altogether if they get the sense you are trying to push past them.
  • Position yourself as an asset to your current contact in gaining influence with the decision-maker - a resource to make them look good. You will need to establish trust with your current contact before they will stick their neck out for you.
  • Be prepared, do your research, and offer relevant solutions by providing your contact with new and compelling insights and information in a dynamic, professional format. If you impress your current contact with your solution, they will most likely want you to present that solution to the decision-maker. If your solution seems unprepared, boilerplate, and off the shelf, they may opt to present the idea themselves.
  • Consider some suitable incentives to get that first meeting with the decision-maker, perhaps an appropriate gift like a snack, coffee, or wine basket, or tickets to a sporting or cultural event depending on their comfort level with public outings (and of course their company policy). Engage your current contact to extend the offer so they get credit for delivering the goods.

When we can engage the ultimate decision-maker, not only do we increase our chances of success in the sales decision, but we also potentially expand the scope and depth of our customer partnership to one of a long-term, strategic collaboration.