How to Get to the Decision Maker in Sales Negotiations

Written by: Milena Gallo

Sales negotiations can be disheartening and frustrating for many salespeople. Especially when you're ready to sign on the dotted line only to find out that the deal won’t be going ahead. This can happen for many reasons, such as your contact not having the final say in the decision-making process.

Sales negotiation training fundamentals warn against negotiating with anyone except the decision maker. If your contact has to "run the details by their manager," then you're likely not talking with the right person. In an ideal world, your best bet is to get to the person who signs the checks, allocates budgets, and can say "yes" without having to confer with anyone else.

Research the Prospect Company

It is common for C-Suite decision makers to leave the initial groundwork to subordinates. The person who first reaches out to you or is assigned to deal with you might simply be tasked with exploring options rather than making any decisions.

To get to the decision maker, research the company's decision-making process. Find out:

  • Who assigns the research work?
  • Who determines the company's or department's needs?
  • Who approves budget allocations?
  • What are the company's pain points?
  • Who are the brokers, gatekeepers, recommenders, and influencers within the company?
  • Once you're familiar with the process and the individuals involved, you can create a strategy to reach the decision maker while gaining allies among the company's influencers and recommenders.

    Identify the Decision Maker by Job Title

    Corporate decision makers are often C-level executives or high-ranking managers with authoritative titles. Depending on the industry you’re selling into, you can use job titles to identify roles.

    Different markets and industries have different unique decision makers. Some common titles for decision makers involved in the purchase process include:

  • Vice President (VP) and Senior Vice President (SVP)
  • Chief Officer (like Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer)
  • Director
  • Manager
  • Managing Director
  • Procurement Officer
  • Supply Chain Manager
  • Purchasing Manager
  • Supplier Relationship Manager
  • Category Buyer
  • Executive
  • If your prospect has one of these titles or similar, your contact may well be the decision-maker. However, paying due diligence ensures you're not negotiating with someone who later has to refer you to a higher authority before a deal is signed.

    Find Mutual Connections

    After identifying your market's unique decision maker, it's time to reach out and make your offer. While researching a prospect and the company, a salesperson may come across familiar names. The familiar contacts may be ex-colleagues, mutual friends, a negotiations trainer, or former students of the university you attended.

    Getting introduced by a mutual connection can help you turn a cold call into a warm prospect. Before requesting your mutual connection to introduce you to the prospect, you may need to ask yourself a few questions. For example:

  • Is my relationship with the referrer strong enough?
  • How close is the referrer to the prospect?
  • What is my referrer's reputation within the prospect's social and professional circle?
  • How can I ultimately help the sales prospect achieve their goals?
  • How can I make my introduction request easy for the referrer?
  • It's frustrating to make a connection who turns out to be a wasted opportunity or a waste of time. If you can't ultimately help the prospect, your referrer will be reluctant to make any future connections. Additionally, if your request lacks transparency, the referrer may not feel it's worth exploring.

    Make Gatekeepers Your Allies

    Many sales representatives spend as much as 50% of cold calling efforts attempting to persuade gatekeepers or to evade gatekeepers altogether. Gatekeepers are paid to help managers maximize productivity and minimize interruptions from irrelevant calls and guests. To get to the decision maker, the gatekeeper needs to see you as a value creator rather than an irrelevant cold caller.

    The gatekeeper might be a personal or executive assistant, a mid-level manager, or even security personnel. Here are a few steps you may use when you reach the gatekeeper:

  • Do not try to pitch the gatekeeper your sale. A pitch may give the gatekeeper the opportunity to say "we're not interested" and easily turn you away each time you reach out.
  • Show ease and confidence in your voice tone, mannerisms, and body language. The gatekeeper's perception of you may determine whether you get access to the decision maker. Even if the gatekeeper can’t see you, they can hear the effects of your non-verbals on your tone of voice and choice of words.
  • Don't try to evade the gatekeeper. Engage with the gatekeeper and build rapport. Gatekeepers know a great deal about the company and the decision makers. You might glean information that may help your sales negotiation process .
  • Don't use a script copied word for word from a course for sellers. Gatekeepers can usually tell when you're using a scripted pitch. Come up with a strategy that leaves room for improvisation to tackle key objections.
  • Do not view the gatekeeper as some insurmountable barrier. Rather, treat the gatekeeper like an ally, a partner who wants the best outcome for their boss, company, and job.
  • Reach Out Via Social Media

    According to a LinkedIn report titled “ Proven Strategies from the World’s Best Sales Professionals ,” 73% of salespeople who use social media as part of their sales negotiation process outperform their peers. One way to get past gatekeepers is to seek an online introduction through social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.

    One advantage of social media is that even if you don't have mutual connections, you can find common interests or start a conversation that turns your cold call into a warm lead. Actions such as sharing the prospect’s content, sending a Tweet/DM/InMail/inbox message with helpful content, or simply liking and commenting on the same content can pave the way for an introduction.

    The first main challenge with social media is that some of the top C-Suite executives are not very active on social media. The second challenge is that if you overdo interactions with a prospect, it may come off as stalking behavior rather than a genuine sharing of common interests. Take it slow and let your referrer help you with your approach.

    Selling to Decision Makers

    Sales workshops attendees learn routes to increase chances of success by dealing directly with the purchase decision maker. To maximize productivity and time, decision makers may isolate themselves using assistants, email filters, and caller ID.

    Due to this isolation, expert salespeople try to know more about their sales prospect before conducting outreach. Use mutual connections and gatekeepers as allies to increase your chances of striking a positive chord with your sales prospect.

    Bio: The Negotiation Experts are specialists in the B2B market, and deliver bespoke negotiation training to their global clients. For more insightful posts and resources, visit their site: .