How to identify the real decision maker

Published: 31st March 2009
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I don't use the term "decision maker" when working with sales teams. I find it to be much more effective to use the term PABC. The term PABC stands for "Purchase Authority and Budget Control." The PABC is an individual who can slide open his or her top right hand drawer, grab a check and authorize the purchase of your product without having to consult with anyone. They posses the ultimate authority and control to buy. As a result they are the PABC.

The liberal use of the term "decision maker" has caused more heartburn for sales people, and their managers, than chili dogs piled high with onions and Tabasco sauce!

A manager asks her sales rep: "Are you in front of the decision maker on this deal?" The sales representative replies: "Yup." The sales manager asks: "How do you know?" Sales rep: "I asked if there's anyone else involved in the decision making process?" And he said: "No, you're with the right guy!" Sales manager: "Good."

The problem is the prospect often "thinks" he's the decision maker because he's been asked by the PABC to check out your product. Or perhaps he's meeting with you on his own accord. In any case, he feels as a result of reviewing your product, and commenting on your products appropriateness for his organization, he must be the "decision maker". Only makes sense right? Wrong!

I would agree this person could be an "influencer". I would agree they might even be an "advisor" to the PABC. But let's not get carried away! They are not going to make the final decision to buy. Perhaps they might be in a position to eliminate you from the running, but they are not in a position to say: "Yes, let's move forward".

The problem starts with the fact many sales people target entry into a prospect company at least one level too low. They enter at a level they are comfortable with. They knowingly call upon this lower level because they feel they can at least get someone to take their call. The good news is they get someone on the phone, and they set an appointment. The bad news is they become frozen at this lower level unable to move up the chain of command. I'm suggesting you reach outside your comfort zone and launch your sales process at least one to two levels higher!

Here are 3 actions you can take to identify the PABC:

• Take your territory and break it down into vertical markets. This enables you to do some research on each vertical, so when you make your call you have knowledge that will enable you establish credibility.

• Prepare yourself to have a business discussion. Identify 3 trends and issues that the executives in the target market are facing and begin your conversation around these and not your product. Tell the executive there might be a possibility of a business relationship between your two companies and ask who in the company handles the review of your particular solution. Before you hang up ask the executive if the person they are directing you to has purchase authority and budget control, or if the decision must return back to him or her for final approval. Now you have identified the PABC and influencer.

• If you are screened by the executive's assistant, talk with him or her as if you are talking with the executive. Assistants are typically very intelligent and plugged in people and can be an enormous help when you establish rapport. Ask the assistant for the lay of the land. Again explain there might be the possibility of a business relationship between your two companies and ask who in the company has purchase authority and budget control for your product or service. You have just identified the PABC.

The bottom line is if you want to become more effective in selling, begin by establishing a relationship and rapport with someone above the decision! Sales people that are going to consistently and predictably earn the loyalty of customers in the future are going to be individuals who exercise and perfect their ability to have business conversations with executives. These sales professionals will develop business and communication depth. They will become sales representatives that have transitioned themselves from sales people "pitching products" to business people discussing business issues and opportunities. Not only will the development of this skill help you increase your income, it will go a long way in making your job much more enjoyable.

Duane Cashin is a motivational speaker and sales trainer who focuses on helping sales and business people differentiate themselves and gain a competitive advantage in today's crowded and competitive markets. Duane's knowledge of how to penetrate the C-Suite was solidified when he worked with Tony Parinello the author of the best selling book Selling to VITO. As a keynote speaker and sales trainer Duane is known to have the perfect blend of content and humor.

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