How to Make Sure You’re Speaking to the Decision-Maker

How to Make Sure You’re Speaking to the Decision-Maker 
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Jack Bowerman
by Jack Bowerman

2 Min. Read

Picture the scene. You put your phone down after making the pitch of your life. You can feel success at your fingertips. You start to walk taller, and taking a peek in the mirror shows you’ve got better-looking. Life is good.

An email from the prospect comes in, and….

“Sorry, my manager doesn’t like the idea.” 

Eugh. This is a painful mistake that nearly all of us will make at some point in our sales careers. Putting all your care and attention into the prospect in front of you and not giving any thought to the buying committee behind them is going to result in wasted time, a delayed sales process or maybe even losing the sale. 

So – who is on the buying committee? How can you identify the decision-maker within the group? Once you’ve got them, how do you know what their objections and pain points are? 

The decision-maker might seem like a shadowy, threatening figure exerting their influence in ways you can’t see (like Voldemort) – but actually, that couldn’t be further from the truth. There are ways to figure out who’s got the final say over your sale, and what their objections and pain points are. Do that, and you’ll realise they’re probably quite nice and not-evil-at-all (more like Professor Snape – mean exterior, much better interior).  

This article will walk you through it, from start to finish.

We’re going to cover: 

Let’s go.

Understanding the importance of decision-makers 

Why decision-makers matter

We can keep this section short and sweet. If you don’t convince the decision-maker, your deal is not going ahead. 

Don’t panic though, we’ve got you.

Consequences of not engaging decision-makers

Don’t put your efforts into the right person, and your deal’s going to be hurt (think Lavender putting all her efforts into Ron, not realising Hermoine had his heart. Ok, we’ll stop with the Harry Potter references now. Maybe). 

Potential consequences include: 

  • Wasted time and effort 
  • Time spent on other deals lost, as you play catchup with this one
  • The deal being delayed or blocked, which could impact your targets 
  • The deal – gulp – not going ahead at all 

Identifying the decision-maker 

Pre-call research 

LinkedIn Sales Navigator is your new best friend here (if it wasn’t already). You can use it to find team members and connect with appropriate people within the target company, which should give you some insight into how the company is structured and who might be responsible for what. 

Sales Navigator has super advanced filtering techniques which you can use to your advantage here. You can build lists based on filters like job title, function, recent job changes, seniority level and years in the current company (and more). 

This is a great start. Now let’s move on to tools that can support your cause. 

Hierarchy-mapping tools 

Organisations of all sizes use tools like ChartHop, Lucid Chart and Organimi to map out exactly who reports to who within a business. Have a sleuth here to see what you can pick up. 

LinkedIn Sales Navigator Relationship Map 

This is a fairly recent addition, and it’s only made us love Sales Navigator more. Use Relationship Map to drag and drop leads and visualise your target buying group. You can share the map with teammates too, if it’s a deal so large you’re working on it together. 

Data providers

At Surfe we bang on a lot about the importance of good data – and with good reason! If you’re using data to inform your decision-making (and as a good salesperson, you most definitely should be), you absolutely have to make sure it’s accurate. 

And you shouldn’t have to be checking or updating it yourself either. The best tools like (yup, gonna toot our own horn here) Surfe will automate this process, so you can make sure you’re always working with up-to-date job roles and contact details in your CRM. 

Discovery process

So, you’ve done your research and now you’re on the discovery call. Now’s the time to see if you’ve got it right. Let’s take an example. If your contact is very concerned with your pricing, but the true decision-maker is more concerned with security you need to make sure you’re addressing both concerns. And to do this, you need to confirm who the decision-maker is. 

Let’s take a look at how you can ask.

Effective questions to identify decision-makers 

First things, first, you have to be subtle here. Nothing screams that you just want the sale over and done with than asking “are you the decision-maker?” 

Plus, let’s not forget that people have egos. There’s nothing worse than them saying yes, only for you to find out later down the line that that’s…just not true. 

Instead, you can scope things out by integrating your queries into other parts of the conversation. 

For example:

  • When talking about budget, you can ask who’s responsible for it
  •  When talking about the technical implementation you can ask who would be in charge 
  • When talking about how it works, you can ask who will be using the product 
  • When things move over to booking a demo call, you can ask who else you need to invite

If things still aren’t clear to you, you can get *slightly* more direct. Here are some examples of questions to help: 

  • “Assuming this deal moves forward, who from your organisation will need to be part of the decision?” 
  • “Is there anyone else in your company that would benefit from being engaged in this conversation early?” 
  • “Can you walk me through the decision-making process for a purchase like this?”
  • “Who else is involved in the final approval for this type of decision?” 
  • “Are you the sole owner of this project?”

Strategies for reaching the decision-maker 

You’ve found out who you really need to speak to, and you’ve got your eyes on the prize. Let’s run through tips for making sure your influence spreads far and wide. 

Influencing the influencer

So, you may have found out who the decision-maker is, but you still need to influence everyone else who might influence them (if you had to read that twice, us too). 

Use LinkedIn Sales Navigator to hunt down people you might think have some sort of sway. Filters like Seniority or Viewed Your Company are good ones to use here. Once you’ve connected with everyone you have to, make sure you tailor your communications with each and every one. One blanket message is just going to look lazy if they start to compare notes. 

Speaking of notes, make sure you’re keeping track of all the conversations you’re having – or even better, get a tool to do it for you. Surfe syncs the conversations you’ve had with LinkedIn contacts directly into your CRM of choice, so your whole team can see exactly who’s speaking to who. If this is a team effort, it also makes sure that there aren’t any wires getting crossed or connections being missed. 

Building relationships 

You need to be engaging with every person in the buying committee, plus anyone else who might have influence on the decision. This could be over LinkedIn, over email, over a call…all the usual routes to reaching who you need to reach. 

It’s worth noting that you must treat every contact with respect – sure, the person you initially spoke to might not have the final say, but that doesn’t mean they’re not influential. 

Also, don’t ghost your now-clients once the sale’s gone through. Offer your support and check in periodically during the transition period to make sure it’s doing the job for them. Continue to make a good impression = easier expansions and a better chance of getting a referral too.


Leveraging technology and tools 

Here’s how to get the very best out of all the tools at your disposal: 

CRM integration

A good rule of thumb for choosing a sales tool is how it integrates with the rest of your tech stack. There’s just no need to be manually moving data from place to place in today’s day and age. 

Surfe, for example, does all the hard work for you by acting like a bridge between LinkedIn and your CRM. It automatically pulls all the contact data you find into your CRM. Plus, it makes sure that the data’s up-to-date – so you can be sure you’re keeping your CRM data healthy. 

Email verification and updates 

Speaking of finding contact data…again, there’s no need to start flipping through a Yellow Pages, or (more realistically) hunting down names via Google. Instead, you can use Surfe’s waterfall enrichment tool to harness the powers of loads of different finder tools at once. The result? A 95% find rate – and you can be confident it’s accurate too. 

This can be particularly helpful if you know a certain team’s blocking a deal and you want to try reaching out to a few key influencers (be careful not to be too pushy here – keeping interactions logged in your CRM can help). 

Collaborative tools 

Picture this: your colleague found out via a LinkedIn DM that the CTO you’re speaking to is worried about a specific technical aspect of your product. 

Because you use Surfe, you don’t have to rely on them telling you or worry about finding stuff like this out when it’s too late. Instead, Surfe’s automatically synced messages to the CRM and you’ve spotted the pain point that needs addressing.

Overcoming common challenges 

Common roadblocks 

Keeping track of buying groups: one of the most difficult things about selling in B2B today is the size and complexity of buying groups. And just to make your life even more difficult – they change! People get promoted, move jobs, suddenly inexplicably become interested in a project they had no interest in before. Maintain up-to-date contact lists to make sure you have a clear a picture as possible – and a clear path to making contact. If you don’t know who’s fulfilling a key role, you’ve got a major blind spot. 

Focussing on the wrong thing: you think you’ve hit the nail on the pain point head – but actually, this particular decision-maker cares about something totally different. Keep a careful eye on intent data like response rates. If they seem less engaged than before, try adjusting your messaging to see if that gets better results. 

Persistence and follow-up 

80% of sales are made after a fifth sales call – but only 10% of salespeople will make that fifth call. That should be all we need to tell you. Be as persistent as you can without being a pest, and it will pay off. 

Let’s wrap it up! 

Let’s face it: life would be far easier if you could speak to the decision-maker from the get-go. But unfortunately, B2B sales is a slightly more delicate dance between you, the decision-makers, and the influencers (try picturing that in real life). 

The good news is there are plenty of tips & tricks and tools & tech to help you identify the decision maker, and create messaging that’s going to hammer home why they need to buy your product – today. Good luck out there!

Surfe is trusted

Decision-makers: we’re coming for you!

Time to find the right person, every time. Download Surfe today (it’s free!) and you’ll be in sales nirvana before you know it.

FAQs about making sure you’re speaking to the decision-maker 

How do you identify decision-makers? 

First, do your research. Use LinkedIn Sales Navigator and Relationships Map to build a picture of who’s in the buying group, and then cross-reference your findings using a public org chart. 

Next, ask your prospect on the discovery call. Don’t ask directly, but instead try weaving questions into the conversation like “who is responsible for the budget?” and “who would be in charge of technical implementation?”. This should build a clear picture of the decision-maker and surrounding influencers. 

How do you find the decision-maker at an organisation? 

To find a decision-maker at an organisation, use LinkedIn Sales Navigator and advanced filtering to find likely decision-makers. For example, filtering by seniority is a good way to get a sense of an organisation’s hierarchy. You can also reach decision-makers by speaking to others involved in the sales process. They might be able to point you in the right direction. 

What tools do you use to find decision-makers? 

Tools you can use to find decision-makers include: 

  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator 
  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator Relationship Maps 
  • Org mapping tools 
  • Your CRM 
  • CRM and LinkedIn integration tools, like Surfe 

What questions can you ask to identify the decision-maker? 

The best way to find a decision-maker through questions is to weave them into the conversation. For example: 

  • When you’re talking about price, ask who is in charge of the budget 
  • When you’re organising a second call, ask who else you should invite
  • If you talk about technical implementation, ask who would own it 
  • Ask who will be using the tool, and ask if they need to hear from you