I was asked a good question today
It went something like this…
“Often I get toward the closing stages of a sale and despite the person I’ve been dealing with for four-five weeks saying this was his or her decision to make suddenly someone else has to be consulted, someone I’ve never met and sometimes someone I am not allowed to meet. Why do people say they are the decision maker when they are not? And how do you ask who is the real decision maker without upsetting your prospect..?!”
Part of the answer is to accept, like all objections or stalls, this has to be dealt with ahead of time; long before you are near to the final stages.
Part of the answer is to expect – in all cases – that the decision is going to be made by a group of people, some of whom you may never meet; and to build that expectation into the early stages of establishing rapport and trust.
Most decisions, in business and in our personal life’s involve more than just a single person and it is far more common for some kind of consultation to be done with a “Decision Making Unit” behind the scenes away from the influence of potential suppliers – even if that is just the husband and wife deciding on the colour of the new carpet…
Ask, as early as you possibly can, “Who else – apart from you – is typically involved or consulted in situations of this kind..?”
Part of the answer is to expect there to be a process or series of steps to go through to get a new supplier listed, or a proposal accepted / signed off and paid… So ask, as early as you can, “With previous projects of this type – what where some of the steps along the way..?” The prospect may not even realise there is a process, it might just be a default set of steps no one has ever kind much thought to and quite disorganised or there may be well planned procedures in place – Ask – Check – Challenge if need be; just find out early.
Part of the answer is recognising that decisions are made based on criteria, some of which are explicit, some of which are cultural and hard to measure and some are emotional and typically un-expressed. You guessed it. Ask, as early as possible, “What are some of the criteria that have been used in the past, with similar projects, to assess the best fit of the different proposals..?” And when you’ve got a few responses – ask “Apart from those –what else might we need to consider” When you think you have them all – ask which is the most important and why..? With more than three criteria you may need to ask for the others to be ranked too.
You may want to ‘block price’ from being the only or the most important criteria; because it rarely – very very rarely is – Just phrase a question like this – “Apart from price what are the criteria your company typically uses to decide between the various options..?”
Going back to the original question – why do people say they are the decision maker when they are clearly not? Ego – simples. Help them save face by asking “Apart from you – who else…”
If you want more information on how to handle this or other objections – please just ask…