Getting to the Decision Maker – Go Over a Prospects Head?

by | Mar 14, 2017

Inbound marketing and leads coming in through your website are great!  If done well, these can be among the most qualified and “hot” leads you can get.  However, for B2B marketers and salespeople, frequently the person that visits your site is not the actual decision maker.  Often the lead is a lower level staff member that was asked to gather information from vendors.

Of course, the same situation can arise with any type of lead.  A current customer may refer you to someone they know but that person may not be the decision maker.

The problem for salespeople is to decide how to respect the wishes of the prospect or lead, the person you’re actually contacted by, and making contact with the actual decision maker.

Often, the assistant or team member that has contacted the vendor was asked to fill this role specifically to shield the decision maker from vendors and salespeople.

So, the CEO decided that a new purchase is required but, doesn’t want to invest the time in speaking with multiple vendors and asks his assistant to do it.  In their first conversation, the salesperson will realize they’re not talking to the actual decision maker and ask who the decision maker is.  The assistant often will reply as follows:  “Well, that’s our CEO but, she’s very busy and doesn’t want to be contacted.  In fact, please don’t contact her because it’s my job to work with you and I don’t want to get in trouble.”  … or something to that effect.

Why Talking to the Decision Maker is Essential

  1. The staff member typically doesn’t have the big picture, long term, bottom line focus of the decision maker and often will not appreciate a vendor’s competitive strengths.
  2. The staff member often won’t be able to clearly articulate the real motivations for the purchase or change.  This limits the salesperson’s ability to think out of the box and help add real value for the customer.

Techniques to Get to the Decision Maker

Be Honest

Just tell the staff member that your experience tells you that you won’t win the business if you don’t talk to the decision maker directly.  Be specific about why that is.  “We’re different from other providers and offer the ability to tailor our solution to your unique needs.  I can only do that with very in depth knowledge about the priorities of the business/ownership.”

Ask About the Process

It may be that the staff member’s role is strictly to gather information and that a subsequent step will be for the staff member to coordinate meetings with the decision maker(s).  That may be a worthwhile path forward.

Leverage Connections

Reach out to current customers or other industry contacts that may know the decision maker and ask for an introduction.  Of course, LinkedIn can be a tool for introductions or you may be able to connect directly.  This is typically not perceived as intrusive.

See how SalesNexus, let’s you easily find and connect with LinkedIn contacts. >

Just Go For It

If experience tells you that waiting for the staff member to make an introduction is not going to work out, then there really is little to lose in reaching out directly to the decision maker(s).  Rather than blazing in like a bull in a china shop, be courteous and appropriate.  You already know the decision maker doesn’t want to get a bunch of phone calls.  It may make sense to send something in the mail.  If you have an impressive piece of collateral like a case study from a similar client, a sample or maybe just a distinctive gift, send that with a simple, personal letter.  The same thing could be accomplished in an email.  Printed or electronic, it’s important to offer something of value to the decision maker that “justifies” your intrusion.

Sample Letter to Decision Maker


Sara Smith from the ABC Manufacturing staff, contacted us recently to inquire about our services.  I wanted to be sure that you had the opportunity to see the enclosed.  This case study is designed for manufacturing leaders like yourself to see how the unique capabilities, quality and service that <your company> offers can add far more value to your business than other solutions you may consider.

We focus on tailoring our solutions to each and every customer specifically so that we can provide the greatest possible solution for you.  For that reason, it’s crucial that we hear directly from you what can best be impacted by our services for your business.

We’re not a fit for all companies and I don’t want to waste your time.  I’d like to speak with you for 3 minutes so I can determine if it’s likely that we can help <company>.  Please contact me as below.

Don’t have the decision maker’s name, address or email address?