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4 Steps Salespeople Should Take When Your Contact Is Not the Decision Maker

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A training client emailed me with this scenario. Perhaps other account-based salespeople have run into something similar. 

The sales rep, Kim, had a prospect who agreed that her company should purchase computer media supplies from Kim's company.

However, the contact, Karen, added that she personally didn't make the final ordering decision (she was the primary user of the products), but would speak to the person who did the ordering -- we’ll call him Bob the Buyer. Karen preferred that Kim not contact Bob directly at this point. Instead, she assured Kim that she would have Bob give her a call.

Fast forward to a week later ... and no call. Kim didn't want to let this one wiggle away, but she wasn't quite sure what to do. She wanted an opinion on the best action to take at this point.

My first suggestion (which didn't help much in this scenario, but would in similar situations) is to get commitment that the initial prospect would not just refer the matter to the decision maker, but would strongly recommend the purchase and explain why. In addition, be sure to get commitment as to the time frame on this action.

For example:

"Karen, you're saying that you're personally sold on using us because of the lower total cost of ownership over time, and you'll recommend to Bob the Buyer that you switch -- is that right?"

"What else can I provide you to help justify it to Bob? Do you see any potential roadblocks or objections from him? Does he normally go along with your recommendations?"

"And when do you think I should expect a call?" 

This last phrase emphasizes the urgency of the matter.

Finally, set the stage for what would happen should Bob not call by that date:

"If for some reason he doesn't call by then, it wouldn't be a problem if I called him and introduced myself, would it?"

For Kim's specific situation, my suggestion was to call Karen and find out if the referral suggestion had been made to Bob. 

Then, she can segue into the question previously mentioned about getting permission to call Bob directly.

The call to Bob would then be positioned in this way:

"Hi Bob, it's Kim Seller with X Company. I was speaking with Karen Contact in your IT department, and she suggested we talk. She felt we could save you quite a bit of money over time on the media you're now using, and might have passed that information on to you ... "

[If the buyer doesn't jump in at this point, continue]

"If I've reached you at a good time, I'd like to share with you the savings projections we did, and see if there are any other items on which we could help you save."

Notice we are not starting the call out with the worthless, reactive opening, "I was wondering if you got the information that Karen Michaels had sent over to you?" That's as bad as starting a call with "I sent you an email ... didja get it?"

And this way, even if Bob didn't remember Karen's communication, Kim can smoothly transition into the conversation.

To summarize, when your original contact does not have the authority to buy, and you're being referred elsewhere for the final decision, make sure of four things:

  1. You are not being brushed off
  2. Your initial contact is sold on you, will recommend you, and will explain why
  3. You attach a time frame to the next action
  4. There is a agreed-upon course of follow-up action if for some reason the contact does not connect you with the decision maker

What do you do in this situation, or what have you done? Would love to see your comments. 

Editor's note: This post originally appeared on Smart Calling Online, and is published here with permission.  

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