Do yourself a favor; never, ever ask a prospect in sales this question: “Are you the decision maker?” Huh? Every sales book you have ever read tells you that you must be in front of decision makers in sales. True, but the way you ask is crucial. It takes a bit of style and grace.
First: People (even prospects & customers) have feelings.
Second: People want good feelings.
Third: People will do whatever it takes to get good feelings.
When you ask someone if they are the decision maker (and they are not) the tendency to mis-truth is strong. The need to get that good feeling comes out and it comes out strong. Essentially, when you ask someone if they are the decision maker (and they are not) you are asking them to lie. People say yes to that question for that split second of a good feeling. It’s human nature. You can’t fight it – so don’t try to.
One way to lengthen your sales cycle is to spend all of your time with people that cannot tell you yes. Often these people can tell you no, but they can’t tell you yes. Your job is to get in front of decision makers that can tell you yes or no. If all of your sales appointments and conversations are with Carl, the clerk, you will end up in a tough spot. Problem is, Carl will talk to you. Carl has time for you. Carl is nice. Carl likes you. Danger signs!
Decision makers are busy. They run hard. They keep tight calendars. They aren’t Carl. They will meet with you, but in 2014 it probably won’t be a “social call” – social calls are over. There needs to be a reason – a compelling reason. Sometimes that can be tough, which is why you need to fight to get there. You can use Carl (or any other internal champion) to help you get there. Here comes the style and grace part.
Two very similar questions (see which one you like best):
- Ask Carl, “How do you make decisions like this and who is involved?” He’ll tell you.
- Ask Carl, “Who else is involved in decisions like this and how does it work?” He’ll tell you.
Both of these questions include Carl in the decision and give him that good feeling he craves. Neither of them ask Carl to blatantly lie to you. Could he say, “I’m the only decision maker”? Could he lie? Sure. Stuff happens. But those two questions work more often than not.
Stop spending all of your time with people like Carl that can only tell you no, and have Carl help you get to the people that can tell you yes or no.