[Posted by Mike Scher July 13, 2015]

It has become a generally accepted business practice for a sales organization to build and manage a pipeline that is three times (3X) quota.   While you may have different closing percentages, a sales team will generally win a third of their deals. They will lose a third to the competition and the final third end up as a dreaded “no decision”.

Successful sales organizations win more than a third and laggards win fewer than the 33%.

As a sales person, how do you ensure you are on the positive side of that ledger? It’s all about making sure you are speaking to the RIGHT person.

In any business to business sale that has even the slightest level of complexity, you need to have all the bases covered. At a minimum, you need someone who wants you to win the business and they have to be on record telling you so. This champion needs to have the political clout to get the deal done AND they have to unequivocally share your vision for how to address a particular need or solve a problem.

Often times, your so called “champion” overstates his or her authority and that means you get stuck at a tactical decision making level. In terms of getting a deal done, this person can say “no”, but can’t say “yes”.

If that is the case, here are three simple questions to vet your contact and get them to identify and navigate you to the real decision maker.

  1. Where / how did this initiative begin? – When you are dealing with someone who is being protective and telling you that they are the decision maker, the answer to this question often provides insight into the identity of the real decision maker is.   It’s like peeling an onion one layer at a time. Eventually you will get to the real story. Many times you will find it ties to something the executive team (if not the board) had prioritized.
  2. Tell me about the purchasing process? – If your so called “champion” is really the decision maker, he or she will be able to initiate a purchase order without approval.   This question will reveal if your contact even knows how to get a deal done internally.   Another angle on this question is “tell me about the most recent purchase you went through…..”
  3. Other than yourself, who else is involved in this decision? – Phrasing the question this way is less threatening and confrontational than asking if they have the authority to make this purchase decision. By asking “other than yourself”, you are giving them respect. Prefacing your question in a way like “given the impact of this decision, surely there are multiple people involved. Other than yourself, who else is involved in this decision?”

These three questions are just a starting point. I will guarantee that asking them will help you uncover the truth in your deals and turn those losses and no decisions into wins!