How to Ask Someone if They’re A Decision Maker

by Scott - 4 Comments

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One of the first mistakes I made when I initially started doing BD was how’d I’d ask if someone if they were the decision maker.

“So X, would you say that you’re the decision maker for this.”

“Yes” was the answer I received 95% of the time. I’d say the number of actual decision makers I was talking too was probably closer to 50%. The incongruence emanated from the fact that I was asking all wrong.

Decision Maker

Very few strangers have the authenticity to admit that they don’t hold much power:

“No, I’m actually just a minion to my overload boss.”

Of course someone is going to indicate they’re a decision making power when you flat out ask them. It’s like asking a parent if their child is smart…95% of people will say yes meaning many will embellish.

So to get to the bottom of this question it’s best to ask a bit more indirectly. Here’s 3 ways you can show a little gamemanship:

“So X when decisions like this are typically made, who all gets involved?”

“So X, what is the typical process for deciding on an offering like this?”

“So X, who else on your team would be interested in learning about this?”

All three of these approaches are likely to yield a much more reliable answer than asking someone flat out. This technique also appears more consultative which makes you come off less salesy. This is good.

In every situation, there’s always an indirect way to collect the data we’re looking for . I prefer the approach that blinds people to the fact that you’re looking for it because the subsequent data is much more reliable.


Here’s another good post from on this topic Lisa Fugere at InsideView. I swear I didn’t read until after I wrote this thanks to Zemanta: 3 Questions to Ask to Get to the Decision Maker

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4 comments, add to the conversation.

  1. Rob

    I would argue that there is no such thing as a single decision maker anymore. So your question about who all gets involved is actually a much more effective and appropriate question these days. Nothing anymore is one person. Too much risk for that person to make by themselves.


    1. ScottBritton

      Good point Rob. Straying from the status quo is perceived as dangerous, especially at bigger companies, so getting everyone on board is crucial.


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