Process vs. Power in Decision Making

For sales in general – and especially in TeleSales, it can be very tricky figuring out who and how purchasing decisions are made.

I will start this topic off by saying it is much, MUCH, MUCH easier to gather this information when there is no current opportunity to do business together on the table. Once you are working with a prospect or customer on a “deal”, “pending purchase”, “project” the people involved are wary of a salesperson’s motives. Yes I know we don’t always have this luxury, yet some times that is our own fault because we shy away from having the conversation.


  • some salespeople are afraid the person they are talking with will be offended
  • others don’t want to rock the relationship boat
  • various people have told me they are comfortable talking to their current contact person and don’t want to find out they can’t pull the trigger
  • the prospect or customer has said “I make the decision” and we take the answer at face value
  • or I don’t know how to have the conversation

Well, I’m glad you’re reading if any of these reasons why ring true.

#1 Don’t = asking “Are you the decision maker?” or any variation on this theme. Come on – would you ask people in your social circle “Hey are you the decision maker on buying a car in your family?” No! Non-salespeople don’t use the words decision maker in  conversation. Those words need to be kept INTERNALLY at your company. Why yes, that is what piece of information you want to find out – it’s not how to ask it (ok, I’m stepping down off my soapbox for now).

#1 Do = talk about the purchasing process instead of who has the power or authority to purchase from you. People are part of this conversation, not only the mechanisms for getting it done.

The benefit to you is that a process conversation takes your contacts desire to be seen as important and powerful out of the equation.  Let’s face it no one in a business relationship wants to say “nope I’m not high enough on the corporate food chain” or “power to get things done? no I don’t have that”.

Here are a few sample questions to get you started (please remember my safety tip to reword into your own voice):

  1. When you’re working on a project who is on the team with you?
    or Who will be on the team with you to finalize the details for this project?
  2. Once you decide the “what”, how will you pick who to buy it from?
  3. After I send you information, what happens next?
  4. In addition to price, what factors will play into the vendor choice?
  5. How often do projects end up in the Never Never Land of approval, once you have done all your paperwork?
  6. Help me understand – once the requisition leaves your hands, where does it go?
    (another place to use THEIR terms – find out what their internal people call the paperwork)
  7. If we were to follow the paperwork along, what does the process look like from beginning to cutting a purchase order?

another trick is to use THEIR name for the project instead of generic words – so insert “7th floor rewire” or “distribution center upgrade”, “new building”, “North Dakota” etc. How do you find that out? Ask them…. so when I call back or send you emails on this, what do I call it that will spark your memory and make it easier to find the information?

Let us know how you find out who and how decisions are made. Scroll down, register, log in.

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