Social Sales | Identifying the Decision Maker

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Properly identifying the decision maker(s) may be the single most important aspect of the sales process. Certainly, this is no different in social sales. Specifically, we are looking for that person who has the …




Otherwise known as the “MAN”. If they don’t have the money, or they are not willing to part with it, you don’t have much of a prospect. If the person you are selling to does not have authority to make a decision about your services, and to authorize the expenditure, you have spent a whole lot of time selling to the wrong person. If they don’t have a need for your services, and this is a legitimate condition, what makes you think that they will invest in these same services? In other words, if you can’t find a “hurt”, there is no amount of salve and bandages that is going to correct that. The topic of this article is “Finding the Decision Maker” and, as this is the most important of the three areas, let’s get started.

There is probably no worse feeling than coming to the end of the sales process only to find out that your prospect is at best an influencer and is not the final decision maker. You will generally uncover this unfortunate condition when this person tells you “Sorry, they turned it down.” Who are “they”!!???

In this article by Sean McPheat, he identifies “The 5 Main Buying Roles”. They are …

  1. The Initiator – the person who decides to start the buying process.
  2. The Influencer – the person who tries to convince others they need the product.
  3. The Decider – the person who makes the final decision to purchase.
  4. The Buyer – the person who is going to write you the check.
  5. The User – the person who ends up using your product, whether he had a say in the buying process or not.

All are important roles, and it is important for us to identify and cater to each but, our goal is to find #3, The Decider. No Decider. No Deal. In real life, we should be able to ask a few simple questions to help us with this identification. Personally, I have never been too fond of … “So, who makes the final decision regarding this?” You risk alienating the person you are asking especially if they ARE the final decision maker. Perhaps just as important, you are missing out on an opportunity to identify EVERYBODY who might be involved in the decision-making process. Therefore, I prefer … “In addition to yourself, who else will be involved in the decision-making process?” Then follow this up with “And, what role does each play?” and “Can we get them involved now (or even better can I meet with them) so that we make sure that each of their needs/interests are met?” 

On the other hand, maybe the best part of social sales as it relates to this topic, is that we have the ability in many cases to at least pre-identify buying role suspects (potential role players) without having to ask any questions of anybody. Then, when buying roles have been identified, I might be inclined to ask the question … “What about Jim Smith? As the CFO will he play any part in this process or did you conveniently leave him out?” :)

When it comes to online sleuthing, there are few better sources than with LinkedIn but, first let’s start with some basic searches. Remember this golden rule … It is much better to start high and be referred down than it is to start low and then try to get referred up.

Company websites often list key contact information. You may have to poke around a bit and/or see if you can find a site map. While you are there, get to know the company a little bit better as these bits of info could be invaluable down the road. Of course, this some advice holds true with company individuals that you turn up! If they have links available to social networking sites, follow those and you will probably end up at the Company Page on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ along with a company Twitter account. We will come back to social networks in a bit.

What turns up on a Google search when you use keywords that include the company and the employee title that you wish to connect with? Try it! It works and it works quite well! What hits do you get from any Google search? Once you get a name, search that as well. You are going to be amazed at the number of online sources that you will find and you will undoubtedly end up bookmaking a few of these for future use. Manta and Dun & Bradstreet can be excellent sources of info.

What about your Secretary of State’s website? Public records can be gold mines. If your target market, for example, centers on new construction, you can subscribe to a variety of construction reports like McGraw-Hill or the Construction Monitor but, I prefer municipality permit desks. Here in Boise, ID actual permit documents are scanned into the public website and you can find multiple buying role players along with their phone, cell phone, and email.

Moving on to the “big four” … 

In General: Monitor social streams on any and all networks and, if applicable, learn to filter your results (and create discovery) with each network’s search capabilities. Specifically, I am looking for what they are talking about and who they are talking to. Maybe they are talking about needs for my services and maybe I already know who they are talking to. Can you say … “introduction”?

LinkedIn: The key to LinkedIn, in terms of finding the decision maker, can be summed up in two words … search and company. Once we have found the individuals we are looking for, and my experience is that this is usually done on the company’s page (assuming they have one), we are now able to begin to connect the dots. We are looking for introductions. Who are they connected to that you are already connected to? If we find nobody, are they a premium account and a OpenLink member (they will accept private messages from anybody on LinkedIn) or do you have a premium account that will allow you to send InMails? Worst case scenario, maybe they will connect with you regardless providing you request this with a personalized invitation. 

How about groups? They likely belong to a few and these days most are open. Always remember that the beauty of groups on LinkedIn is that they are what I like to call “connection agnostic”. You don’t have to be connected to your other group members at any degree and you can still engage them directly in conversation! Direct connection is the logical next step and even if you don’t, you can generally “follow” them.

Facebook: I would have to say, and there will be those who will disagree, that for our purposes Facebook is better designed for B2C entities than it is for B2B. That being said, even CEO’s have friends and their friends and family may be connected in some way to you and me. Like LinkedIn, Facebook will identify mutual friends who can be used to request introductions. Applications like BranchOut will give you some LinkedIn-like capabilities within Facebook. The owner of this site, Neal Schaffer (who is B2B and also a Facebook ninja) happens to be very fond of Empire Avenue and I have heard the same from a number of folks who swear by this application as a business tool.

In the general search box you can search for people and/or companies which will often take you to the company page and identify people you know, or may know, who either work at that company or have worked at that company. A company search will also allow you to refine that search down to people who have worked/or are working there. Search for the company name and the title you are looking for and a bing web search will be activated. Certainly, having found your connection on Facebook, this is the site where you have the highest potential of learning about them personally! As I write this article, Graph Search has just been activated on my account. Very interesting and I am sure that this will provide even more engaging search possibilities! Facebook also has groups which may carry similar benefits to those found on LinkedIn.

Twitter: As suggested before, be sure to follow company Twitter accounts. When at Twitter, take a look at their lists. They could, for example, have compiled lists of employees, vendors (including your competitors), and even their best accounts. Hell, monitor your competitors’ streams. Loose lips sink ships and their lack of good sense may be your ticket to “closing street”. #Sweet! Twitter also has its own powerful search engine. Learn to use it! While there are not groups, per se, on Twitter, there are TweetChats where like-minded people will connect at a specified time and hold discussions (identified by hashtags) on a variety of topics. This is a great way to connect!

Google+: Google+ has developed into a platform that I like to refer to as “LinkedIn with a personality”. It is conversational and interesting while at the same time exhibiting a decidedly more business bent than Facebook. One of the key advantages of Google+ is that barriers to connecting are minimal much like those found on Twitter. While you can follow anyone (providing they don’t block you), they have the ability to choose whether or not to follow you back. The first thing you need to do is make use of circles to organize your contacts. Google+ has company pages so be sure to review those. Search is available. Oddly, being Google, I would think that it would be more developed. And, Google+ has very strong Communities (groups), Events, and. of course. 8-way video chatting on Hangouts.

Other applications that you might investigate: InsideView, Linked Strategies, IKO System, and (formerly Jigsaw, now Salesforce)

What tips can you share with other readers? As we are a community, we all get better when we share with others what is working for us!

Craig Jamieson
Craig M. Jamieson contributes a monthly column on Social Selling. Craig has been in B2B sales since 1977 and during that time has served in a variety of positions including; sales manager, division sales manager, national sales manager, district manager, and as a business owner. He is the managing partner of Adaptive Business Services in Boise, Idaho which owns and operates NetWorks! Boise Valley B2B Networking Groups, is a Nimble Social CRM & HootSuite Solution Partner, a TTI Performance Systems VAA, and Craig also conducts workshops and seminars relating to sales and social business applications. +Craig Jamieson
Craig Jamieson


Social Sales Trainer and Author Helping Businesses To Increase Their Revenues, Nimble SCRM Solution Partner, TTI VAA, Own & Operate a B2B Networking Group
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Craig Jamieson


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