How to determine decision makers within companies

Happy Good Friday and Easter to you!

In my previous post on how to succeed at  getting solid sales appointments, I wrote about identifying your target niche audience and being as specific as possible.

For example,  at Connect 5000, our target market is software, technology, and consulting firms with large average sales and long sales cycles.  If a company’s average sale is at least $25,000 they’re in our sweet spot. Hopefully you can identify and articulate your company’s in 2 sentences or less. Being specific not only helps you, but potential prospects who approach you as well.

For a financial planner, his or hers might be: “We help individuals in their 50’s or 60’s who have a net worth of at least $2.5M.

We have a current client of ours that provides construction software and their target audience is the Top ENR 400 General Contractors in America. Pretty straightforward.

Once you’ve identified your target audience, it’s now time to identify who the executive is you need to connect with.

I recently read “Selling to the C-Suite” by Nicholas Read and Stephen Bistritz. It’s a good read with lots of practical advice. In Chapter 4, they discuss identifying the relevant executive. They make a good point:

“It could be someone who has great influence with very little formal rank.”

Ask 2 questions: Who will really evaluate, decide, or approve the decision?


Who has the highest rank and greatest influence?

Yes, titles are important and lots of people think they need to start with the CEO to start the sales cycle. There’s some truth to that but it depends on how large the company is.

For example, if a company is 50 people, the CEO may be the decision maker. Maybe not. Titles are misleading. There are people with titles of “Vice President” and have very little decision making power. Companies like banks where everyone is a Vice President. Depending on the size of the company, one Vice President might be on the same level as a Director at another firm.

Page 74 sums up their point best: “Another way to determine the relevant executive is to find the highest ranking executive who stands to gain the most or lose the most a result of the project or application associated with the sales opportunity.”

The CEO of a company is very similar to the President of the United States. Ultimately in charge of everyone and everything but does not have the capacity to handle every aspect of the business. There aren’t enough hours in the day. Yes the President is responsible for the military but most of the decisions are made by the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, etc.

Here’s some practical tips when cold calling, prospecting, or connecting with C-level Officers, Vice Presidents, and Directors to set sales appointments:

1. Use practical sense. Visit the company website and look for Management or Leadership. If you provide a service that improves operations, call on the Chief Operating Officer or Vice President of Operations. If you can help cut costs, perhaps call the Chief Financial Officer or Vice President of Finance.  If no one is listed on the website, use LinkedIn or Jigsaw to determine who they are. (We’ll discuss in more detail later.)

2. If the solution or offering you provide is not so black and white, call the CEO or President. If you get them or their executive assistant, simply ask “Who reports to your CEO (use that person’s name) that heads up or has responsibility over _____?

For example: Ms. Executive Assistant, can you help me please? Who reports to your CEO that head ups your support services team that handles customer calls and support issues?”


“Who reports to your CEO that heads up the Data Center?”

Be short, sweet, and get to the point quickly. The assistant will either give you the name of the person responsible or tell you to get lost.

3. If you get the CEO live, perhaps try and get a meeting with him. He may direct you to the person responsible and you now have a referral or introduction to get a meeting with the relevant executive.

Half the battle is getting in the door. The other half is staying in there.

In the next post, I’ll share some secrets to actually getting to the executive.

I’m Ray Ruecker and we help technology and consulting companies shorten their sales cycle and multiply revenue by making meaningful introductions and profitable connections. If your company struggles key meetings with decision makers through cold calling and prospecting, we may be able to help.