As you have probably realized, you cannot just come out and ask, “Are you the decision maker” when you meet a prospective client. The question can seem too forward and rude, and most people will answer with “yes” even if they are not really the decision maker.
So, how do you find out the information you need to know about the organization and its process? You need to rephrase the question in an open-ended manner. You can start with this: “Help me to understand your company’s decision making process.” When you try to engage someone this way, you are more likely to get the information you desire, such as:
- The other people who are involved in the buying process
- How decisions are made in this organization
- The time frame for making a decision
- Whether or not there is a sense of urgency about this process
- The buying criteria they will be using to choose a product or vendor
Remember, there is usually NOT one single decision maker in an organization. There are typically various departments to consider, each with their own goals and challenges. The more people you can meet with during the proposal process, the better off you will be when it comes time to make your final presentation. Make sure that when you meet with these people, you engage with them and ask questions about their criteria, time frames, goals, problems, and budget. It does not help your process to just shake hands and have a little “face time,” you need to get into genuine discussions with everyone who will weigh in on this decision.