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Updated: 30 Sep 2018

Sales Negotiation Questions to get to the Decision Maker

Sales Questions to get to the Decision Maker


Many sales professionals struggle to close deals or they lose to competitors, because they're not talking with all the real decision makers. Ask the best decision maker questions to ensure you're selling to the right customers.

by Calum Coburn

We coach our clients to ask for the decision makers – especially on our Sales Negotiation Training, and our Advanced Negotiation Training courses. Too many ask ineffective questions, such as: “Are you the decision maker”, to which most will answer “Yes”. Why do people answer ‘Yes’ when they’re not really the decision maker? Simply because everyone wants to think of themselves as important. So how do you get to your real decision makers?

Two Decision Maker Questions

Best to presume that the person you’re talking to is one of the decision maker, and ask your question in one of these two ways:

  • “Aside from you, who else are the decision makers?”
    This question doesn’t dent their ego, allows them to confess their lack of complete decision-making capacity, sharing with you the real decision makers. You’ve also paid them a compliment by presuming their status as a decision maker, which they can correct you on.
  • “Every company’s different. How does your company makes a decision like this?”
    This question casts the light of your enquiry on the less threatening area of their company process. Decision making process conversations take your conversation off the rocky road of ego and status. In describing their process, they usually reveal the names of the people you need to talk with. So listen carefully and take notes.

Many graduates from our Sales Negotiation Training report how surprised they are the first time they ask one of these questions and are handed or emailed a copy of their customer’s organisation or division chart, complete with reporting lines.

Trust & Relationships

Without a doubt, when you start by building a trusting relationship, you’ll be massively boosting your chances of getting your decision making questions answered. So before you focus on what you can get, think of what you can give. How can you benefit the person you want to influence in your sales negotiations? Make the Law of Reciprocation work for you. Do favours for others on a business OR a personal level, and you’ll notice them wanting to help you out far more. Of course it goes without saying that you want to honour your word. So build a reputation as someone who delivers on promises.

The more people you ask, the higher your chances of uncovering the real decision makers. So keep on building relationships and keep on getting your customers to introduce you to their colleagues. You can use some of the intelligence gathered from one customer to ask a great question one of their colleagues, long before you get to the negotiation table to make your sale. e.g. ‘I’ve heard that your steering committee need to approve this type of purchase. When next are they meeting?’ While the first person you speak with may not be prepared to share this level of information with you, the second or third person you speak with may presume that because one of their colleagues has trusted you with some information, that they can trust you with more information.

Final Words

Too many sales professionals fear their customer clamming up in response to decision making questions. Most of the time, given a sufficient level of trust, your customers will reveal their decision making process along with it their decision makers’ names and roles. If you don’t ask, you usually don’t get. While professional buyers may choose to own their company’s communication with you during sales negotiation time, their colleagues will usually prove more liberal in sharing their decision makers.

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