Authority to purchase means that the prospect has the authority to make the decision to purchase your product. If a prospect has a true need for a new car and has the money needed for the purchase, but it is his or her spouse who makes the final deci- sion on big purchases, then this prospect does not have the authority to purchase. An example of this in B2B sales would be a director of finance who has a true need and budget available for your product, but if it is the VP of finance who will approve the purchase, then the director of finance does not have the authority to purchase your product.

How to Handle the No Authority Prospect
If you learn a prospect does not have decision-making power, you can shift your approach to try to turn the prospect into more of a coach so that this person can help you to identify who the decision maker is. This can often be a delicate situation be- cause your prospect may have an ego and think that he or she is the only person you need to be dealing with. Or the prospect may feel insecure about his or her standing in the organization and not want to bother people higher up with the discussions you are having. In either of those scenarios, the worst thing you could do is ask questions like this:

Can you introduce me to [name or title of person with authority to purchase]?
Can you get me a meeting with [name or title of person with authority to purchase]?

These questions could give the prospect the feeling that you are trying to do something that you should not be doing or that you do not respect him or her and you are trying to get around them. To avoid this, be very direct and say something like this:

Our standard process is to meet with [title of person with authority to purchase] before finalizing the proposal. What is the best way to go about scheduling this?

When you say this in a very direct and confident way, the prospect will have less hesitation and resistance and may help you to get in contact with the person who has decision-making authority. And the goal here is not to change your main point of contact; it is to simply get the person with the authority to purchase to be aware of the discussions you are having so that this person is not completely surprised when you reach the end of the sales process and it is time for the prospect to purchase your product. The optimum scenario would be that the person with authority provides some sort of executive sponsorship or endorsement for the purchase of your product.

If you cannot get that person involved or aware of your discussions, you should begin to seriously question if the prospect is qualified and someone you should spend your valuable time with. If the person who makes the final decision is not available or interested in the discussions that relate to your product, not only could this create is- sues when it is time to get the purchase approved, but you could also question if there is a true need or if the purchase is important to the organization.

How to Identify If the Prospect Has the Authority to Purchase
Here are some qualifying questions to ask that can help to assess how strong the prospect is in the area of having the authority to purchase what you sell.

What is the decision-making process?
What parties will be involved in making the decision?
What are the key factors that a decision will be based on?
What functional areas (departments) will be impacted by the purchase?
Is there a committee that this type of purchase has to go through?
Who is the ultimate decision maker?
Who is the person that will need to sign the agreement/contract?