I had a salesperson trying to sell to me today and when she could not close me, she tried to figure out if I was the decision maker. For some reason, the way she tried to figure this out did not feel great to me as the prospect so I thought it might be good to outline a more diplomatic way to handle this delicate subject.

A Not-So-Great Example
Here are some quick details on what this salesperson did. She gave me the details that I was looking for and I told her that I would get back to her. She responded by saying something similar to this:

Oh, I see. Do you need to get with the person that makes the decisions regarding this?

I know what she is trying to do at this point – she is trying to qualify me by identifying if I am the ultimate decision-maker. This is definitely a good step for her to take if she were to identify that I was not the person that would ultimately make the decision, she can then try to find out who that is and get engaged at that level.

The problem here is how she went about it. In this case, I am the person that makes the decisions and it felt a little condescending when she displayed the assumption that I was not that person.

It is a Delicate Issue
When you are trying to figure out if the prospect you are dealing with is the ultimate decision maker, you will want to be careful as this is a very delicate issue for a couple of reasons.

First, most people operate with a certain level of ego and pride. We have worked hard to get where we are, regardless of the level that we are at in an organization. When you are trying to build rapport with a prospect, you will want to feed this ego and make the prospect feel good.

If you question their level of authority, you are doing the exact opposite of this as you communicate that they are not as high enough in the organization to get your full respect and attention.

Another reason why this is a delicate subject is that the prospect might need to shield the upper levels or the decision-maker from salespeople like you. When you display that you are wanting to move up or around them in the organization, they may feel like you are going to start to be a problem or cause some negative activity and that may impact how they are viewed in the organization.

Here is a Simple Solution
Sounds a little tricky, right? Well, here is an extremely simple solution that defuses all of this sensitivity and gets you to the exact information that you need.

To identify if your prospect is the decision maker, simply ask this question:

What is the decision making process on your side?

The response you get should be something that includes the main steps that will be taken on the prospect’s side that lead all the way up to the decision being made. If their answer does not include all of that, try to get them to go through all of the different steps each step at a time. As you do this, you should be able to identify all of the people that will be involved, including the person that will make the final decision.

This will make it crystal clear how your prospect fits into the organization and who the ultimate decision maker is without having to ask them directly if they are.

Also, Read Sometimes You Need a Warm Call Script Too