How to Negotiate Access to a Decision Maker

As you already know, access to a decision maker is vital. When a salesperson doesn’t have access to a decision maker, it’s usually because they simply haven’t asked for it. But of course, you would certainly be more comfortable with asking if you know that you’re in a position to do so. That is if prior conversations with your contact have demonstrated your understanding of the organization’s problem that it would like to address if you have explored how your capabilities can help and if there’s unique value in what you’re proposing.

The Two Approaches

What it really comes down to is two straightforward approaches.

  1. Aggressive. An aggressive tone might be one where you would say, “So, it appears we’ve had some good conversations and that we’re in agreement that we have some capabilities that could really be useful to your organization. You did tell me that John would ultimately have to be involved since he would sign off on any eventual purchase. Let’s schedule some time with him now where the two of us can position all we’ve discussed.”

Regardless of the reaction, this approach can be quite effective.

  1. Cooperative. This tone is a bit softer and may sound more like a bargain: “Does it make sense for you and me to set up a meeting with John so that we can get his perspective on everything we’ve discussed?”

Though this tone is more passive and might give the contact a little more of an out, it does also create a sense of cooperation and allows the contact to maintain some level of control. However, the contact could also react a little hesitantly to this approach. If that is the case, you should respect that but still be prepared to position a fair exchange for access to the decision maker.

For example, perhaps the contact needs to be more comfortable with the conceptual ideas that you’ve discussed. You will want to think about what form of a proof would make them feel good about the solution and subsequently, their desire to provide an introduction to the decision maker.

In the case of the hesitant reply, you might state a bargain. “I understand it may be a little too soon, but let me suggest this – as we continue working together, I’ll be investing some of my company’s time and resources to make sure you have the right solution and we are committed to doing that. However, if we come back with a specific way to prove these capabilities and you become satisfied with it, would you then introduce me to John? Does that sound fair?” Then, get the prospect’s agreement.

Once you get the agreement, make sure to follow up with the contact with a thank you email and document the bargain for access to the decision maker.

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