Talking to the Decision-Maker

It's important that you speak to the person who will be buying your products or services. This may seem obvious, but there may be more than one decision-maker—in some companies there could be dozens of people to sell to before you can finalize a sale. Often one person may appear to be the decision-maker in public when there is actually someone else behind the scenes who really makes the final decision.

Even if you don't speak to the decision-maker the first time, it is still important to make a good impression on the people lower in the chain of command, since their opinions usually influence the decisionmaker's choice to purchase. But when you don't talk to the decision-maker from the beginning, you'll have to start over developing a new relationship with the person with purchasing power later in the game, when you could have been building on the synergy of all the players involved from the beginning. During your screening process you want to find out who the decision-maker is, find out what problems she faces, find out when she needs the product or service, and learn what features of your product are important to her. You need to find out the answers to each of these questions.

Take the time upfront to make sure you are speaking to the decision-maker. This will save you a great deal of time in the end. You need to be more focused and perhaps limit the time you spend with the second or third in command of the decision-making process.

Key benefits and features are important to consumers, but before they will buy, they need to feel a trusting relationship with you or the company. Above and beyond the key benefits and features is the development of the relationship itself, so continue to focus on building the relationship, meeting the customer's needs and wants as you discuss how your product or service can help him solve a problem. Focus on the benefits that best fit the needs of the client you are working with. Be sure you understand all your client's needs and all the benefits of your products so you can make smart choices about which products will serve him best.

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