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How To Find The Decision Maker

by Sean Luce

Sometimes a sale will backfire at the last minute even though it appears that the prospect is signed, sealed and delivered. Other influences can have an impact  on the sale. Sales reps have been conditioned to call on people with the right titles: owners, general managers and agency buyers. However, other influences may  need to be identified.

Not long ago, I made a call with a rep at a closing presentation for an auto dealership. The general manager pulled out his most recent survey from the parts  and service department. The GM shared with the rep that his station was #12 on his survey, and he only bought from the top five radio stations on the survey.

The survey method was to have his service mechanics sit in the vehicle and write down which station was playing on the vehicle’s radio. Each month the service department turned in the results to the general manager. The general manger then placed his dollars with the top five vote-getters. After using every technique  that the rep and I could think of to overcome the objection, we left to try another day. After the call we discussed the objections. We came up with the theory  that the mechanics were probably completing the survey without actually checking the vehicle radios.

Over the next three weeks, the theory was put to the test. The sales rep delivered such things as pizzas and donuts to the mechanics in the service department  responsible for the surveys. Guess who was in the top five the following month? After 90 days, the rep’s station was number one in the survey. At that point, the general manager of the dealership placed an annual contract with the station.

I am not suggesting that bribery is the way to close a sale. In this case, the service mechanics were not filling out the survey properly. The real decision  makers in this case were the mechanics not the general manager. A sales rep should penetrate all levels of a prospect’s business. A rep needs to have a  relationship with all of the contacts in that business. Those contacts have the potential to influence a sale as much as the person who signs the checks.

1. Who gives the final approval to invest in the radio station? The choice usually boils down to one person, but many factors can influence the decision  maker such as current business conditions or past experiences with the station or the rep. The sales rep also needs to determine the prospect’s budget.

2. Who actually benefits from advertising with the station? In many cases, it will be the company’s salespeople, service personnel, delivery people,  receptionist and maintenance people. In other words, everyone interested in the business that could benefit from the advertising.

3. Who looks at the specifications of the proposal? In dealing with an agency, a rep may gravitate towards the “buyer” feeling that they have the most  power. The rep will often spend most of their time with a buyer. However, who really makes the decisions? Is it the AE on the account or possibly the media  supervisor? The rep needs to form a relationship with each of these people. Otherwise, they might find themselves cut out of the sale at the last moment.

The rule of thumb is to develop relationships with others within the business in addition to the contacts that have the “right title”. The rep must sell deeper in an account because the decision maker is not always who it appears to be.

Sean Luce is the Head National Instructor for the Luce Performance Group and can be reached at

(1/3/2013 6:37:52 AM)
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- NY
(2/16/2012 5:21:31 PM)
I would have said, "Maybe the flunkies that drive the waiting cars into the service bays are changing the station before the service people ever get to them." The approach here got to the real heart of the problem - and didn't even have to tell the dealer GM what changed!

I think that's called "beating the system." First, you have to know what the system is. Good thing the dealer GM tipped his hand by giving the real reason for his no.

- radiomike

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