Trying to identify who makes the buying decisions in a business can be one of the hardest parts of a B2B sale. There are often several gatekeepers between you and the ultimate decision-makers, and it’s not always easy to know how to get by them. These 5 questions will help you navigate the infrastructure of a prospective customer to get you to the person or group that makes the decisions on buying.

Who will make the final decision?
The first question you can ask, if you are a no-nonsense salesperson, is a straight forward, “May I ask who will make the final decision on this purchase?” If you have reached a secretary or someone on the lower end of the business spectrum, the answer may not be readily available. If it isn’t, you can ask to be transferred to someone who might know this information.

Can you put me in touch with XXX?
Another way to get past the gatekeepers is to mention the head of the department to whom you are selling. Couch it in this manner: “I understand that X is the leader of your IT department. Should I send some information to her?” If the answer to this question is no, you can follow up with, “Will X be involved in the buying decision? If so, please forward my contact info in the case of any questions.”

Is anyone else involved in making this decision?
Once you’ve made it to a potential decision maker, you want to verify who, if anyone else, also holds influence over the decision making process regarding your offering. Use either of the following questions to determine this: “Who else will be a part of your evaluation process?” or “With my other clients it’s often the case that the head of marketing likes to be involved in these kinds of decisions. May I send some information to X as well?” These two questions will either reveal other members of the buying process, or will verify that you are talking to the decision maker.

The most important thing to remember, outside of these 3 questions, is that the nicer you are to the gatekeeper, the better chance you have to get through the gate. These people get countless phone calls and emails from salesmen just like you all day long. You need to be able to hold a sincere conversations or offer some personalization that will make you stand. Whether it’s a unique closing phrase in an email or an astute observation over the phone, do something that makes the gatekeeper feel good. The best salespeople often do research on the gatekeepers and identify exactly what works to get through to the decision makers.