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There was a side conversation in a recent LinkedIn workshop that caught my attention. I usually hear a comment or question that sticks with me for a few days, and as I flip it around in my head, I realize there’s something we should untangle and rethink.

Our workshop host, let’s call him “Sam”, dressed in a shirt and tie in just the right shades of orange to complement his crisp blue seersucker suit, was a CEO who read voraciously, asked a lot of questions, spoke his mind, and had a mischievous sense of humor. When I asked this group of CEOs, “Who likes to answer cold calls?” he replied, “I do.” Hmm, I was surprised by that initially. He continued, “Just to have some fun, see if they know what they’re talking about.”

What he said next though, is what stuck with me, and, I’m paraphrasing, “Salespeople don’t realize I don’t make all the decisions. I count on the people I’ve hired to bring the best options to me, and then we decide.”

Let’s untangle Sam’s comments and how we think and prepare for a sales call/process. By the way, this is not an exercise in persona building but rather persona busting.

When I ask salespeople who they’re calling on, and they say the decision-maker, I start to twitch. Seriously, that’s an answer?

Who is that person by title? Where do they fit in the organization? What size organization? The real decision-maker in many of today’s companies probably do fly well under the radar of most salespeople because they don’t have the typical title or “position ranking” of decision-makers from back in the day.

If you have a new hire or entry-level employee making cold calls, and a CEO picks up the phone, is in the mood to play or even engage, and they can’t answer the questions or think fast enough, that person and your company may never get an opportunity with that company again.

Overreaction, you think? Maybe. Maybe not.

Most likely, Sam won’t remember this person’s name or company so when the next pawn calls it’s no big deal. However, Sam’s pretty smart with digital tools right in front of him so he may have jotted down the company or individual’s name from caller id or popped up LinkedIn to see their profile as they talked and then noted the company name. In the end, Sam may have, in a minute or less, dismissed your company even if you have a product or service his company needs, uses or would be open to discussing.

The same scenario goes for a telemarketing company, intern or unimpassioned sales team that is tasked with doing nothing more than dialing not for dollars but for the opportunity to catch someone who might give them ten minutes to set an appointment to learn more with someone who knows something about something.

Smart people and exceptionally smart, tuned-in CEOs value their time and their position. If they take the two to three minutes and answer a cold call, it’s an opportunity for you or your assigned cold-caller to be intelligent, prepared and able to leave the call having provided some measure (albeit small) of value to the person with whom they spoke.

DOWNLOAD our Identify Your Buying Community Template 

A good way to ensure that happens is to ask the closers on your team (that may be you) what it is they provide that customers find valuable. Now, it’s not the product, service or solution that’s being sold, instead, it’s an industry insight that spurs a conversation, a proof case that may align with their company, a product demo, a webinar on a specific topic, your latest blog that delves into the mind of your customer. I don’t know.

That may help you with Sam’s first comment. How about him saying he doesn’t make the decisions. It makes sense that salespeople want to reach the decision-maker. No kidding. The fastest way to a destination is a straight line. I submit today’s straight line looks different than it did years ago.

The skills, commitments, and expectations of a CEO or business owner are more significant than ever. They have too many choices to consider and decisions to make to be the only decision maker in their company. It’s why more sales fall by the wayside rather than to your competitors. Have you thought about that lately? You should.

Decision-makers are everywhere in a company, from front-line workers, salespeople, customer service, in operations, human resources, marketing and finance. They, without even knowing it, become an influencer, champion, advocate. Typically CEOs and business owners come to value such input because of the connection that person has to you or your company, whether personal or professional. CEOs and business owners have relied on a referral network for years, and it may be how they built their business or career.

At its core a decision-maker is anyone who makes a decision, right? So anyone who decides to mention your name, create an introduction, refer to your company, forward an email or link about you, your company or products/services is actively taking an action which in turn can help you begin a person-to-person sales conversation. And, while there may be an ultimate decision-maker, the transparency to the buying community is more visible than ever through LinkedIn and other tools. Position yourself and act on this. There are many articles on consensus selling, all with well-made points on both sides. While starting at the top is a valuable strategy it can no longer be the only one employed. I suggest identifying and building a buying community. Over the years, we discussed this idea, and it’s perhaps even more relevant today with increasing noise and overwhelm.

Identify the following people in a prospective company:

  • People you already know
  • 2nd degree LinkedIn connections
  • People, 2nd or 3rd degree on LinkedIn that would fall within an executive or leadership team including people from the financial, sales, marketing, and operations area.


Then consider, how, without going full tilt with your sales messaging, you can position yourself to have a brief conversation with that person or send them something that could spark a conversation.

Who knows, it may be that leadership team or others within the company, depending on the culture, are tasked with reviewing, vetting and determining partners and suppliers. Be strategic.

The big idea for today is to think about the decision-maker and consider whether or not you need to update your definition of what that means for you and your company.

Download our Identify Your Buying Community Template

Further Reading

Is Your Sales Process Stuck?

Salespeople: The Conference Session You Should Have Attended

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Thats it! You’re up to speed. See you on Thursday, but in the meantime, check out our Company Page on LinkedIn to gain even more insight and information from us!