Let’s imagine this scenario: Company ABC needs to obtain a new ‘xyz’. Sarah, the COO will be approving and signing it off. Josh from operations has been entrusted and tasked with finding the solution and presenting the final choice to Sarah. Josh has worked across sales and operations and knows intimately what’s needed.

Most salespeople would be engaging with Josh and concentrating on how to get to Sarah.

They may just call around Josh or even ask Josh to include Sarah in the meeting. Basically, their emphasis and focus is on connecting with Sarah.

This way of thinking will lose sales.

Essentially, the person your salespeople are actively engaging with is the first decision maker. This is the juncture where most salespeople fall short. They don’t accept this first contact person as a decision maker at all. In fact, ‘ole school’ will tell you to get around this person, go above this person – do all to get to the ‘real’ decision maker.


Josh is aware of their intent by their body language and tone, and probably earlier in the relationship they may even have asked ‘who is the decision maker’ (implying ‘it doesn’t sound like it’s you’). And therein lies their error. The salesperson doesn’t get the business. Even their boss says ‘it’s because you didn’t get to the decision maker’ reinforcing that was the sole person to focus on.

By accepting that Josh has been assigned to find a supplier, we need to recognise Josh as the decision maker, because, he actually is. We refer to him as a KPI – Key Person of Influence – and at this point we respect that he is making the decision, realising that it is his judgement that will determine what final proposals will be put forward.

Sales Proficiency: All done in conjunction with being the absolute professional which means doing the following:

Due Diligence

Combing the client website and Li for all that the company is posting about: what’s their philosophy and mission, what interests Sarah (noting her profile, her posts).  We might see she values ‘integrity’, as it’s scattered across much of her posts and profile. As our company holds and is renowned for the same values – it’s a core mission statement –  you may decide to run a campaign to demonstrate that point. It needs to be genuine, honest and authentic. Not forced or fake.  That means you will post about it and repost your company’s related articles. If you post about something that’s of relevance, you may decide to message and highlight this to Sarah– assuming you are at a relationship point where that’s acceptable.  ‘Hi Sarah, today I posted about the top 3 things to look out for when training your team on xyz, I hope it brings you value (happy to share the link or email you the fuller article)’,

Reach out to shared contacts, is there anyone else respectful that we know who works in the same company. Could we engage with them? They may be able to relay a good word (to both Josh and Sarah).


Being the authority in your field, the subject matter expert – this is a mindset thing – are you standing tall and confident and have certainty (not feeling ‘lesser’ or subservient)?


As part of our meeting prep, research and due diligence, being mindful of:

Intent is there to help (not ‘sell at’).

How you turn up: are you early, looking prepared, using the right language?

Listening: great salespeople do less talking and more listening to truly understand.

Decision makers


Asking the right questions, questions that no other supplier has asked – thereby understanding the client and their situation better than anyone else. Great questions loop onto further insightful, intelligent questions no one has yet asked which leads to a heightened understanding, such that at one point the energy shifts and Josh will lean in and say ‘yes, good point – can you help with that’.

Trusted Advisor

Having earnt that right you can be in a position to guide and educate them on what they need to consider, what other options there are etc.


This is when Josh realises you know your onions and he willingly, and because it feels natural now to do so, will introduce you to Sarah

Behind the scenes

Josh will be deciding who is the right supplier, based on many key factors, of which price is rarely one of them. In fact, it often holds the lowest rating. Typically, it’s about looking for someone who is an expert, who will be reliable, that can be trusted, who does what they say they are going to do. It’s important to realise this, as many reps promise something (say, an email or first draft proposal) then are late – which would be giving Josh the impression that they are already falling short in their commitment, and if unable to follow through at this vital point, a time when they should be all over it, creating doubt that things are hardly going to improve once the business is on board.


The focus of your efforts is about being the authority, being prepared and being professional the whole way through – not just pushing to meet with the ‘person behind’.

Read more about Business Development in our 6 Steps Business Development check list.

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Charmaine Keegan
Charmaine Keegan - Director, Keynote Speaker and Founder of Smarter Selling - is a world leading authority in Sales. Her career spans 30 years of sales leadership. She has trained over 8,000 sales professionals empowering them with the confidence to embrace selling with integrity and authenticity to deliver immediate revenue growth. She believes sales is comprised of five fundamental elements – intent to help, clear strategy, exceptional communication and customer service skills, personal accountability and a commercial mindset. She is passionate about selling and even more so, empowering others to sell. Smarter Selling training programs set sales leaders and their teams up for lasting success with simple to execute, contemporary and proven sales methodologies. She helps leaders drive a high performing team. They are developed and trademarked by Charmaine. They evolve as communication evolves.   Her programs (online and face to face) are renowned for being engaging, fun, interactive and highly practical. She makes it easy for you to sell and your customer to buy. She is an author of over 20 eBooks, is a sought-after guest speaker, panellist, and keynote. She is a Certified Trainer of NLP (how we operate), Hypnotherapy (unconscious communication) and Timeline Therapy (recognising your beliefs about sales and money – and recognising that of your customer). She has studied the psychology of human behaviour and is considered an absolute authority and true expert on sales techniques. She has ‘walked the walk‘ so the workshops are highly practical and focused on results. Training created by a sales expert for salespeople.