Who is your customer – really?

Knowing who the decision makers are is an important part of business. You need to know who will be signing your contracts when you’re negotiating with a new client.

When you’re making your first deals it’s easy to get excited when you get a nibble. But is the person you’re negotiating with really your customer. Is the person you’re talking to really going to make the decision to hire you?

My friend Valerie recently told the story of her interaction with a real estate agent.

So when I walked up to the 10th inspection (this time with partner), I was ready for the usual drill. The real estate agent looked about 23 years old, was well groomed (they all are), and had his clipboard at the ready. He smiled as we approached and lifted his pen, ready to take down our details. As I opened my mouth to tell the real estate agent (we’ll call him Jason) my name, he held his hand out to my partner, introduced himself and asked my partner his name.

Well, that’s ok. I don’t mind coming second in the introduction stakes. There’s no hierarchy here. After all, he can’t shake both our hands at the same time.

So I waited

And waited

The mistake the real estate agent made was that he thought the man was the decision maker in this transaction. In real estate, it’s often the woman who is more influential in the transaction.

When we meet with a client it’s important to understand who were are actually dealing with. Is the person we’re talking with going to be able to seal the deal and, importantly, authorise our invoices for payment.

At the first meeting, it’s important to know who you’re really talking to. The trick is to learn that without being too pushy. After all, the person you’re talking to might not be a decision maker but could be influential. Asking questions about the process for getting the contract is a good way of finding out who will make the decisions without insulting the person you’re speaking with.

Also, do some research. It’s amazing what you can learn from company websites. Many companies make available their tendering processes. It’s worth checking this so that you understand how the potential client makes decisions.

How do you know if you’re negotiating with the right person? What are your tips for making sure you negotiate with the right person? Let me know in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Who is your customer – really?”

  1. You’re right. This is really important. You often can’t just ask, “Who’s making the decision,” though. Realizing who’s the decision maker often comes out of the prequalifying part of your sale, when you ask questions–lots of questions–and shut up to hear the answer and also to see how these questions are answered.

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