How to Find Decision Makers: 7 Uncommon Strategies

Sales techniques8 mins
Sep 22, 2020

Everyone knows the pain of getting to the end of a long sales process, feeling like you're going to close the deal, only to be told by your prospect that they'll have to get the final say from their boss, or someone in accounting. Turns out, you didn’t have the decision-maker.

A decision-maker is someone who confirms a purchase or can make a change in purchasing decisions without having to ask anyone else for permission. They are the keyholder when it comes to sales. Finding your decision-maker and targeting them right from the get-go can make the most of you and your prospects' time.

So, we've got some of the best tactics for you to dig in and speak to the right person, so you never get caught in an awkward presale waiting game again.

Learn the kind of companies and buyers you're looking for

If you haven't already, figuring out what kind of companies you’re selling to is critical in the sales process, but it also impacts who you'll be targeting. Not all companies are alike. Depending on the size of the company, you may need to look for different types of individuals:

  • Companies with less than ten employees: Usually, the CEO is the decision maker, unless the company has co-founders, or was quick to hire experienced leadership, such as VPs or CMOs.
  • Companies with up to 50 employees: VPs of departments are usually the decision-makers at these companies.
  • Companies between 50 and 500 employees: As companies grow, they usually add specialized roles like Sales Managers or Business Development Managers. Those are typically the decision-makers at companies of this size.
  • More than 500 employees: Find some kind of regional or specialized role. For instance: an East Coast or North American Rep, or someone tied to a specific department.

Once you've figured out the title of your decision-maker, it's time to start defining personas. Having personas helps you understand your buyers' motivations and where you might find or approach them. Sometimes getting face time with a decision-maker is more challenging than finding out who they are. As you define your personas, consider things like:

  • What kind of duties do they have in their day-to-day job?
  • How long have they been working at the company?
  • How do they make decisions: do they sign the paperwork right then and there? Do research and pass to finance? Are they the end-user?
  • How do they interact with your product? Do they visit your site and read your blog? Do they read your emails? Where do you reach them most, and how do they prefer to communicate?

It's helpful to know this information because, with it, you can customize your reach out strategy and have more success detecting and understanding the motivations of your buyer.

Leverage LinkedIn

LinkedIn is one of the best resources to use to find your decision-makers. If you can, having someone that knows both of you facilitate the connection creates a vote of confidence for you in the eyes of the decision-maker.

It takes about eight cold call attempts to reach a prospect. But it's no longer a cold call if someone is willing to introduce you. If you can find a direct connection, taking a look through profiles of top positions at the company you're looking to make movement with is a great strategy. Here are a few specific things you can look for and what they mean:

  • How long have they been with the company? If a CMO only has two months of tenure, but the Director of Marketing has been there for three years, the latter will likely have more buying power and influence.
  • How are they endorsed? Endorsements give you a picture of what tools they use, their managerial skills, or any tactical skills that would help the buying process.
  • What did they write in their profile? Do they mention being the manager of the strategy for their department? If so, that's a pretty good sign you've found who you want.

Map the organization

If you've churned through LinkedIn and are still having trouble figuring out who is best to reach out to, the next step is mapping out the organization you’re targeting. Finding this information can be pretty straightforward if you're looking at a public company. You can just take a look at their 10-K filing.

If it's a private company, you can use things like LinkedIn Sales Navigator's advanced searching—they even have sorting with decision maker relevance now.

When you have a map of the organization, you then have a clear picture of who the decision-makers, gate keepers, and influencers are. You then know who to target with your communications.

Read the news

If you like to take a more proactive approach, reading the news is the best way to stay in the know of who the people in charge are. In technology and start-ups, roles are always shifting—things are a bit more dynamic.

Subscribing to newsletters about your industry and your prospects gives you the upper hand. You'll know about changing roles, new hires, mergers, acquisitions, and IPOs without having to dig deep on LinkedIn.

Not only does this give you a leg up on finding decision-makers, but it will also help you out with knowing about funding status. People are much more likely to be willing to buy new software if they feel fiscally comfortable. It also gives you a tool to take your relationship one step farther: you can reference your knowledge and align with how they may be feeling about the changes.

Befriend the gatekeeper

In a medium-sized company, an average of 7 people are involved in most buying decisions. If you still can't find a decision-maker, it can be an excellent strategy to find the next best thing: the gatekeeper or an influencer.

From the work that you've already done on LinkedIn, org mapping, and reading the news, you should have an understanding of the layout of the company. Whether you need to find a decision-maker or just find their contact information, the gatekeeper or an influencer should be your best friend.

Instead of trying to work against them, acknowledge their job, and help them achieve it. They have a tough job—appreciate them and build a candid and real relationship with them. If you can earn the trust of an influencer or gatekeeper, it will help you have a closer relationship with the decision-maker once you do reach them.

Use marketing data

Things are moving away from in-person. Currently, 92% of all customer interactions happen over the phone. You can't always read people's body language like you would at a meeting. That said, you can still find patterns and read the body language of content consumption and web movement.

Of high-performing sales teams, 53% rated themselves as effective users of analytics.

Use the marketing data at your fingertips to uncover a potential decision maker's consumption patterns. For instance, are they doing a lot of software discovery—are they viewing G2 Crowd, competitor's sites, or making many comparisons?

Based on this behavior, you can determine whether or not it makes sense to reach out to the person you've found, or if it would be better to find someone else to talk with.

Find their contact information

Once you've found the person who makes the decisions, you're 75% there. That's the hardest part! You might think that the most challenging step is finding out how to get in touch with them, but luckily there's tons of software out there to help you with this integral last step before reaching out.

Beyond tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Salesforce, or PersistIQ, which help you find the person to talk to, here are a few tools that you can use to find out how to talk to them.

  • offers contact information search for decision-makers, and tools for outreach and automation.
  • Hunter: all you have to do is type in a domain, and this tool returns every email address associated with it.
  • ZoomInfo: this is one of the OG databases for contact information. Not only do they offer emails and phone numbers, but they also have a connector with LinkedIn Sales Navigator for decision-maker discovery.
  • Clearbit Connect: this integrates directly with your email with extensions for Outlook and Gmail.
  • Voila Norbert: Like Hunter, all you have to do is type in a decision maker's name and company, and this tool will give you their email address.

You're bound to find the information that you need with one of these tools.

Be persistent

In case the seven strategies above didn't appropriately convey it, much of the work of finding a decision-maker happens through persistence. If at first you don't succeed, move down the list and try something different.

Use the bounty of excellent tools at your fingertips to automate and make your job just a little bit easier. Create meaningful relationships with all company areas, not just the person who has their hands on the credit card.