How to Build Relationships with Decision-Makers

Engaging decision-makers in the right accounts is the most critical and difficult challenge in sales.  Do it well and you can write your own ticket. Do it poorly and your success and impact will be limited at best. 

We can all agree that decision-makers are busier than ever and the implications of their decisions are greater in this uncertain economy. This is why we deal with heightened levels of skepticism and procrastination. Making the wrong choice can have disastrous consequences. Making the right choice in a timely manner can be a huge competitive advantage. 

The salespeople who are able to reach decision-makers in their target accounts must be able to convey their value in a concise, yet compelling manner. This is the beginning of building a relationship based on trust, credibility and impact. Here are six ways to build relationships with decision-makers.

  1. Learn what they’re trying to execute. What barriers might exist? And how will your solutions help them to succeed? Do this before contacting the decision-maker.
  2. Understand their options. Your solution is not their only alternative. Know what other options exist and the pros and cons for each. For example, we had a conversation with a key decision-maker about developing the high-potential employees of his bank. Our decision-maker could have chosen to use internal resources to develop the team, relied on an e-learning platform, partnered with a consultant who had significant technical expertise in their industry, or he could have done nothing at all. We asked really good questions that demonstrated our understanding of the situation and helped him to think clearly about navigating tricky internal politics. We won the business.
  3. Don’t play all of your cards at once. As salespeople, we sometimes get too excited about the potential of winning the sale. Doing so makes us sloppy and damages how we’re perceived. For example, if a CEO says she’s frustrated by her team’s inability to execute her strategy, I could trip over myself explaining the ten ways we help teams execute effectively. Playing those cards at the right time maximizes their impact. Playing them too early minimizes or negates their impact and exposes me as someone who is more concerned with “winning” than helping her to address a business problem.
  4. Drill, Baby, Drill! Instead of spouting off features and benefits, drill down and ask questions that highlight the root causes and implications of the situation. What is her team failing to accomplish specifically? Why does she think this is happening? How does this impact shareholder value, productivity, revenue, engagement and morale? What metrics are in place to measure the initiatives? What ROI is tied to these metrics? What will success look like? What will success mean financially and emotionally? (By the way, this is also what helps us to command value-based fees, minimize procrastination and most importantly build trust).
  5. Learn how they make decisions. Todays trusted advisor doesn’t need to be a jack of all trades. We need to learn our client’s goals and get the right people to collaborate on the solution – this includes our team and the client’s team. 
  6. Execute. Always do what you say you’re going to do. When there are issues, communicate them immediately, including how you’ll rectify the situation. Decision-makers hate surprises because they receive so much filtered information. Nobody expects you to be perfect. They do expect you to act with integrity.

What other ways do you build relationships with decision-makers?

Brian Williamson is the President and Chief Execution Officer at Execution Unlimited, a consulting firm that helps companies grow by improving their ability to execute effectively. Expertise includes Sales, Employee Engagement, Character-Based Leadership and Innovation. Contact Brian at 630.839.9690 or


About Brian Williamson

I work with salespeople and leaders to get better results by taking a character-based approach. That means Executing by helping others Execute their priorities. I'm also the founder of Testimony & Tunes ( where everyday people share lessons learned through faith, and artists can share tunes that reflect their faith.

One comment

  1. Pingback: 5 Reasons Your Salespeople Aren’t Uncovering New Business « Brian Williamson's Blog

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