How to Always Get Through to the Ultimate Decision-Maker

If you read any list of “problems” faced by salespeople and marketers, you will always see “Reaching the real decision maker” somewhere near the top of the list.

I have always found this amusing because the moment you reach anybody in a company you have reached the “ultimate decision maker.”

At this point you’re probably scratching your head and thinking “Erik’s talking silly again,” so let me back up a bit and make it easier.

Obviously we need to speak with or get our message through to the person who has the authority to buy our product or service. That is a given.

Obviously, we want to “get in to” the company at the level of that ‘authority-person’ or as close as possible. No one wants to work their way up from the mailroom to the CEO’s office.

The problem I see is this mis-belief that the ‘authority-person’ is the ultimate decision maker.

The ultimate decision maker is not a person!

The ultimate decision maker is a process!

Now you really think I’m nuts, but stay with me.

Let’s say you want to speak with the CEO of a company. He is always busy,rarely at the office, has an un-findable phone number and a dedicated assistant who protects her boss vigilantly.

You have sent letters. Dead end.

You have stopped into the office. Dead End.

You have reached out on Linkedin. Dead end.

You have tried people he is connected to. Dead End…..

You just can’t get passed his assistant.


Because you’re ignoring the first “ultimate decision maker.”

You see the CEO is busy and has lots to think about. So he has actually subconsciously handed off part of his ‘thinking’ to his assistant.

He has entrusted her to know what is worth is his attention.

Her mind is one of HIS mental filters!

Every time you try to get around her you are ignoring part of the CEOs thinking process!

You already are where you want to be, you just didn’t see it!

So you’re job is not to get “around” the assistant, but it is also not to get the assistant “on your side” with fake charm and cheesy smiles.

You’re job with the assistant is exactly the same it will be once you are speaking to the CEO: Determining if there is a fit and any reason to proceed.

Instead of asking how to speak with the CEO or how to leave a message for the CEO or (fill in the blank with any idea for getting around the assistant) engage the part of the CEOs thinking he has already handed over to his assistant.

How could you possibly do this? Well here’s an idea.

  • Call and ask to speak with the CEOs assistant. Not the CEO.
  • Be honest and tell her briefly what you do and why you think you need to speak with the CEO.
  • ACKNOWLEDGE her role and tell her you understand that she has been given the job of determining what is and is not worth the CEO’s attention.
  • (this is the REALLY IMPORTANT part) Ask her what her CRITERIAis for determining what is valuable for the CEO to see, because you want to make sure that you meet that criteria.
  • Then wait for her reply.

In most cases you will get silence.

This is because THEY HAVE NO CRITERIA!

The CEO did not give them specific guidance, so they have just been ignoringalmost everyone and everything without reason.

Once they are confronted with the fact that they have no criteria, they will realizethey have no reason to keep you from the CEO and will (most likely) let you through.

The first “ultimate decision maker” has made a decision:

You may enter.

And now you can talk to the CEO.  Too bad he isn’t the “ultimate decision maker” eitherbut that is another story….


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What do Unicorns and Value Proposition Have in Common?

The short answer: They don’t exist!

Now, I’m sure that sounds like lunacy to you. After all, there are books, courses, training manuals, blogs, articles, websites and even retreats devoted to creating value propositions.

Not to mention it is drilled into every marketer’s and salesperson’s head by their company: Lead with your Value Proposition.

It would be devastating to learn that it had all been a waste. That it had all been adream. That you’d been chasing unicorns

So you might want to sit down for the rest of this article!

The idea of the Value Proposition (also known as the Unique selling Proposition) is that you can say something to someone upfront and immediately have them say “I need that.”

That’s like reading just the “Objective” part of somebody’s Résumé and saying“Forget the other applicants. This is the guy we want!”

It’s not how people’s brains work.

Trust me, if people’s brains worked like that, you could simply walk up to people and say “I work for ABC Widgets. Our widgets produce the lowest amount of waste and are cheaper than any competitor when bought in bulk” and close sales all day long.

But you can’t. And you know you can’t. And you have used Value Propositions and USPs and dumped them, and tried new ones and dumped those, and tried other new ones…

And what’s really sad is that most marketers and salespeople are like junkieswhen it comes to Value Propositions and USPs; they know it’s not good for them but they are addicted.

“Hey man, you know where I can score a dime bag of Value Prop?”

By now, your head is spinning. And that is good. You need to shake old ides offbefore you can look at new ones.

So why don’t Value Propositions or USPs work?

The reason they don’t work is because you have no idea what someone else finds valuable!

Everyone is unique. Everyone has their own value system.

Too some people a sunny day is a blessing. To other’s it is a skin-cancer-causing nightmare.

Who is right? Both of them. And that is our problem.

Values are unique. And you can’t “hack” them.

Even the best Value Proposition is still totally subjective and circumstantial.

They only “work” a small fraction of the time. And that only happens with theright person, at the right place, at the right time, with the right need, and theright authority or influence.

Good luck getting all those ducks to line up for you.

The majority of the time, your Value Proposition actually creates subconscious resistance and turns people off. Even if the person could be a client, you have now INCREASED the distance between you.

So what is the answer? If Value Propositions and USPs don’t work, what should you do?

Tease them with context.

Example: Your company sells IT services.

So your Value Proposition or USP might sound something like this: We guarantee 99% up time and the fastest response to your service calls possible.

Sadly, all your competitors say the same thing, so your Value Prop or USP is now DOA.

But, what if you said something like this: We’re like the Santa Claus of IT Services.

Then be silent.

Now the other person’s mind doesn’t have enough information to quantify orqualify you. It is confused. It needs more information.

So he asks “What does that mean?”


The other person’s mind has switched from Dismissal to Curiosity. That tiny change is the difference between being valuable or being worthless to the prospect.

You have teased them with “Santa Claus,” and contextualized them with “IT Services.”

Now you can go on and build your metaphor: Santa has billions of houses to visit but he still gets it done in one night, just like us, etc…

And the prospect is building THEIR OWN value of you internally!

That is the secret. Prospects create their own values.

So when you facilitate them building your value to them – instead of force feeding them the wrong one – you win.

Have fun!

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