I spend a lot of time doing deal reviews. A critical part of each review is understanding who will be involved in the decision-making process and who we are calling on.

While it’s Sales 101 to be calling on the decision-makers, too often sales people are calling on who they are calling on. By this, I mean that sales people are talking to whoever will talk to them, though they may not be the most important people for the decision.

The way this happens is very seductive, many sales people don’t even realize they may not be focusing on the right people until it’s too late. Here’s how it can happen:

We have our friends and sponsors in an account. They may have done business with us before, they are people who like us, and most importantly will meet with us. We latch onto them fiercely, focusing our sales activities on them.

We may believe they are the decision-makers, maybe they were in the past. But we’ve never reconfirmed the decision-making process. We haven’t asked them who’s involved or their roles. We just call on them because they are the people we’ve always called on.

Or we focus on the people who will see us–even though they may not be key to the decision that is being made.

We fall into the same traps, focusing our sale efforts on the people we call on, without really knowing if we are calling on the right people. It’s the easy thing to do. They’re our friends and sponsors. We feel comfortable with them and they with us.

But all of this is meaningless if we aren’t dealing with the right people.

We know customers are changing the way they make decisions. More decision-making groups are growing. Data shows the average B2B buying group size has grown to 5.4 people. We know many decisions are moving up the food chain, with more senior executives weighing in.

So calling on the people we always call on may not be helping us.

It’s critical to understand how customers will be making a decision. We have to understand everyone involved, their roles in the process, how power and influence will be exercised, and what each person cares about. We can’t count on just the people we’ve called on in the past-regardless how great our relationship, or how much they sincerely believe we can count on them.

Are you calling on the right people?

Are you engaging everyone involved in the decision-making process?

Or are you calling on the people you always call on?