There are three major types of buyers: individual buyers, boards or committees, and multi-level purchasing prospects. In lean times, it is rare to find an individual tasked with sole executive buying power. In a sea of corporate decision makers, you need to know which one will decide to buy your products or services. If you are a B2B sales specialist, you will need to evaluate the buying strategy of your prospect in terms of the buyer(s) that you will be dealing with. The first, and most important, step is to identify them. If you don’t know who makes the decision you could be spending far too much time pitching your wares to the wrong pair of ears.

In your initial research, it is important to pay close attention to the names and positions of the people who respond to your initial queries. In most cases, you’ll get a generic response, and there’s nothing wrong with that – the name is the most important piece of information on the initial query. If you are lucky, there will be a direct e-mail address or contact number. If you have these, you can cross reference them with your marketing data and generate a list of people associated with that particular buying group. In addition, the contact number will often lead to a secretary. Use the secretary to your advantage. If anyone in the company knows who makes the decisions, the secretary does. Even if you just get a list of names, it’s a great start. Often, if you treat the secretary well, you’ll be able to get some inside information that will help you close a sale at a later date.

Once you’ve identified the decision makers, you can target their motivations. Use sales intelligence to uncover valuable insights. It’s often enough just to bring in doughnuts or engage them in water cooler conversation before a sales meeting to get that one small detail that can make your sales pitch shine. In some cases, social media can reveal the same type of information previously available only in face-to-face meetings, such as sports affiliations or alma maters.

Even if the first pitch doesn’t make the sale, the relationship you’ve made with the other people in the buyer’s company will be a valuable source of information on the internal workings of the business and any changes in the decision makers or the circumstances around the decision. This is like having an open sales call that can be closed whenever the circumstances become right.

Having the knowledge about who makes the decision to buy and what makes them tick is the difference between spinning your wheels and making the big sale.