Identifying the key decision-maker in any organisation

07 August 2015 Sean O'Mara

Identifying the key decision maker in a business is half the battle when pitching or selling. You can waste a lot of time and effort either pitching to the wrong person or worse still, trying and failing to get in front of the right person to share your idea.

Sometimes you just don’t know if you’re actually talking to the right person.

Thankfully there are a few quick tricks to identifying the person with whom you should be having this most important conversation.

Perform a quick company audit

The size and structure of a company will often reveal the role, if not the name, of the person you need to speak to. Approaching a startup with four staff for example means you’re best served going to the CEO.

A multinational with hundreds of staff will no doubt have layers upon layers of decision making processes to work through. You need to work out the right line and length for your pitch. Get the department first, then try to get as high up in that department as possible.

Understanding how the company is structured will not only help you locate the correct contact it should also inform the nature of your pitch. Speaking to a new CEO at a small business is different to speaking to a grizzled purchasing manager at a PLC.

Optimise free resources

Once you’ve sussed the structure out, use the myriad free resources at your disposal to find names, positions and contact details. Start with the company website. The ‘About Us,’ ‘Contacts,’ or ‘Our People’ section may have a list of the key people within the company.

Failing that, LinkedIn can be super handy. Search on LinkedIn for the company you’re approaching and scroll through until you find the person whose role most likely matches the person you think you should be talking to.

A good tip to make trawling through LinkedIn a bit more bearable is to use the following search. “Current Company: Name of company here.”

This should eliminate people who have the name of the company in their profile from a previous role and keep it only to people currently in a role at that company.

Some savvy Google usage may enable you to identify this correct person too. Searching for the business name, alongside the term “new appointments” or “press release” can often bring the answer straight to your screen.

For bigger companies Wikipedia can often help you glean some names and positions.

Ask around

It may sound rudimentary and a little too straightforward but you should never underestimate how much people love appearing ‘in the know.’ Use Twitter and make the most of hashtags. Yes, there is actually a legit use for these you know.

For example, the UK’s journalists often share intelligence on the #journorequest hashtag. Likewise PR people and the #prrequest hashtags. These niche industry hashtags foster a sense of community that lends itself well to sharing otherwise covetted and protected information.

Industry forums may be dying out due to the popularity of social media but those that are still around are a great source of info.

Trade press

Every industry has its own publication, whether it’s The Stage or Aquaculture Magazine. Getting hold of a copy of the relevant trade rag and leafing through can be a great way to find out who’s who at companies of interest.

Even if you don’t find the exact person you want, you can get one step closer by finding out who their colleagues are.

Cut out the ‘New Appointments’ section of all trade publications and keep them in a file. Over time you’ll build up a nice directory of key people across your industry of interest.

Make qualified approaches

Now you’ve gathered up some background information and have an idea of who you want to speak to, it’s time to get on the phone. Calling up can be daunting but if you’ve at least got an idea of who you need to speak to you can have a little more confidence.

When you’re calling up cold it pays to have a plan to get past the gatekeeper. Don’t try to be misleading or deceptive – you’ve seen the LinkedIn rants from people on the receiving end – be honest, confident and remember that you are entitled to call up and ask to be put through. You’re just not entitled to put through necessarily today.