If you try to push for a decision with a person who is not the decision maker, they could feel boxed in and ultimately never present your information to the levels above. You want to get to the decision maker as fast as you can. You want to treat the contact at all times as an ally, because you never know who will advocate for you.
Your audience (whether on the phone or in person) wants to find out what you are presenting in order to either introduce you to the right person internally or basically block you from moving forward. They see it as their job to “screen” all new offers.
The big question that begs to be answered here is: Why are you talking to the person who is not the decision maker? I realize that you can’t always get directly to the decision maker, but you do need to know right up front what decisions the person you’re speaking with can and cannot make.
If you are not able to meet with the decision maker because the person you are meeting with made you believe that they were the decision maker you need to softly turn things around so you can get to the decision maker.
The best way to do this is to simply ask the person, “Who would we need to run this by as a courtesy in order to get it implemented?” You will find at this point they will usually give you a name because they do not feel you are trying to pull authority from them.
Once you have that name say, “So if we are going to run this by Jim in order to get it implemented, what is the best way for us to get him involved right up front? I want to do what will make this the easiest for you to ensure your greatest success, and I have found from past history that it works best for us to get Jim involved early.”
I know that almost every sales and presentation book tells you absolutely to deal only with the decision maker. But the reality is, in today’s world, you can sometimes make the person with whom you’re meeting an excellent internal candidate and salesperson for you.
Check out the HOT Tip Decision Maker for another example of how to work with the gatekeeper in order to reach the decision maker.