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When you sit down to present to all the interested parties in the home, you can't help but wonder: Who's the decision maker? Is it the person doing all the talking or is it, in fact, their partner who's sitting with arms and legs crossed, blocking your message with their negative body language?

“When you are talking to a couple, especially a husband and wife, a good guess is to assume that the dominant person is going to be the male, but the real decision maker [may be] the female,” says Ray Biondolillo, vice president of sales for WindowPro, a window replacement company with multiple locations in Northeastern Ohio.

INVOLVE ALL PARTIES But it's just a guess, he cautions. To help reveal the decision maker, Biondolillo suggests asking a lot of questions, such as: What are you trying to accomplish with this purchase? What problems are you having now? What styles do you prefer?

The decision maker is more likely to be the one answering. But again, there's no guarantee. “The issue is that you need to include all parties and draw the reluctant one into the process,” he says. “It has to be an interactive presentation, and both need to be involved.”

It's difficult to cut through the tangle of conflicting clues you often get from homeowners, agrees Kirk Rynearson, assistant sunroom manager at Universal Energy Corp., in Greenbelt, Md. “The short answer is that you don't know who the decision maker is until you get to the very end and you see who is raising the objections,” he says. “It's always a surprise.”

DO YOU AGREE? Sales reps at Universal Energy Corp. are taught to resist the natural tendency to shy away from an unresponsive homeowner and focus more attention on the open, smiling, interested partner. “You have to try to draw out the other person,” Rynearson says. “Whenever you're getting some kind of confirmation or commitment from the friendlier one, you have to turn to the other person and ask if they agree.”

Prematurely or inaccurately identifying the decision maker is as detrimental to making a sale as pre-qualifying the prospect, says Carlo Pinto, president of Pinnacle Energy, in Columbia, Md.

“We want [sales reps] to pitch with 100% enthusiasm and 100% energy to both clients,” Pinto says. “The rep will be able to sense who is the more emotional buyer, but we make sure they keep the non-emotional buyer involved in the whole process because if you alienate one or the other buyer, you're going to shoot yourself in the foot.”