When this has happened to me, I’ve said things such as:
“Well, if Mary Lou’s going to be involved in this decision, Fred, we should go get her perspective on this. Is she in?”
I’m the queen of asking to go see someone without an appointment while I’m there with the prospect. And I often get to see the person!
Sometimes people tell me, “Well, the board will have to approve this.” I then say:
“Here’s an idea. Let’s make me a five-minute agenda item at the next meeting of the board. I can present what we’re considering doing, and if they have questions, I can stay to take them. If they don’t have questions, I’ll just go.”
Alan Weiss, the author of several excellent books that help consultants build their businesses, writing in the “What’s Working in Consulting” newsletter, suggested this type of approach when you’re talking with people who say, “I have been assigned responsibility for finding suppliers.”
You might say:
“I appreciate your position, Mary Lou. Ethically I cannot provide a proposal until I’ve heard directly from the person approving the expenditure as to what expectations and objectives he has. That’s to protect you and your boss.”
That works for me!
As Jeffrey Gitomer points out in his Little Red Book of Selling, “The number of sales you make is often in direct proportion to the number of actual decision makers you sit in front of (or talk with). The problem with most salespeople is that they are talking to someone who has to ask their mommy or daddy if they can buy or not.”