One question you should never ask


Asking questions pays off, we always hear that.

But there's also an art of asking and knowing what to ask. 

And also important:

What not.


The goal for this article is to cast the vision for a successful garment export business.

Right down to the actual buyer in charge of what you sell.

Your ultimate goal is to get a new business partner with your ideal customers.

And that all starts with building connections.

It’s all about being intentional with WHO to approach.

Yes, you want to export your garments and the first step is to discover who is your buyer in fact.

I'm the first to tell you that I spent countless hours with prospects that were not in the position to make the final buying decision.

It turned out: All efforts for nothing.

And this is only because I just interacted with the wrong person without recognizing it. 

I don't want the same for you.

That's why I'm so excited for you to learn all about it and how to implement it.

Well, stay tuned and you’ll find out.



First off: What types of people can cross your way during your sales process?


Now, before we dig into details, let me point out that in bigger organizations people in the purchasing team have different functions and missions.

In true transparency, yes, every company is different, but let me give you four common positions:



  • Influencing job: This person is often knowledgeable about their work field. However, their recommendations are not taken very seriously with
    much weight. Often these guys seem enthusiastic and appreciate your offers very much.


  • Prejudicing job: This type sometimes tends to act with distance and her/his job is to do a pre-selection on a neutral base. This role tends to see more the downside than the value. Here the facts and details of products are interesting for these people, not the overall picture.


  • Deciding job: To clarify: THIS IS THE ONE FOR YOU.... because this person takes decisions. Buying decisions. She/he has the power to take risks and establish new things. Evaluate the return on investment in detail. So essentially, for her/him the main question is: "What is the benefit of it?"


  • Authorizing job: this character you sometimes don't interact with. It can be members of the board of management, buying directors, or compliance boards. They don't take the actual buying decision but can cancel the deal. She/he thinks of the total company strategy and values and not only for the individual department. However, sometimes they need to sign the deal as a second person.


Who to speak to?


Try to get through to the decision-maker as soon as possible.

Trust me, and my years of experience, that this is actually one of the best ways to get momentum for your sales.



When is the right time to find out?


Truth be told, obviously, the best is you understand who the decision-maker (or the decision-maker team) is at the beginning of the sales process.

Because when you find out late that you spent too much time, attention, focus with the wrong person - it can be tricky.

You can probably guess it, the reason is it can become tough to request to speak with her/his boss without risking the relationship you already built.

And insult the person you have spoken to already.

As you identify who is who and what roles they play in the purchasing department I want you to be very aware and crystal clear with whom you are dealing.

However, if you’re feeling a little uncertain and need to do a little investigating – you’re not alone - most of us need to dive a little deeper to get some clarity.

The truth is in some cases you will not get through to the decision-maker in the first place.

And that's o.k.


How do you know?


Trust me, you can do this. Keep in mind that titles on business cards don't tell anything about the real power to make buying decisions.

Nor do social media profiles like LinkedIn.

You know that the same job can have so many different names. Like: category manager, product manager, sourcing manager, CEO, or even merchandiser.

I'm pretty sure I don't need to tell you that the decision-making process in our industry varies a lot from company to company.



One word of caution:

One question you should NEVER ask



This question is not your friend when you like to get a real honest answer.

The little secret is that in almost all cases the person will say: "Yes".

Even if they are not.

Why do people even do that?

Another way to look at it is that this answer is most human.

When you think about this... who likes admitting to being not so important or not so powerful to take the last decision to buy or not?

So how can you get the real answer?



What's your ultimate question?


As I know you my friend like concrete examples.

One of the cool things I've learned.

Here are a few examples that you can ask.

You can do it with surrounding questions:


  • It's an open question that likely creates a few sentences with information.

  • It feels less emotional to get asked about a process.

  • With these questions, the person you speak to will feel fine.



Option 1: the person you talk to is the decision-maker

If the person says: "That's not a huge process. I'm making the decision myself. But I involve my team." Boom.


Option 2: the person you talk to is not the decision-maker

Maybe you hear: "Oh, I preselect the offers and select the best styles for our brand. And then we'll have a decision meeting next week where my boss and the design team will ..."



You know, that he is not your guy.

And you can ask the name of the decision-maker.

Before making any offer I highly suggest getting in touch with the decision-maker.




What to do when there's a team of decision-makers?


Yes, it's in many organizations like that, teams decide together.

It may seem like that.

However, when you take a close look, you'll find out that there's only one person who is finally responsible for any wrong decision.

And that's the decision-maker.

She/he is fully responsible for the profitability and economical success of the department/brand/business area.



To sum up


Don't get lost in a labyrinth of people where you don't know who the heck is the decision-maker.

You can do this!



Thanks for joining me today.

I really appreciate it.

Please subscribe if not yet done.

If you like, please leave a comment. In case you haven't done yet please connect with me on LinkedIn, Facebook.

Or share it if you like this post.

Would love to hear from you.

Thanks, talk soon



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    45 replies to "One question you should never ask an apparel buyer (and what to ask instead)"

    • Prakasam.K.M.

      Very nice post Heike. Thanks a lot. Kind Regards, Prakasam.

    • Hi,Very useful tips for marketing people , who enter into new markets.
      keep it up.
      have a great day!

    • Hi Heike!
      These tips are helpful and useful like your usual posts.
      Keep on going ahead!!!

    • Sohel

      Hello Heike,
      Very effective suggestions! Some people like to see them with an importancy although they are not designed for that dealings. But this is really difficult to find out the problem, who is the decision maker!! Your solution to the address is nice & professional manner. So as a professional manner, people need to treat it with sincerity. It’s a business & that is mutual. It’s only just obout ones intention which should not go wrong & kill of others valuable time. They can simply avoid or try to help with professionalism. If have opportunity, with strategic manner ones can sure introduce you with the right person in a corporate culture. So it’s all about realization & practice to grow. Anyway, many thanks for your nice anatomy.


        Hello Sohel, thank you very much for your great points, best Heike

    • Ashaf Hakim

      Thanks Heike for your great tips and explanations. Keep going.

    • Hitesh

      Thanks for the post Heike. Practical!!

    • Yusuf Bhuiyan

      This is really great opportunity for us to learn day by day.

    • Eye-openner… thanks for the good article ..

    • very nice, really useful tips for marketing guys

    • saidur rahman

      Not bad at all…

    • Great post.
      Thanks, Heike

    • Muhammad Imran Sajid

      Really thanks for very effective & practical Post.

    • Awesome…. I’ve been through like this situation too in several meeting with customers . It’s really great tips for suppliers like me… thank you Heike… for your such effective blog.
      Have a nice time.

    • impressive ….

    • A&Z Jeans

      Very Nice post Heike, very informative, detailed and explanatory. But I have an even more grass-root level concern. The above steps start once you have found and established contact with a buyer. My concern is even before the step, is the more difficult job i.e. “Finding a Buyer”. For instance, I am a supplier in Pakistan, I have experience of Supplying products within Pakistan. For about nearly a year, I have been trying to expand my expertise overseas, but still no fruit. I have tried various means, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Google etc. But somehow it seems I don’t know the right keywords for search perhaps. Any guidance will help both me and my fellow businessmen.
      P.S: Keep up the good work, it is very impressive indeed what you are doing towards the denim society 🙂

    • Fazmil

      tks. interesting…..

    • you have done an excellent work.
      this informations is very much helpful for us
      I am very much thankful to you that you share your experience with me without any personal benefits.
      i met different peoples allover the world but i did’t remember that no one can share this type of experience with me.
      Again i am very much thankful to you.
      one thing I always said that you solve other persons problems God will solve your problems.

    • Dear Heike
      Good Morning and have a nice Day!
      I think may be these tips useful to anybody but my 20 years experience in garments marketing is totally different.
      At the moment i am busy with my French customes.I will share later.
      Javed Asghar Janjua
      Marketing Director
      Zahra Industries(Pvt)Limited

    • Interested.

    • Mohashin

      Impressive, useful and helps businessman smart in communication.

    • Syed Tahir Zaidi

      Thanks, Heike

    • Thanks, Heike

    • Abdullah Al Nahif

      it’s very effective & practical . thanks haike

    • nice post Heike, waiting for the next tip regarding the same subject.

    • ahmad kamal

      it’s very good………

    • Udaya

      Dear Heike,
      It a nice post that we can apply not only marketing in other areas aswell.
      Keep it up…..

    • Jadu Sikder


    • Zeeshan Ghauri

      NYC Dude! this is cool.

      Next should be;

      How to deal with confused Managers??

    • Many thanks Heike.

    • gooooooooood

      with b e s t regards

      abul mansur

    • Monir

      Thanks for useful tip.

    • Lelin Khan

      Dear Heike,
      This is really helpful post for the new people in market and who are learning. Nice post that we can apply not only marketing in other areas as well.
      Keep it up…..

      With Thanks

      Lelin Khan

    • good one, thanks for sharing…..

    • Alam

      Thanks for the guideline. This is very helpfull for me.

      Apparel Exporter (Bangladesh)

    • Priyatosh Barua.

      Very relevant techniques and helpful.

    • zahangir alam ripon

      Very good and useful topic’s,Thanks,Ripon

    • N.I.SARKAR


    • Good tips! Thanks Heike

    • Thanks Heike for nice tips!

    • Mohamed Hefny

      Thanks and very good. Heike

    • Hello Heike,

      Thank you for highlighting the DON’Ts of business development process.

      Regards, Rajesh.

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