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Have you forgotten anyone in the B2B purchase decision making unit?

We all know that when you sell to a company, you sell to people. But not just one person. In B2B sales, the average number of stakeholders involved is 6.8 in the typical high-value buying decision process – and the number can easily rise into double figures – according to CEB research.

That’s why it’s important to understand the profiles of people involved in the search, evaluation, purchase, and use of a product or service.

Strategyzer defines them like this:

  • Initiators, change agent / project manager: The person responsible for bringing the different stakeholders together and driving the consensus-building process.
  • Recommenders: The person/group who carry out the search and evaluation process and who make a formal recommendation for or against a purchase.
  • Decision makers: The person/group ultimately responsible for the choice of product/service and ordering the purchase decision. Usually, they have ultimate budget authority.
  • Economic buyers: The person/group who controls the budget and who make the actual purchase. They’re typically finance or procurement and have concerns about financial performance and budgetary efficiency. They may sit outside an organisation, such as government paying.
  • Influencers: Individuals/groups whose opinions might count to the decision maker.
  • End users: The ultimate beneficiary of the product or service. They may be passive or active in the decision. They may be within an organisation or the external customer.
  • Saboteurs: The people/group who obstruct or derail the process of searching, evaluating and purchasing a product or service.

But it’s often even more complicated than that – because in many B2B sales you have to convince three key stakeholder groups

1. The core decision buying group
This is the group of people who collectively determine the need for change, define their vision of a solution, identify and evaluate potential solutions, and select their preferred option. Often includes: key functional executives, managers and users, financial executives, technical experts and gatekeepers like IT.

2. The negotiating terms group
Their role is to protect the customer’s interests and ensure that they secure the best possible commercial and legal terms. The level of influence wielded by this group depends on the balance of power between procurement on the one side and the operation functions that have the business problem on the other, but sometimes have the ability to block or delay the negotiating process. Often includes: procurement and legal specialists who were not necessarily contributors to the initial selection process.

3. The final approval group
This group certainly has the power and ability to completely derail a project that otherwise has the full support of the buying decision group. This is because they have a much wider perspective than the specific issue that our solution is intended to address. They also responsible for enforcing high-level company strategy. For example, they may have been persuaded by a major IT vendor that they should adopt their single suite solution – even though the operating departments desperately want to use a more capable best-of-breed specialist approach.

In order to satisfy this final approval group, sponsors must not only ensure that there is a strong business case and ROI, they also have to demonstrate that the project satisfies company strategy and deserves a higher priority than at least some of the other competing projects.

So, have you forgotten anyone…?

Emmeline Woodward

Emmeline Woodward

Strategic B2B Marketing Consultant and Director of Co-creation Marketing
Emmeline has over 15 years’ experience working across leading business and consumer brands, along with extensive marketing management skills. After leading one the UK's largest integrated agencies, where she was Business Director for Digital and B2B Marketing, she created a new agency model that focused on putting the customer first. She is an expert in B2B Marketing, specialising in marketing strategy and value propositions development.

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