Who Are You Talking to, Anyway? 4 Key Enterprise Buyer Roles

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Written by David Zeff

Jan 7, 2019

It’s a moment every sales account manager has faced at least once.

The moment when you finished delivering your masterful sales presentation to the party on the other end of the line. You know you’ve wowed them – they even say so. And then they reveal the truth.

“I’m not really the one you should be talking to about this. Let me get you to the right person.”

Facepalm.

In order to avoid the wasted time and efforts of the Sales Account Manager, the Sales Development Team is tasked with filtering the waters upstream. It’s the Sales Development Reps, ultimately, who ensure that the right people are invited to the sales call so that the conversation can be fruitful enough to convert the lead.

While the “right people” are often thought of as the decision makers, the complex enterprise buying process, in reality, features different roles, each with their own part to play.

Let’s take a look at four of the key players you’re likely to encounter. These roles might be filled by individuals or by groups, by males or females, but for simplicity’s sake, we’re going to refer to them in singular masculine.


The Champion

This person is responsible for the day-to-day implementation of whatever project your solution addresses.

The Champion is likely to respond very well to your demonstration of how you can add value to his company, as he is the most likely to benefit directly from your product or service. He is the person who will rally support internally to drive the sale; you need him!

Often the Champion is in low to middle management. He does not have control of the purchasing decision, but can make enough noise to attract his higher-ups to the next sales call or demo. Therefore, it’s important that he’s impressed and understands the value you’re offering.

The Champion is your ally in the sales process and needs to be treated as such. Build a relationship with him. Reinforce the benefits of your solution. Express (genuine) appreciation for his support.


Technology Buyer

This person (relevant if you are selling software or another tech solution) is responsible for vetting all the technology purchases for the company.

The Technology Buyer is likely to be held responsible for anything that goes wrong in purchasing a product or service and is therefore likely to be risk-averse. Suspicion is his name and due diligence is his game. He will have a list of questions, many of which won’t relate to the solution you are selling, but it is critical that you hear them out and address them. Don’t minimize or disregard him!

Attempts to build a friendly relationship with the Technology Buyer may not necessarily be taken well; he’s not looking for a buddy. The most important thing for him is that you take his questions seriously, satisfy him with answers and go beyond his requirements as often as possible. If you can do that, the Technology Buyer will be your staunch supporter and ally.

Together with the Champion, they will likely present a convincing argument to the Economic Buyer.


Economic Buyer

In a smaller company, this person holds the purse strings. He may also be the Decision Maker.

In an enterprise, government or institution, however, this person is responsible for making procurement decisions on large purchases. He is usually kept separate from the decision-making group for two reasons: to ensure there is no bias in the choice of vendor, and to do the job of renegotiating the rates and terms in the contract. As such, make sure to factor renegotiation into your pricing when quoting larger institutions. He has to try to push for lower pricing; that’s his job!

In many cases, the Economic Buyer is directly linked to the legal department and together, they form the Purchasing Department. When dealing with the Economic Buyer (or the Purchasing Department), it is important that you follow a clearly outlined closing plan to ensure that you can bring the decision to a head in as quick and pain-free a way as possible. This includes planning your question and answer process, as well as navigating the legal battleground.

Of all the buyer roles, your relationship with the Economic Buyer has the highest risk of going sour, given the heightened tension in the process as the seller and buyer negotiate, each making a final attempt to assert his will. Keeping a cool head, directing the process and being responsive and professional will help you win the approval of the Economic Buyer.

Decision Maker

This person is charged with making the final determination of whether or not the company will purchase your solution.

Often the Decision Maker has no particular interest in the product or service you are selling. He relies on the opinions of the Champion, Technology Buyer and Economic Buyer and is simply there to rubber-stamp the contract.

In some cases, the Decision Maker is also the Champion. Having the Decision Maker and the Champion as one personality is a massive benefit, but it does come with its own challenges. The Decision Maker’s enthusiasm for a product or service may raise the eyebrows of their colleagues or employees in the lower departments, and end up working against you. If you are dealing with a Decision Maker/Champion combo, make sure you don’t take the opinions of the other managers or employees for granted. Work to prove the value to parties on all levels, even if you have the “thumbs up” from the Decision Maker. That’s just… insurance.


Make Every Conversation Count

Effectively directing the enterprise sales process requires equally large measures of advance planning and keeping your finger on the pulse of the moment. That’s true of every aspect of enterprise sales, and addressing buyer roles is no exception.

  • Make sure you know whom you are talking to and what role they play in the company’s buying process.
  • Prepare in advance how you’re going to address the needs of each buyer role.
  • If you find yourself in a conversation with an employee who doesn’t fit any of the above roles, it pays to question why you’re talking to them and what benefit (if any) it delivers to the sales process.

While successfully navigating the enterprise purchasing process is a skill that comes with time, working on the above skills will almost immediately give you a smoother, quicker path to closing.

Want to find out how to talk to the person you’re selling to? Click here to learn how to conduct a successful customer meeting.

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