Covering Bases—The Buying Influences
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In the evolving world of B2B sales, a core concept that stands the test of time is “Buying Influences.” After creating your ICP, it’s critical to understand the different buying influences that will impact the decision-making process. Having a robust knowledge of each enables you to tailor your pitch based on distinct motivators, and will even help you identify the key decision-makers to focus on in today’s complex sales environment.
Understanding the Buying Influences
While assessing potential buying influences, you will encounter the following key players:
- Economic Buyer
- Technical Buyer
Each person has their own distinct priorities impacting their approach to your product. The better you understand these influences—the greater your odds of a sale.
The Economic Buyer
The Economic Buyer is the ultimate decision-maker, holding the power to make or reject a purchase. They are driven by the business impact of the purchase, with ROI and scalability taking center stage. Be sure to share the tangible benefits your offering brings to both their top and bottom line.
In the preliminary stages of a sales cycle, other personas may posture as the Economic Buyer. Sales representatives should tactically validate such assertions. Beyond costing time and money, targeting the wrong Economic Buyer could be fatal to your sale.
The User encompasses individuals or teams who will engage with your product post-purchase. Their main concerns often center around functionality, user-friendliness, and capacity to boost productivity. With Users, be sure to empathize with their perspective. You can expect questions like:
- Does this product address my needs?
- What's the learning curve for implementation and use?
- If a glitch occurs in the middle of the night, can I rely on customer support?
The Technical Buyer
A multifaceted persona, the Technical Buyer’s role can often overlap with that of the User. Their primary role is to map out technical solutions that address a business need and then compare vendors.
Your goal as a vendor should be to streamline their evaluation process. Avoid sending them through your product’s catalogs and data sheets. Instead, highlight what sets your product apart.
It’s important to understand the Technical Buyer’s requirements and uncover the needs behind them. Prioritize technical alignment discussions—and come prepared for the long haul.
Moreover, many Technical Buyers use proofs of concept as a litmus test during the procurement phase. In these instances, it’s crucial to align the criteria for success well in advance. This approach ensures you aren’t caught off guard or disqualified for unforeseen reasons.
Companies often have dedicated procurement departments, whose mandate is to ensure adherence to standards like compliance guidelines and getting the most helpful deals. Understanding Procurement’s evaluation metrics and operational protocols is paramount.
Some companies incentivize their teams based on discounts obtained during the negotiation stage, and knowing this in advance can dramatically change your pricing approach.
When forging a relationship with Procurement, mull over the following:
- What is their projected timeline for this purchase? Is it reasonable and aligned with other buyer influences?
- Are there established vendor integration protocols for topics like Compliance and EHS (Environment, Health, and Safety)? Securing these guidelines upfront can prevent a last-minute scramble during deal-making.
- How is their performance evaluated? Leverage insights from stakeholders, like the Influencer, to gain clarity.
The Influencer may stand outside the conventional buying process but has the potential to be an advocate or a detractor. Their influence, albeit informal, can significantly shape the purchasing decision.
The Influencer can have varied motivations. Some may champion your cause due to a personal relationship, while others may expect reciprocation. This quid pro quo could range from their seeking to be a thought leader within their circles to expecting future business referrals.
Patience and foresight are key. Influencers won’t randomly emerge to endorse your sale. It’s prudent to continuously nurture potential Influencers across your operational sectors, industries, and client accounts.
A Case From the Next47 Portfolio
Tractian focuses on providing industrial companies with next-generation maintenance technologies, ranging from IoT sensors and AI to Maintenance Management Systems.
As an enterprise-focused company, Tractian navigates many buying influences within its ICP. One of the company’s early findings was that depending on economic cycles, there was a shift in Economic Buyers making decisions about their product. “In economic downturns, smaller projects that were previously approved by Maintenance Managers now fall under Plant Managers. Identifying that early on in the cycle is essential for a successful sale”, says Igor Marinelli, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Tractian.
For Tractian, the User is often also the Technical Buyer, since maintenance practitioners tend to be the ones vetting potential technologies. Understanding the motivations of their buyers was essential not only to designing their sales playbook but also to hiring sales reps and the customer success team.
As Tractian scaled, the company saw the importance of turning existing customers into Influencers. Leveraging relationships with their users, they obtain warm referrals to other plants within the same company, or even other customers in the same segment. Such referrals add a layer of trust and smooth the sales cycle in terms of both time and objections.
The chart below shows an example of a Buying Persona map from Tractian.
Leveraging Your Investors
Creating a multifaceted approach is indispensable. Buyers at the Director level and above often exhibit a proclivity for connecting with investors. Such interactions can serve a myriad of purposes, from gaining market insights to nurturing relationships with buyers.
Working with your investors, you can use the connections with your prospective buyers to apply more influence or gather vital information. However, it’s essential to tread thoughtfully and opt for this tactic in select cases.
As startups strive to move upmarket and convert enterprise customers, understanding buying influences is essential, as each person plays a pivotal role in the decision-making process.
Buying influences are not static; they shift with every sales opportunity. Regularly evaluating them not only serves as a sanity check for your process but also uncovers red flags that might otherwise be overlooked. By staying vigilant and adaptive, you significantly increase your chances of winning.