There are five pillars of B2B marketing and sales success.
The fourth pillar deals with the The Five Influencers affecting this process. There are four main factors affecting the buying process. These factors are;
1. The Five Buying Stages
2. Social Proof
3. Why B2B Companies Buy
4. The Five Influencers
There are five groups of people you have to pay attention to in any B2B sales situation. Each of these groups – it may be only one person in any of the groups, depending on the size of the organization – has an influence on whether you will close the sale or not. There used to be only four main influencers, but because of the way B2B buyers make purchasing decisions now, a fifth influencer has recently been introduced into the process.
To disregard any one of these influencers will probably mean you will not make the sale. This is the real difference between consumer sales and B2B sales. An enterprise sale becomes more complex, because each of these influencing authorities has two agendas they need fulfilled.
Each of these people, or groups, is influenced by how your product or service will affect them personally in their job. They are also looking at how your product or service affects their company. They need to know they are making the right decision for themselves and their company.
They do not obviously want to hurt their career, and if you can help them advance their career, then you will be miles ahead of any competition. You have to convince so many people in a B2B sale, which is the reason the selling cycle takes so long.
These four influencers are.
1. The Financial Influencer(s)
2. The User Influencers
3. The Gatekeeper(s)
4. The Champion or Sponsor
5. The Researcher(s)
Each of them is important, and each of them plays a very important role in whether their company will buy from you. Let’s take a look at each of these influencers, and how they influence the buying decision.
The Financial Influencer
The financial influencer’s role is to give the final approval to buy. This is the Decision Maker. This role may consist of more than one person, such as an executive committee, and could even be the Board of Directors. It usually is more than one person in tough economic times. So, be very aware of that in this economy.
There are a number of reasons why this influencer may be a committee. The most important factor, in the buying process, is what impact your product or service has on the organization. Does your product affect a whole department? Does this department have to change the way they currently operate? If so, then it will probably affect more than one department.
The financial influencer is focusing on the bottom line and what influence your product does have on the organization. This influencer has the following characteristics.
• Has direct access to the dollars needed
• Can release the funds
• Has some discretionary use of funds
• Has a veto power
This influencer asks; ”What kind of return will the company get on this investment?”
So, be aware of this when you are selling. This influencer has the most persuasion power of any of the other influencers. However, it is imperative to incorporate the other influencers into the process too. In fact, very few, if any, corporate decisions are made today, without the approval of all of the buying influencers.
The User Influencer
As you can readily surmise, this influencer is the person or group that will directly use your product, or whose department is directly influenced by your product. The role of this influencer is to make judgments on the impact your product or service will have on his job performance. Either it will affect his job directly, or at the very least, the people that work for him.
The role this person or group plays in the evaluation process is;
• This is the group using or supervising the use of your product.
• It is personal, because this group has to live day-in and day-out with your product, both during implementation, and after it has been implemented.
• There is a direct link between the user influencers’ success, and the success of your product.
This person or group focuses on the job to be done. They ask – “How will this affect me and my job and my department?” This is the group that will have the most important impact in the executives’ eyes, as this group will be the most affected by the buying decision.
Get as close to this group as you can. Get to know the senior executive that runs this group. He or she will have a huge weighting on whether you make the sale or not. Make this person one of your main contacts for the decision. You, of course, also need to be as close to the financial influencer as you can.
The gatekeeper can also be referred to as the technical buying influence. The role of the gatekeeper is to screen out or block your proposal. There are many groups who may be gatekeepers. They include the following.
• The finance department
• The legal group – may be inside and outside the company
• Human resources
• The IT department
• Even Executive Assistants
As you can see, depending on the technical and financial influence of your product and service, there are many gatekeeper groups that can be involved. Also, the impact your proposal has on the organization will determine how many of the above gatekeepers will get involved.
These people generally will only be involved for a short time, and then not be involved at all, after your proposal has been accepted or rejected. The keys for gatekeepers are the following.
• They judge the measurable and quantifiable aspects of your proposal.
• They have certain specifications that have been set up beforehand, and they tick off whether you meet those specifications or not.
• They can and will make recommendations.
• They cannot say yes, but they can say no, and their vote carries quite a bit of weight.
It is often the users that develop many of the specifications for a proposal. This group acts as the gatekeepers to ensure you have met those specifications. You need to understand who these groups are.
It is important to note that in today’s connected world, most larger companies have a committee that researches new products and services, to help them solve their problems. You must understand this fact, and you must find out who the members are of this committee and engage them thoroughly.
It is often difficult to get to know them really well personally, because they are usually only involved for a short time during the proposal phase. However, you need to be aware of their influence, and if possible make every effort to meet and understand how they operate during the decision cycle.
The champion may also be called your sponsor or coach. It is someone who preferably is inside the influencers’ organization. However, it may be someone inside your organization or someone who is outside of both companies, like a consultant.
A champion is someone who will help sponsor your proposal to the buying company. The person must therefore have influence within your client company. Preferably, it is an executive within the buying organization. And of course the best champion is the financial influencer. The second best champion is the user influencer executive.
However, you will have a much easier time overcoming all objections if the champion or sponsor is the financial influencer. The champion’s role is to interpret information about the following.
• The situation and why the company is looking to buy,
• To give you access to all of the buying influencers,
• To understand and lead you as to how each influencer wins, and what benefits each of them is looking for.
Your champion will focus on how you can be successful with this proposal, or “how can we pull this off”. Look for a champion or sponsor, and your job will become much, much easier by having one.
Keep in mind though, that his or her reputation is at stake. So, you better implement well, and look after this client for a long time to come. You will be rewarded far beyond your expectations if you do this.
Because of the way B2B companies are able to find products and services now, a new Influencer has emerged – The Researchers.
Why has this group of Influencers sprung up? As mentioned earlier, there are three basic reasons;
• Over 80% Of B2B Companies Search For You now
• Are Over 50% Of The Way Through Their Buying Process Before You Know They Are Looking
• Sr. Execs Do Not Answer, or Return, Cold Calls Anymore
Here is what the general makeup of the Research Influencers.
• Usually 1 to Several People,
• Appointed by Cheque Signer/Financial Influencer,
• From Different Departments that could include some or all of; Finance; IT; HR; Ops; Engineering; etc.,
• Similar to Gatekeepers & Users,
• Have a Set of Criteria – Big Influence,
• Usually on the Initial Search only,
• Make Recommendations.
So, beware of this Influencer now, because this group has a large influence on what companies advance to the short list.
Who Makes B2B Buying Decisions – The 5 B2B Buyer Influencers