The people you target with your initial sales outreach won’t necessarily be the people involved once you approach the end of the sale.
You don’t want to get all the way to the end of your sales process only to find out that your point of contact needs to get approval from other people before they can finalize anything.
Instead of leaving yourself at risk to be blindsided, you want to eliminate as much of the unknown as possible. One way of doing that is to identify the different buying roles you’ll encounter throughout the B2B sales process.
Identifying Key Buying Roles: Technical Buyers vs. Economic Buyers
Don’t risk getting blindsided late in your sales process by unexpected stakeholders. Instead, you want to eliminate as much of the unknown as possible. Let's discuss some roles you'll likely meet throughout the deal cycle.
In the sales process, different stakeholders play different roles, each with unique interests and perspectives. Two such important stakeholders are the technical buyers and economic buyers. Understanding their roles and motivations can greatly enhance the sales strategy and create more wins for your team.
Technical buyers, also referred to as user buyers or functional buyers, are typically the ones who will use your product or service directly or be responsible for its integration and maintenance within their organization. They're highly analytical and detail-oriented, and they tend to focus on the technical specifications and features of a product rather than its overall value proposition. They're interested in how your product or service works, how it can solve their specific problems, and whether it's compatible with their existing systems, processes, and infrastructure.
Primary characteristics include:
- Need for accuracy and precision: They want to know exactly what they're getting, down to the smallest detail. They're not easily swayed by marketing hype or flashy sales pitches; they want hard data and evidence that a product will meet their specific needs.
- Preference for working with vendors who are knowledgeable and experienced in their field: They want to work with someone who understands the technical aspects of their industry and can provide them with expert advice and guidance.
- Risk-averse: They want to minimize any potential risks or negative consequences associated with their purchasing decisions. As a result, they may be more hesitant to try new products or services that don't have a proven track record.
Economic buyers, on the other hand, are the individuals who have the final say in the purchasing decision, usually because they control the budget or have financial decision-making authority. They are often top-level executives, such as CEOs, CFOs, or high-ranking procurement officers.
Their focus is on the financial implications of the purchase. They assess the cost-effectiveness, return on investment (ROI), total cost of ownership (TCO), and the strategic value the product or service brings to the organization. Economic buyers consider the big picture, looking at how the purchase aligns with the company's goals and bottom line. Other characteristics include:
- Preference for working with vendors who can demonstrate a clear understanding of their business goals and objectives: They want to work with someone who can help them achieve their financial targets and who can provide them with a measurable ROI.
- More willing to take risks than technical buyers: They understand that there's always some level of risk involved in any business decision, and they are willing to take calculated risks if they believe the potential rewards are worth it.
In the sales process, it's important to cater to both types of buyers, as they each play a significant role in the buying decision. You must be able to convince technical buyers of the utility and efficiency of your product or service, while also demonstrating to economic buyers the financial and strategic value it brings.
Other Stakeholders in the Sales Process
The person who makes the final decision to purchase.
The closer you are to talking with the decision-maker, the more likely you are to close the sale.
However, if you can’t reach a decision-maker from the start, champions, influencers, and, in some cases, end-users can also help you move the sale forward. But at the end of the day, the decision-maker will still be involved. It’s just a matter of whether you’re talking to them directly or your champion is presenting to them on your behalf.
A person who enthusiastically supports, defends or fights for your product or service in their organization.
Champions are super enthusiastic and willing to fight to push the sale forward. They’re part of owning the process and have a stake in the final decision, though they don’t have the authority to act by themselves.
If you’re communicating with a champion, you’ll reach a point where the sales process becomes less about selling to your champion and more about providing them with resources so they can sell to their decision-maker.
A person who can influence other members of the buying committee.
An influencer might not be as enthusiastic about the sale as a champion, and they won’t necessarily take personal responsibility for helping it happen. But, they can influence members of the buying team.
If an influencer is your primary point of contact, they’ll require more convincing to get bought in initially than champions. They will also still need to be convinced to get a decision-maker involved.
The person who uses your product or service, whether they had a say in the buying process.
As individuals, end-users might fly under the radar since they don’t have a lot of decision-making authority. But, one end-user can influence many others and as a collective, they can have a big impact on a sales process.
For software companies leveraging product-led growth, end-users are particularly important since they’re the people who will help spread the use of your product.
A person who can stop the sales process from moving forward.
Blockers can have different responsibilities within a company depending on your product or service and who your personas are.
For example, if you’re trying to sell software, then the person in charge of a company’s tech stack might be a blocker if they don’t feel like your tool will work well with the existing tools they use.
Blockers can be tricky to handle, and preparation is vital to moving past them. You need to try and identify whether or not you’ll be dealing with blockers as early in the sales process as possible, and try to learn from your point of contact why they may object to the sale or be resistant to the change your product or service offers.
Knowing that can help you collect the information you need to overcome their objections and keep blockers from halting your sale.
A non-decision maker in the executive group that acts like a champion or influencer (like a consultant or board member).
Executive sponsors can be helpful in initiating a conversation, but they can also act as a blocker.
If they’re your way in with a company, create a plan to gain buy-in from other decision-makers and champions at their company, since support from an executive sponsor alone doesn’t guarantee a sale will close or that your product or service will be adopted post-sale.
Legal and Compliance
A person that is responsible for terms and conditions on the contract.
Legal and compliance don’t always act as a blocker, but they do slow down the sales process near the end.
Every company has a different system for legal and compliance, and you should try to understand what it is as early in the sales process as possible. At smaller companies, a CFO might need to review and approve the contract.
At a larger company, there might be master service agreements or formal scope of work proposals that have to be sent to be approved by a procurement team and a legal team before finally being presented to a CFO for approval.
Knowing what that legal approval process looks like will help you better forecast when a sale will close. If a company has lengthy legal requirements, a deal that has already been verbally agreed to can take another month to actually close.
A person that controls the budget for the product or service.
The decision-maker and budget holder can both be the same person, but that’s not always the case.
For example, some teams have their own budgets but still need the green light from finance. Others might not have set budgets and need to negotiate with their C-suite in order to make a purchase.
Knowing what that budget approval process will look like will help you plan the last steps of your sales process.
The specific job titles and responsibilities that fall under each of these roles depend on what you sell and who you sell to. The individual impact of different decision makers in the process will also vary according to the qualification framework of the sales team, such as the BANT.
By looking at historical data about your current customers and their sales process, you can identify what roles you typically see in the buying process and which individuals act in those roles.
However, the best way to identify what roles you’ll encounter throughout each specific sale is to ask your point of contact about who else will be involved in the buying process.
Understanding the buying roles you may encounter eliminates the unknown, helps you strategically plan your approach, and makes the sales process smoother. That in turn leads to faster sales cycles and higher win rates.
Beth is a Senior Manager of Revenue Operations at New Breed and specializes in optimizing how processes and platforms support revenue growth.