Dealing With Different Buyers in a Complex Sale


Complex sales where there are numerous decision-makers can be difficult to navigate.  Closing such a deal requires an understanding of the different types of buyers, what their concerns are, and what influences their desires.  It also requires the ability to anticipate, identify, and address the factors each individual cares about.

There are three players in a complex sale: influencer/user, technical, and financial buyer.  In smaller companies, one person can serve in all three roles, but with larger organizations, there are typically two or three people fulfilling them.

Identifying the three types of buyers

The Influencer

An influencer is a person who has a lot of input into establishing the requirements a product or service must meet for their company to consider buying it.  This person will be concerned about how your offering will affect the people and functions they are responsible for, or even how it impacts the mission of the organization.  Influencers want to know what the final outcome will be.

An influencer’s opinion carries a lot of weight in decisions about what is purchased and from whom.  They are typically motivated by a desired outcome or focused on preventing a bad outcome.  They are not responsible for the financial aspect, so they aren’t motivated by the initial dollar outlay; however, they may be concerned about how long-term expenses could impact them.

Influencers will ask questions like:

How will this be better for my people/department?
How will my operations be affected?
Will this help us / hinder us from reaching our goals

The Technical Buyer

The technical buyer is the person who will evaluate the smallest details of whatever you are selling and how its use will be implemented.   If your offering is a product, the technical buyer will be interested its features, specifications, and capabilities.  This person wants to know how your offering will perform in every-day use.

For example, if you sell software, the technical buyer will be looking at the technical issues, number of releases, end-user support, and other specifications.  If you offer training services, a human resources manager might be concerned with such things as cost of travel, venue, time out of the field, vacations, etc.,

Technical buyers typically have the power to disqualify a vendor based on their buying criteria, but not give final purchase approval.  If someone else in the organization prefers one solution over another, the technical buyer will voice their opinion and use their influence to persuade the financial buyer to select their recommendations.

Technical buyers will ask questions like:

What does it do?
How does it work?
How fast will it go?
Can I use it to do _____?
Will this eliminate the need for something else?
How long will it last?
Are there any technical bugs in it?
How is it different from similar products/services?

The Financial Buyer

The financial buyer is the decision maker everyone wants to get in front of because they can approve the deal.  Whether it’s a single person or a committee, these are the folks who have the pen to make the magic happen.  They will rely heavily on the recommendations of the technical buyer and the influencer as they evaluate the proposal for its return on investment, cost of capital, or other financial measures.  They will also consider the longer-term impact the purchase will have on expenses or future growth.

Financial buyers will ask questions like:

How much is it?
What is included in that price?
How much more will we be able to produce with this?
Will this reduce our costs?
How much will this help us save annually?
How much will this help us increase revenue?

Understanding each type of buyer’s decision criteria is key to winning the business.  Listening to the questions they ask will give you clues as to what their concerns are.

All this can be challenging, even if everyone involved is a relatively easy-going person.  But sometimes, there is a personality factor that can make this process even more complicated.  That’s what happens when one of your buyers is a power broker or an antagonist.

There are specific roles in which you generally find one of these two personalities, and how you deal with them will depend on what role they play; which type of buyer they are.  I’ll address some effective techniques for dealing with these folks in my next post.


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