Many B2B buying processes are long, complex and involve many different kinds of decision makers. Developing your sales and marketing strategy requires that you can target them effectively, but that can be a challenge because job titles and authority aren’t consistent from company to company and it’s hard to figure out who’s calling the shots in purchasing decisions. Some companies knife through the layers of bureaucracy and hand over authority in unconventional ways. Others follow a more traditional framework with recommendations that flow up the chain of command to an ultimate decision-making executive.
What’s important for B2B marketers is understanding the decision-making authority of the buyer personas involved in the sales process, with the flexibility that the sales team can update the buyer’s authority in the client’s CRM system, as the prospect is being qualified. This framework provides enough agility for the marketers to develop positioning content and inbound marketing strategies to attract target stakeholders – but empower the sales team to override the model and decide how decision-making works in each prospect’s company.
A Framework for Identifying B2B Buyers
Understanding the roles in the buying process is critical for your buying decision maker research and your inbound marketing strategies. The following buyer framework can help you look across different segments and consolidate different kids of stakeholders for the purpose of determining the unique buying processes of each industry.
There is a careful balance in determining the similarities and difference between the different segments that you work with. What you’ll probably find is that by inventorying the stakeholders in each industry or buying process, you can better map out an inbound marketing or automation program to better respond to your customers’ needs and create a more consistent brand.
Who Has Influence in B2B Sales Environments
The following B2B purchase decision making roles represent the most-likely decision making unit that you will encounter across your unique B2B buying segments. By understanding the various roles, you can begin a deeper research process into the needs and perceptions of each persona, and then improve your marketing to drive more leads and create deeper engagement with your prospects.
Sponsors are your champions
A sponsor or champion is the drives the buying process. This important stakeholder establishes the framework for the search and the initial requirements. A sponsor has a personal stake in the success of the buying process, either as an internal stakeholder or an outside consultant. In most cases, internal and external sponsors are concerned about the longer-term value. This person advocates for the solution that offers the best value for the company, and his endorsement will go a long way to furthering your proposal. Though well-intended, a champion is often biased with his or her reputation on the line.
Gatekeepers Can Break Your Deal
Gatekeepers are skeptical resources involved early in the process. They may serve in subordinate roles to the sponsor or come from different functional parts of the company. In some cases, gatekeepers gather lists of potential solution providers, and weed out the ones that they believe are a poor fit for the opportunity. They are empowered to say no or maybe, but rarely, “yes.” Gatekeepers may offer new perspectives, but they might also lack nuanced insights about the problems and potential solutions.
Reviewers are always involved in B2B purchasing
Reviewers are often part of a team-based purchasing process that requires the sponsor to vet his recommendation with a group of knowledgeable resources. They have insights regarding the holistic objectives and challenges of the company and they may participate in finding and evaluating your proposal. A reviewer’s approval is critical as it is unlikely that a sponsor can push a proposal through the buying process without the endorsement of the reviewing team
Executives can show up at any time
An executive can participate at any level of the business to business decision making process, even a gatekeeper – rejecting potential solutions, but delegating the final decision-making process to the sponsor or review team. An executive challenges the sponsor and review team. An executive is the stakeholder who can always say, “yes”.