Understanding the 4 critical Buyer Modes in B2B decisions

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In the past, a one-to-one relationship strategy may well have got you over the line, but more often, successfully securing a new customer or getting repeat business from an existing account entails selling to multiple decision makers across an organisation.

The reality for b2b sales is that the customer is equipped with more information than ever before and is typically further down the road towards a sale by the time you engage with them. Plus, the actual decision-making landscape is increasingly complex, with the ability to make collective decisions diminished. In short, the pathway to a deal is more fraught than ever.

In 2016 the Corporate Executive Board in a seminar on The Challenger Customer suggested that there’s now on average 6.8 stakeholders per b2b deal. Whether or not that’s the case, it is clear that to be highly effective salespeople now need a better understanding of the motivations of the various stakeholders that impact deals and have a much stronger grasp of how those stakeholders connect or indeed where they fail to connect.

As we’ve said before, speaking with the wrong person, or talking about the wrong things is one of the most common mistakes born out of poor preparation. Whilst you may well have done your homework and have a robust knowledge of the internal and external pressures facing your prospect organisation, failing to understand the often-diverse drivers of the decision-making group and the interconnections between that group as a high likelihood of derailing your progress. You message must be tailored for an often-diverse range of individuals. A blanket whole of organisation approach just won’t cut it.

Our golden rule for avoiding that trap leans heavily on the widely respected Miller Heiman approach. Take every possible opportunity through desktop research using free and paid-for data services and initial discovery phone calls to map out the relevant stakeholders in the sales process into a simple chart. Where possible, understand their different pain points, shared needs and, just as importantly, areas where they may be at odds so that you can execute a sales strategy that builds consensus and support for your proposition.

Know the Buying Group

1. Economic Buyer

The executive with the authority to sign off on the deal and who evaluates on ROI.

2. User Buyer

The ultimate user of your product who evaluates how your product will be used and the impact it will have on them on a day-to-day basis.

3. Technical Buyer

The person to evaluate and advise on the technical specifications and validity of your offering.

4. Coach

An individual you must find and cultivate, that wants your product, and who due to the strength of the relationships and credibility with the rest of the group can guide you in the sale by giving you information that you need in order to manage it to a satisfactory close.

For a more detailed breakdown of these 4 Buyer Modes, download our overview here.

The key is to understand which role, or roles, are played by each stakeholder. This will help you determine the degree of influence they hold in the decision-making process and enables you to tailor your communications and gauge your progress with each according to their individual drivers, interests and priorities. For more on getting the right decision makers in your meetings, read here.

Once you understand the dynamic of the group, you have a foundation from which to pull that group together around a common cause.

Our advice is to deliver messages that are appropriate to each member of the group, but through your sales and marketing efforts pay extra care and attention to the Coach. A key factor to consider in most b2b sales is the customer’s resistance to change. Identifying which of your buyers fills the Coach’s shoes and is both open to a new approach but also has an appetite to build group consensus around the need for change, is critical. Take every possible opportunity to equip them with the skills and knowledge needed to pull their team onto the same page. The coach is often able to relay to you the various concerns different members of the group have and with the right information can be a priceless champion for you inside your prospect organisation. 

In short, the best reps understand that by coaching the coach, the chances of building decision making consensus within the group are boosted and a collective appetite to embrace change through the uptake of your b2b solution can be secured.


Matt Skinner: Managing Director, IRD