Buying Center – Who influences the buying decision of your customers

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The Buying Center is a powerful concept of customer insights. Understanding it can help you in marketing, product development, sales or as a management decision maker.

It gives you information to select strategies around a stringent storyline and your brand’s working channels. 

The Buying Center - these are the typical roles

The buying team, decision-making body or buying center is the term used to describe all those stakeholders who have direct or indirect influences on the buying decision for your product or service. The term Decision-Making Unit (DMU) is also often used. This can be a single person in an organization or a group of people. According to the chronological order in purchasing, the following roles can typically occur:
 
  • Initiator
  • Influencer
  • Recommender
  • Gatekeeper
  • Decider 
  • Economic Buyer 
  • User
Throughout the different phases of the decision-making process, the individual roles sometimes crystallize clearly or less obviously. For example, the initiator is the person who sets the decision-making process in motion by drawing attention to a problem or a possible solution. 
 
An influencer, either inside or outside the customer organization, is involved to the extent that he or she points out the importance or urgency and recognizes the impact of a potential solution on the big picture. 
 
Additional people involved are recommenders who, as authentic attestations as possible, are themselves users or customers of the product or service. 
 
The role that stands in the way of a purchase on the customer side is the gatekeeper. This person or persons can be influenced in a wide variety of functions and mostly see a threat to their own position. This is also the reason for at least initial rejection. Their role is often to act as an information selector, allowing only certain topics through to the other internal bodies.
 
The decider is the person who makes the main buying decision and is generally not outbid. 
 
Buyers are the ones who then crunch the numbers in the buying process and want to get the best possible deal from suppliers for the customer organization.
 
The user is the one of the people involved, who are usually involved much too late in the purchase, but later decide on the actual use or non-use. So here it is particularly important for sales to involve the user at an early stage in the sales process. 
 
In addition to the Customer Buying Center, you want a better understanding of what customers want today? Then read our article What customers want

The Why - What is the role of the Buying Center in B2B?

In the organizational B2B context, understanding the buying center is of outstanding importance. In a business-to-business environment, larger transaction volumes require input from all departments in an organization. 
 
Senior management, the finance department, the operationally affected department, and the buyers all work together to decide on a major purchase from a company as a new supplier. The purchasing body often works as a group. Particularly in B2B, when a transaction is between a company, a manufacturer and a wholesaler or a wholesaler and a retailer, and so on. 
 
If a purchase is technical or software related, the software team or technical team will also be involved in the purchasing decision. In the owner-managed mid-market, the CEO of a company usually takes on multiple roles at once when making the financial decision in addition to the fundamental decision. 
 
In B2B, the doorkeepers are usually secretaries or assistants who prevent direct contact with the decider.

You want the Buying Center as a practical Template?

Buying Center

What is the difference in the buying situation in B2B and B2C?

Besides the quite obvious buying center in the business environment, you should also or especially in the consumer area not disregard buying behavior and understanding the buying phases in the buying center. 
 
B2C focuses most of its resources on marketing and advertising, targeting a large number of consumers simultaneously through different channels. 
 
With B2C, the focus is on making personal and direct connections with individual consumers. Purchasing decisions tend to be spontaneous and impulsive.
 
In the business to business environment, on the other hand, the buying situation is much more personal and strategic. B2B buying decisions are made more carefully by all parties involved, and the buying committee must monitor and analyze many aspects of the decision. 
 
Those decisions are not spontaneous and require a lot of research and input. During the creation / drafting of a contract with another company or business, relationships, pricing, payment methods, ease of use and all are strategically discussed and taken care of. 
 
Relationships are equally important in this environment and are often developed and enriched through meetings and conferences.
 

FAQ - Typical questions about the Buying Center

A buying center is the group of people involved in a purchasing decision. 

This question is on the minds of a great many marketers, sales people and business managers. On this path, quite pragmatic tools like the Customer Empathy Map can help to uncover the psychological aspects behind the buying phases.

First of all, it is important to understand that the individual roles in the decision-making body are not opponents or adversaries. Rather, at best, these people have needs that can be met by you and your company.

The first and most important aspect of the buying center is that you are aware that this role concept is present in every customer organization. It can be officially anchored in the hierarchy, or it can be unofficially distributed among different roles. 

Both for marketing and solution sales, the analysis of customer types and their composition is crucial for the relationship network.   

At many companies, the Buying Center is not an official group, department or team. Rather, it is important for the selling side, i.e. the Selling Center (as also shown here by the colleagues of the Sales Lexicon) to understand as intensively as possible who is directly or also indirectly involved in the buying decision process. 

The role distribution of all actors within the purchasing group or the decision-making circle varies depending on the industry, company and procurement process. 

For instance, some decision-makers bundle several roles, while in some cases only one or more hierarchical levels are involved.

 

Conclusion: Develop a deep understanding of your buying center

If you are in marketing, sales or product development, you should develop as clear a picture as possible of the purchasing side or the buying center and its roles. 
 
The goals are obvious:
  • Profiling your customers as the basis for success
  • Developing individual and target group-oriented content
  • Discover relevant channels to reach buying center members

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As a founder and entrepreneur, I experience daily how important customer centricity is for companies.

Incorporate the essential perspective of the customer into your product genesis and marketing processes. This is what puts horsepower on the road and keep your business up and running.

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