Who do I sell to in a business?


Can LinkedIn help businesses bypass Gatekeepers?

By Stuart Hartley @anglestuart

When I meet with clients who are looking to grow their businesses through selling to other businesses one of the first questions they ask is who do well sell to in the organisation.  How do we know which person will actually buy our product?  Should we target the person that’s going to use the product, the person that might be able to authorise the purchase or the person who holds the purse strings?

A simple model of this looks like:

Buyer roles

Well in the case of small businesses this is likely to be the same person, however in other organisations the buyer unit might be made up of a few different people all with different choice criteria and requiring different benefits.  The key is to be able to satisfy all of the different requirements and benefits in one simple offering.  A product may give the performance requirements that the user will demand, it may also give the reliability that the operational management demand and the value that the finance demands.

So in all of this who actually buys?

6 roles have been identified by marketers.

  1. Initiators: those who begin the purchase process
  2. Users: those who will use the purchase
  3. Deciders: those who have the authority to select the supplier / product
  4. Influencers: those who provide information and add alternative decision criteria throughout the process
  5. Buyers: those who have been given the authority to execute the purchase
  6. Gatekeepers: those who control the flow of information, sales calls, marketing material etc.

These, of course, are generalised roles and in many businesses these roles may only be made up of 2 or 3 different individuals.  It also has added complications when selling into the public sector as there may be restrictions around the public procurement process depending on the value of what you are selling. The art though when marketing to a specific business or segment of businesses is to understand these roles and the benefits that each role may seek.  If you have this understanding you can create a strong case of benefits that will address the needs of each buyer role.

A specific issue for those selling B2B is that some organisational purchases are made by committee when the sales person is not present.  The key then is to gain an advocate within the business who will “sell” the virtues of your product internally.  This person should be armed with ALL of the benefits of your product addressing the needs of all of the buying committee and the different buyer roles within it.

Where gatekeepers prevent direct access to this buying committee other marketing methods can be employed to communicate the benefits of the product and keep your business high on their agenda.  In these days of social media there is nothing better than twitter and LinkedIn to allow marketers to bypass organisational gatekeepers.


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