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Dealing with Different Buyer Types

Anyone who has been in sales for an extended period of time can tell you that there are a variety of different buyer types in an organization.  These buyer types have different interests and concerns and make buying decisions based on their particular needs.  Regardless of the management level of the person you are dealing with, with the exception of executive buyers, you are liable to encounter each buyer type in all levels of an organization.  In some instances, specific buyer types are more likely to reside in particular positions.  Occasionally, you may even come across one person who bridges across two types.  No matter the situation, you have to understand what motivates that buyer type to know how to deal with them.

There are four buyer types you are likely to encounter:

  • The Financial Buyer
  • The Technical Buyer or Specifier
  • The User Buyer
  • The Executive Buyer

The Financial Buyer: The financial buyer is most concerned with the cost of a product or service – not only the initial cost but also future costs that might be incurred in the long-term.  Their main concern is cost efficiency and they are sometimes apt to purchase a product on price alone.  In some cases, they may select a lesser quality product simply due to a lower purchase price.  This ironically goes against their interest of seeking a product or service that is cost-effective in the long-term.  You are likely to encounter financial buyers in purchasing/procurement departments.  This person can make the final decision.

The Technical Buyer or Specifier: The technical buyer or specifier is usually involved in influencing the person who makes the final decision on a product or service.  They are tasked by the decision-maker to research and evaluate different options and then provide a recommendation for a purchase.  When looking at different product or service specifics, they are more concerned with quality and the ability of those specifics to meet their particular requirements.  Price is often not as big a concern for this person but it can be a factor.  Be aware that there are times when this person may not have the information required to answer your questions.

The User Buyer: This type of buyer will review the impact of a product or service being used.  In the case of a software product, for example, they may be the end user who will need to work with the product on a daily basis.  Their concern will be how a product will affect the way they do their job.  They want to know about the practical and functional aspects of that which is being purchased.  If a product or service is inadequate, ultimately, they are the ones who have to deal with the ugly consequences.  While they have influence in the buying process, they generally do not make the final call on a purchase.

The Executive Buyer: As they say, more often than not, the buck stops here. It is very common for the executive buyer to have all the decision-making power or to have a strong influence in buying decisions.  This is the case even if the purchasing process has been delegated to someone who works for the executive. Ultimately, the executive buyer will be involved. Their main concern is how a product or service will help advance their organization’s strategic goals. Their main concern lies with profits, strategic growth and long-term vision. 

Can you pick out which type of buyer would ask a seller the following questions?

“Can I rely on your company to be there whenever we need technical support?”

“How can this product improve our ability to compete in the marketplace?”

“Can you show me what kind of return we can expect on our investment?”

“I need the technology to be up-to-date?  Is your product release compatible with other products in the industry?”

The first question would come from a User Buyer, someone who would be concerned with the impact of a product or service on their ability to do their job.  Here is a possible way to answer their question…

User Buyer: Can I rely on your company to be there whenever we need technical support?”

Sales Rep: “Absolutely.  We have a dedicated technical support staff available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  Our staff is accessible via our toll-free number and also provides e-mail support.  You can also access an online knowledge base via our secure technical support web page.”

The second question would come from an Executive Buyer, someone who would be concerned with strategic issues and the long-term effect of a product or service. They will want to know what you can do to help them beat the competition. Here is a possible answer to their question…

Executive Buyer: “How can this product improve our ability to compete in the marketplace?”

Sales Rep: “Simply put, by utilizing our equipment in your manufacturing plant, you will be able to turn out 25% more product within the same timeframe as your competitor. This provides you with the ability to keep up with supply and the strength to fulfill larger orders that your competitor is ill-equipped to meet.”

The third question would come from a Financial Buyer, someone who looks at the financial impact of all purchases. A possible answer to their question would be…

Financial Buyer: “Can you show me what kind of return we can expect on our investment?”

Sales Rep: “By switching to our shipping and distribution system, you will be able to save 10% on your overall distribution costs, enabling you to shift important funds into other areas of the company.”

The last question would be presented by a Technical Buyer or a Specifier.  Their focus is to find out if your product or service is the best possible option for their company and is the best technology.  They want performance.  A possible way to answer their question would be as follows…

Technical Buyer: “I need the technology to be up-to-date?  Is your product release compatible with other products in the industry?”

Sales Rep: “Absolutely.  Not only is our product compatible with the most current versions of the software you use, it is also backwards-compatible with legacy systems.  Our research and development team has made sure our product is the most compatible in the industry.”

As you come across different people in the sales cycle, listen to their questions and observe their concerns.  Categorize them into one of the possible buyer types so as to be able to address them in a manner that speaks to their interests.  Determine their needs and their level of influence (decision-maker, influencer, etc.) and adjust your actions accordingly.  Your statements need to appeal to the buyer types to influence them to recommend or choose your product. 

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