4 Steps to Determine Your Buyer’s Role in a B2B Buying Committee
When we think of buying and selling within a B2C market, it’s simple to know who the buyer is of your product or service because it’s usually just one person. In B2B sales, it tends to be more complex. There are usually many more people involved in the buying process and these make up what is called the buying committee.
When considering who’s in your buying committee, let’s go back to the BANT Qualification. BANT stands for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeline. The buying committee deals with the A (Authority): Does your buyer have the authority to purchase your solution on behalf of their organization? I.e. Are they the decision-maker?
Some other ‘authority’ questions to get your brain going are:
- Is your buyer the decision-maker? If not, who is?
- Who will be using this solution?
- Who is in charge of such financial decisions?
- How will your buyer get approval from their decision-maker and align all necessary influencers for this purchase?
Now that you’re thinking about authority, you’re going to want to figure out who exactly are your buyers and what role do they play in the B2B buying committee. Here’s how to do just that.
The buying scenario -- in simple terms -- is how a decision gets made. The way to know this is by asking your main point of contact with the company or by doing some background research of your own. Depending on the size of the company, this information may not be as publicly available as it may be for larger corporations, so decide accordingly.
There are three main buying scenarios. We’ll start from the most complex and work our way down to the least complex:
The Committee Scenario is the most complex purchasing process since the buying decision needs to be brought to the C-Suite for approval. These types of decisions tend to have very long purchase time horizons -- around 3-6 months -- and larger committees.This scenario requires the highest level of interaction between buying members of the committee to make a purchase decision.
The Consensus Scenario is more of a team-based decision, requiring a few people from multiple different teams to come together to make a purchase decision. While the decision doesn’t go to the C-Suite, it’s still a fairly complex process since they are collaborating across teams.
The Independent Scenario is the simplest purchasing decision since only one or two people are involved. This is where decisions stay within a specific team or department, making it easier to come to a final decision.
- Vet the buying committee.
Once you’ve figured out how decisions get made within the buying committee you’re selling to, it helps to know who may be in the committee itself. The more you know about the people within the committee, the better you’ll fare in any future conversations.
It’s up to you to do the deep dive to determine who may be involved in the buying process. This is crucial to be prepared if you’re not told this outright by your main point of contact at the company. Visit their website and look into the various roles of potential or actual committee members. Become familiar with their respective needs and how your solution will meet them. Not only this but coming prepared with this information will show that you’ve invested time and energy into providing them with a solution.
Now, to find buying committee members, you’ll need to know a little bit about which positions are usually involved in the committee. This, again, mainly depends on the buying scenario. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll look at the most common roles that make up a B2B buying committee:
- An IT Leader will be present to vet your solution’s reliability and compatibility with their existing tech.
- A finance leader will be present to make sure the company can afford your solution and that it’s in line with their long-term financial plan.
- An operations leader will be there to make sure your solution will help -- not hinder -- the current workflow and increase productivity.
- A supply-chain or procurement leader will be doing a lot of the negotiating and looking for any potential flaws in your solution.
- A C-Suite member may or may not be present depending on the buying scenario as well as the size and scope of the proposed solution. Based on how relevant the purchase is to their role, this member could be different. For example, if this is a technology solution, you’re likely going to see the Chief Technology Officer or their equivalent.
Once you’ve done some background research on who plays which role within the company, you’re ready to move on to mapping out the roles and responsibilities of each member. That map will help you determine who the relevant major decision-makers are.
Now that you’ve thought about who’s likely going to be involved, you can look deeper into their specific roles and responsibilities to figure out how involved they’ll be in the decision-making process. The “most common” makeup of a buying committee that we mentioned above may not always be the case. It’s not one-size-fits-all.
Each company has its nuances -- certain positions may look a little different depending on the company. Some people may also wear multiple hats in the business. This is why it’s crucial to do your company research to be able to properly map out the specific roles and responsibilities for each person involved in the committee. Group related roles and responsibilities into categories, you can begin to think about them as buyer personas.
You’re going to want to think beyond the traditional “buyer persona” which usually involves personality traits, likes/dislikes, and lifestyle attributes. While these pieces of information are important to properly communicate your solution to buyers, they may not help you understand the buyer’s role itself and level of involvement within the committee.
Look at a buyer’s persona through the lens of what role in the buying process they’ll be playing. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do they fit into one of the common roles in a B2B buying committee (mentioned above)?
- When/where will they actively be involved in the process and when/where will they not be?
- How big is their influence?
By beginning to map out responsibilities and thinking about the questions above, you’ll then be ready to dive into the next step.
- Put each person in the buying committee into one of five categories.
All of this research and mapping will now allow you to hone in on who will be playing what role in the buying committee and what influence they’ll yield over the decision-making process.
Remember that buying committees can vary in size and may have multiple people playing a similar role. Or in some cases, some committee members may wear multiple hats. You’ll tend to find that each committee member will (usually) fit into one of the following roles:
- Decision-makers are the ones who have the final say on the purchase. They’ll usually be a VP, part of the C-Suite, or a director. There are two categories of decision-makers: business and technical. Business decision-makers are focused on how the purchase impacts ROI and revenue. Technical decision-makers are focused on how the purchase will impact operations and current processes in place.
- Decision Sponsors or Champions will be those who are rooting for your solution to move forward internally. They’ll be the primary spokesperson and the liaison between you and the rest of the team(s). This will usually be your main point of contact throughout the buying process.
- Purchase Influencers are those members that can influence the rest of the buying committee (whether this is positively or negatively). They tend to have a less direct role in the purchase process but are still impactful members to be aware of.
- End Users are those who’ll be using your solution whether or not they had a major say in the decision. They’ll be directly impacted by the purchase and will be mainly focused on how it can help them in their role.
- Blockers are those within the committee who are opposed to your solution. Depending on your solution, they may play different roles within the company. For example, if you’re selling to a tech company, a blocker may be someone in their tech department who feels your solution won’t integrate well with their current tech stack.
This may take some critical thinking, digging, and asking your main point of contact to learn more about who fits into each role. Depending on the company, you may also see some other roles present in the committee. This could be someone from legal and compliance or the person who’s in charge of the budget for the potential purchase.
While it does take time and effort to determine each buyer’s role in the buying committee, it’ll be worth it in the end. The time you invested in researching and learning about your buyers will shine throughout the buying process. In the end, you’ll be able to have more informed conversations throughout the buying process and make a better pitch to the committee.