How to Understand a Buyer’s Power and Influence
By: Mark Frasco
“Can you tell me, are you the decision maker?” I dislike this question and train our team members in more creative and polite ways to learn where the power and influence exist in a buying system.
How often do you find your deal stalled or are surprised by a competitive award that you thought you were positioned to win?
It took me a few years of hard knocks to learn that the person who is the most enthusiastic about your solution is not necessarily the one who is going to give you the order.
It is critical not to confuse interest and support with power and influence.
Using the chart below, follow along to improve your speed to close and percentage wins.
1) Buyer Power/Influence Low – Buyer Interest/Support Weak
Though this is usually not a spot we spend much time on, be careful not to ignore this area. My recommendation is to stay close enough to this buying influence to understand their resistance and work to neutralize them. With their lack of power and influence, you might be in a low-risk situation to learn what others with more power are thinking.
2) Buyer Power/Influence Low – Buyer Interest/Support Strong
Learn all you can from this buying influence. Ask them to coach you on nuances of the deal and continue to build their support for your solution.
Be careful with your time and the impression you’re creating. Our natural human instinct is to gravitate toward those who like or support us.
By definition, this person is not going to be able to give you the order. In fact, too much association with this buying influence might cause others to characterize you as a weak representative, in a complex sale.
3) Buyer Power/Influence High – Buyer Interest/Support Weak
We have some work to do here. It is important to create curiosity and build credibility with this buying influence.
Try to learn directly, if you can, what the concern is with your solution. If not, try to get help from the buying influence above. Be sure to uncover the root of the resistance. Try not to answer the wrong questions.
Hint: When this buying influence says it’s about price, it usually isn’t. Not given any other reason to grow attached to your solution, “price” is the most convenient argument.
Attempt to build the relationship, engaging in meaningful, intelligent interactions – whether face-to-face, with a note card, or sending an interesting article.
Gather peer group references that advocate for your solution and present them. Prove your value as a representative of your organization and an expert in the field.
If you can’t win this person to your side, your chances of success are limited.
4) Buyer Power/Influence High – Buyer Interest/Support Strong
Obviously, this buying influence is critical to your success and speed to sale. Solidify and protect your position. Build a relationship of give-and-take, a balance of power, using your consultative sales skills. Help this person help you be successful with others of power who don’t support your solution.
Be careful not to take their support for granted. Continue to build on your relationship and explore even higher levels of value by building a deeper understanding of the buying organization’s situation or problem.
In the old days, the business-to-business (B2B) sale could often be discussed and transacted with one person in a buying organization. For the most part, those days are gone.
Most sales are more complex today, with multiple buying influences, sprinkled across a larger landscape. You can use this chart to map out your buying influences and as a tool to be sure you have your bases covered.
So, here’s an alternative to the opening question that will get you better results and prove that you’re a professional: “Joe, can you tell more about your evaluation and buying process? How are buying decisions made? Who is typically involved?” – then shut up, listen, take notes, ask for clarification and gain agreement on first steps.
*Note: This article was originally published in May 2016 and has been updated and revised for relevance.