The buying center is the group of people within a company who make purchase decisions. It can be one person or a hundred people. It can also be more than one group. Each company has its own unique buying center. The buying center consists of five major roles. There are Users, Influencers, Buyers, Decision Makers, and Gatekeepers.
- Users – Users initiate the request for a product. They also may define or identify the specifications that the new product or service must meet.
- Influencers – Any person whose evaluation of the product will be used by the ultimate decision maker or someone in the chain of command to pass on approval is an influencer.
- Buyers – These individuals have been vested with the formal authority to make purchases for the organization.
- Decision Makers – These individuals actually make the purchase decision.
- Gatekeepers – A gatekeeper serves to protect a decision maker or others in an organization from being harassed by unwanted communication with persons who wish to sway the decision makers, influencers, buyers, or users.
The buying center is who you are selling to. If you?re selling to a very small business that is tightly controlled by an owner, you may be selling to just one person. As companies grow larger, however, the buying center gets bigger. Owners grow executive groups around them. User groups get larger and a lot more people influence the buying decisions. Depending on what you sell, you may be selling to dozens of people in a buying center.
The most critical person in the process of working with the buying center is the champion. The champion is the person inside the company who carries the torch for a product or service internally in the company. The champion is the person who wants to purchase the product or service because it?s good for the company. The champion is willing to lead the cause. A salesperson must develop good rapport with the champion.
The group dynamics of the buying center also affect the sales process. It?s important to learn who is who in the buying center. Some people influence a purchase more than others, and understanding the role within a buying center requires conversation and trust. The champion is often the person who works with a sales team to learn about the buying center and its inner workings.