The number one rule in marketing is to be where your buyers are. But you have to know who they are first. I have had a number of clients that I’ve worked with that were not able to at first identify who they were really selling to.


I have a client that sells medical software and when I asked them to identify their buyer they said clinics. I had to press them further to help them understand who in the clinic was the actual buyer. They had identified the type of organization that they sell to, but they hadn’t identified the individual roles in the organization that they sell to. Companies are just a legal entity to facilitate trade, it’s people who actually do they buying. It’s people who have a problem that need to be solved and it’s people that feel pain that needs to be addressed. When you are building messaging and positioning it’s the people that you need to keep in mind, not the organization.


The trick in B2B marketing is that you typically don’t have one buyer that you are selling to, there are multiple people involved. There may be one decision maker, but there will be many people who influence the purchase of a solution, each of which have different pain points, different political needs, and different points of view. The more expensive the solution, the more people involved. The more people involved, the more complex the sale. If you are developing buyer personas you’ll actually need to develop personas for each typical role in the buying scenario. For one of my clients, they were selling a treatment program to large end users directly and through insurance companies. I had to interview a variety of roles including CFOs, HR professionals, as well as sales and business development personnel. You have to be able to identify the pain points for each buyer persona, as well as how your product / service uniquely addresses their specific requirements. A CFO’s concerns are generally very different from an HR VP’s and very different from a Sales VP’s, but you may need to get all 3 on board in order to successfully position your solution and make a sale.


An easy assumption is to think that the buyer is the decision maker and everyone else are influencers but sometimes this gets a little muddy. Think about the last time you were a child and you wanted a toy. You had the pain point (the desire for the toy) but you didn’t have a budget or decision making authority over the budget of your parents. You “decided” you wanted the toy, but your parents were the ones who actually made the decision. You had to make your problem their problem. You negotiated. You pleaded. Maybe you cried while they were dragging you kicking and screaming out the store. Maybe you offered to do more chores in exchange for the toy. But eventually you wore them down and they bought the toy for you. Were you the buyer or the influencer? Technically you influenced the decision but the purchase would not have happened without you championing the cause. Even though your parents were technically the buyer, they didn’t care a lick about what the toy did. All they cared about was that it made you happy and gave them a few moments of peace and quiet.

The same thing happens in large organizations. In any major project there’s a individual or group who has the pain, and someone who makes the decision. Typically the decision maker, or the approver is making a financial decision as to whether this purchase is in the best short and long term interest of the organization. But they buyers are the ones with the pain point, even though they are influencing the decision maker. This is an important distinction to make, because it influences how you communicate to potential buyers.


The influencers are anyone who may be impacted by the purchasing decision who need to be on board for the project to be approved.  In an organization, you could think of a sales application that a Sales Director wants for his team. He may be the buyer, the decision maker may be a Sales VP, but IT might need to have input into the deal to make sure that it can integrate properly with their systems and isn’t going to create too much work for them. Perhaps HR needs to be consulted to make sure that it doesn’t unfairly expose compensation results to other employees. Someone in finance may be curious as to how this would affect sales reporting. Anyone who might have an objection to a project going forward would be an “influencer” and your job is to help the “buyer” respond to these internal objections by anticipating them and providing them with resources and responses that help get them on their side.

The larger the sale or more integral a product / service / or project the more complex the sale and marketing is going to be to an organization. More people will be involved. More people will be supporters. More people are going to have objections. Sometimes those objections are going to be valid, sometimes they will be purely for political reasons. The more ammo you can arm the buyer with, the more likely the sale will be successful. You have to be able to demonstrate that enough value will be created to overcome any internal risk and political resistance to the project.

For example, if a child wants a high end computer system to play video games, he’s going to have to demonstrate the value that will be created from it. Mom and Dad may object to the time spent playing games, that it might distract from homework and effect of violence in the games, never mind the cost. The child will need to demonstrate the educational benefits of having a high end computer system. Maybe he or she will need to show salary ratings of programmers and computer engineers, and how computers are an integral part of today’s classrooms and future job experiences.

Identifying the buyer, the decision maker, and the influencers and determining their needs and concerns will help you identify what messaging and material you need to create to help develop an opportunity and successfully move it along the sales cycle.

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