Who’s behind the deal?

There’s a mantra in sales training: make sure you address the Economic Buyer. Sales teams are encouraged to get behind the purchasing role and get to the Economic Buyer—the individual who has the economic interest of the business at heart for this buying decision. They may be the ultimate budget holder for the product or service being bought, and they might be the individual who acquires the value from that product / service.
 
If this is the case, the sales team will be targeting that individual separately to ensure that they can influence the decisions in the way most appropriate to the supplier. The large question for us, then, is whether we have the Economic Buyer in our organisation identified and influenced in the same way that the sales team have.
 
Of course, we’ll be using stakeholder mapping to think about who the Economic Buyer is; we will know how supportive they will be, what their issues are, how those issues can be addressed and we’ll be influencing them to ensure that they are aware of the approaches being developed to be used in the negotiation. You are doing that, aren’t you?
 
There’s more. There is often a Technical Buyer who is the gatekeeper for specification and will be the person whom the Economic Buyer relies on for technical input. The story the sales team will tell to each of these people will be different—one focussing on benefits (largely) and the other on features. So, again, we need to know who is the Technical Buyer and how they are identified and brought into our overall approach.
 
If the two key areas of focus for the sales team are in line with our approach, then we’re in a far stronger position than those occasions when we have an internal battle to fight as well.
 
However, there is also the concept of the Economic Seller. Let’s think about this. The Economic Seller is the person who will have the task of ensuring that the supplier’s business is meeting appropriate targets for their company, which may be driven in a number of areas. It might be about sales, or relationship, or gross margin, or something else. Our task must be how to influence the Economic Seller in our direction, separately from the sales team.
 
We will need to have a good view of the issues that the supplier is facing and who will be most interested in the way in which we, as a customer, can help them with those issues. If we can think like this, then we will be in a far stronger position. Once we have some of that insight, we can then look at how we can influence that Economic Seller, either through the sales team, or if we think that won’t work, directly or indirectly though a different route.
 
As ever, this requires time and preparation to do well; but if we are to get the most out of relationships and supply chains (and not be fixated on price) then these are the sorts of thoughts that we need to have in place.
 
For your next negotiation, then, here’s the challenge: Who is the Economic Buyer, and have we influenced them? Is the Technical Buyer on our side and if not, how do we get them on board? Who is the Economic Seller and what do we need to do to influence them?
 
Plan to do this; get a better result.
 
Mark Hubbard thinks about negotiation and sales a lot at Positive Purchasing Ltd.

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About Mark Hubbard

I set up a specialist purchasing consultancy and a business focussing on seeking innovation. I work all over the world with clients, helping purchasing teams develop new ways of delivering value for their businesses. I love thinking about how purchasing works, and how it can be better, and I'd love to share some of those thoughts with you
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