Know Who Influences Your Customers

Influencers are people who impact the sales process but don’t actually purchase and use the product. Customers rely on these influencers to help them make decisions.

Influencers are important for two reasons (1) you may have to spend a significant portion of your sales & marketing time and money convincing them and (2) they may have very different needs than your customers.

When selling to consumers, identifying the influencers is fairly straightforward. A stereotypical example is the husband, “purchaser,” who needs to add to his wardrobe. At the men’s store, the wife, “influencer,” steers hubby away from the lime green, double-breasted model to the dark blue, three-piece suit.

When selling to companies, identifying the influencers requires a little more work.

Who are the individuals and organizations that influence your customer?  Selling to companies can be complicated. In industrial, business-to-business sales, there are typically three to five people involved in the buying decision. In order to determine where the powers of influence lie, you need to understand how these companies work

 Here are some of the roles people play in the buying process.

  • Initiates. Who (and what department) initiates the buying process?
  • Types. Who influences the type of product to be bought? Who looks into the different ways of solving the problem without specifying a certain vendor?
  • Specifies. Who writes the technical specifications for the purchase?
  • Short lists. Who draws up the short list of vendors that will be asked to submit bids?
  • Selects. Who makes the actual, final selection of product and supplier?
  • Quantifies. Who decides on order size, delivery, payment terms, etc.?
  • Signs. Who signs the order?
  • Vetoes. Does someone have the power to veto the choice of product and supplier, and if so, who?

Think about the typical company that you will be selling to and determine which organizations in that company are most influential in selecting your product.

Most influential department.  For the organizations with the most influence, determine “what’s in it for them.” How are their needs different from the end customer?

What can you do (and what evidence do you have) to make these people want to do business with you? For example, reference accounts for top management, comparative pricing for the financial types, reliability data for people from the manufacturing side.

Once you determine the influencers related to your product or service, ask yourself a simple question: What will make the people in the most influential departments feel good about recommending my product or service?