Who’s who in the decision making process: the Influencer

In B2B sales, the decision making process involves:

  • a Researcher, who identifies suppliers capable of solving their organization’s need
  • an Expert, who understands their need, well enough, to help a supplier to solve it
  • a Decider, who knows how each project will change their organization and prioritizes which deserves their cash.
  • an Influencer, who bridges the gap between Expert and Decider. They understand the need, and also see how it fits into their organization’s plans.

In a small organization, these roles can be filled by a single person. In larger organizations they are almost always different individuals.

In the sales process, Influencers are the most important and, often, most overlooked part of the process. It is very difficult to engage their Decider, because they have more pressing problems to deal with, than our solution. We need to make sure their Influencers know the message to convey to them.

Influencers do not have the detailed knowledge of the Expert, nor do they have time to spend with suppliers, discussing specific points. They do have an understanding of how our offer fits into their overall plans, and whether their Decider is likely to pay for it. They can influence their Decider if they think our solution is particularly good.

Once their Expert has told their Influencer that our solution meets their requirements, it is up to us to persuade them of the value it will bring to their organization; how our solution will impact on their business in terms of profit, cash flow and resources. Keep their Expert on-side, but all our focus should now be on their Influencer.

This must be a two-way communication; listen to their Influencers to gauge their Decider’s position. Of particular interest are reasons why this problem may not be a high priority for their Decider, and why our solution may not be the best for them.

We can either persuade their Influencer that their concerns are not valid, or change our solution. Since their Expert has already approved our solution, try to find out why their Influencer is not happy to recommend it to their Decider. This is likely to be due to the way our solution impacts on their organization.

To identify the best Influencers, look at the organization chart and work between their Expert and their Decider. Try to find people who know what effect our solution will have on their finances and their resources.

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