Different Strategies for Different Buyers

by Bette Price, CMC

   Not all buyers are created equal. Therefore, not all sales strategies can be alike. While it is always preferable to sell to the "economic buyer," the individual who has the authority to make all buying decisions, all experienced sales people know that there are other levels that they are often forced to deal with. Here are three levels of buyers and characteristics and tips to consider when selling to each:

The Senior Level Decision-Maker

   This individual rarely needs authority from anyone else. However, getting in front of this buyer and building credibility and trust is not always easy. Key to your success often includes very subtle things. For example, do you look like and act like the buyer? This involves dress, business etiquette and social graces. Friendliness cannot be confused with an invitation to be extremely casual�particularly with one's language. Appropriateness in dress will count more than it may appear. And, even though you may be introduced to this buyer by someone respected by the buyer, don't think you won't be on a short leash until you've established your own rapport. Experience and knowledge will be important, but it will be the subtle aspects of this relationship that will allow it to thrive or die. So, look the part and mind your manners.

The Mid-Level Decision-Maker

   There will be a cap on the expenditure of this decision-maker, so expect an occasional delay without being told they need approval. This individual will be highly concerned with implementation. How will the implementation of your product or service impact their performance? What will the learning curve be for the employees involved, and how will it impact his/her ability to demonstrate good decision-making to their higher-ups? The timing of purchase will likely be dependent upon how much they perceive they need your product/service. Therefore, it is critical when selling to this level buyer that you find useful ways to keep your name and your company in front of them with frequency. You want to be upper foremost in their mind when the timing is right for them to buy. As one sales consultant says, "The difference between salad and garbage is timing."

The Technical Buyer

   This is often the buyer who focuses on price and price alone. Of course the issue is rarely price, but this buyer will tell you it is. Technicalities will squash your sale. Whatever you can do to support this buyer to back-up their decision and help to make them look good, will be helpful in making the sale. Position yourself as a strong resource in your area of expertise so you are seen more than just the provider of your product/service. Genuine customer service will be integral to gaining the trust and commitment of this buyer. Sometimes the extra work you will do for this buyer will merely make him/her look good, but the more you provide this buyer with information that helps to support other aspects of the job, the more you will strengthen your position.
   It's easy to see that there is no easy way to sell to any of these levels. Each takes it's own development and each takes it's own time. Yet, knowing the difference in the approach can help you save time in getting to the level of trust and commitment that you need to turn a prospective customer into a customer for life.