When it comes to succeeding in sales, it’s not just what you know. It’s also who you know. Even more accurately, it’s who you get to know as you’re connecting with various individuals in the buying center.

According to recent research by CEB, the average B2B sale now has 5.4 people on the buying side. That’s not only 5.4 different people, but that’s 5.4 different goals, opinions and drivers. To make matters more complex, each of those different people is likely to play a different primary role in the decision making process. Some people assess potential providers and solution on their technical merits. Some look at a potential purchase from an investment perspective. And some are primarily interested in the positive changes an investment can yield for the organization and its people.

At RAIN Group, we’ve uncovered 5 buyer types or profiles that you’ll come across in virtually every B2B sale – from five thousand to five million.

I. The Champion

The Champion’s primary interest is in getting the project approved, and/or helping you succeed personally. They are typically “leading the charge”, are acutely aware of the project’s potential benefits to the organization and are driving the change forward. They don’t need to be convinced, and will support you on your quest and help you navigate the organization chart.

Advice for sellers

In a first phase, focus on identifying and connecting with your champion (note: for any project, there may be different champions who favor different providers). Then, given them all the support they need in order to build internal consensus within the organization. Coach them, provide helpful information and data, and equip them as best you can to “make the internal sale”. Beware of a classical seller’s trap, and don’t spend all your time with the Champion. Moving beyond connecting with your Champion is key to ensuring your efforts pay off in the long term, and you close the sale.

II. The Business Driver

The Business Driver’s focus is on one thing, and one thing only: what is the Return On Investment (ROI) ? Unless you can answer that question clearly and unequivocally, you’ll have a hard time getting her (or him) on your side. Like the Champion, the Business Driver tends to favor change, driving the agenda forward and finding or creating a budget to fund it.

In most organisations today, budgets are more fluid than ever before. Potential projects and initiatives all compete for a pool of resources (money, people, systems, time, …) and the Business Driver plays a key part in how those scarce resources are allocated.

Advice for sellers

To win over the Business Driver, start by building a clear business case and ROI. Don’t focus on merely financials, the Business Driver is interested in the impact on the business across a wide variety of angles (e.g. productivity, time savings, …). What’s important is that you quantify the benefits of doing business together, and you build the business case together to get them on board (if not, they may end us dismissing your numbers as too optimistic and/or unrealistic).

III. The Approver

The Approver is primarily interested in the best allocation and best use of funds. Unlike the Business Driver, they don’t primarily look at the ROI and business case, but carefully weigh competing solutions against each other. As a simple example, if sales are down and there is a need to increase revenues, an Approver might consider any of the following options:

  • Hire more salespeople
  • Invest in sales training for existing staff
  • Outsource lead generation
  • Invest in content marketing
  • Enlist new channel partners

All of the solutions above could accomplish the goal, and the Approver’s primary focus is on picking which one will give them the most “bang for the buck”. Approvers tend to have the ultimate sign-off on a project.

Advice for sellers

When working with an Approver as part of the buying center, ensure you clearly highlight the advantages – and risks – of your solution versus any others they might be considering. Work with them to address their concerns, and help them see how your particular solution is most likely to produce the results they seek, with similar and/or lower risk than the other solutions.

IV. The Evaluator

The Evaluator is primarily concerned with how a particular service, solution or technology will fit within their particular context – in other words, they tend to evaluate a particular solution from an operational, technical or personal perspective. Their focus will be on answering the question “Will this work here ?” or “Will this work for me ?”.

Advice for sellers

Evaluators tend to require a “Goldielocks” approach to selling: not too little, and not too much – just right. If they’re not convinced of the technical merits of your solution (or the fact that it will work for them), they are highly likely – and able – to block a sale. But once they’re on board, they are unlikely to create further resistance. Often, once they favor a particular solution, they can become strong advocates for particular solution – but they are rarely the final decision maker.

Selling to these four types is likely to get you close to a sale – but there is one more, highly important type you’ll need to win over in order to win the sale. In fact, this type is so important they can break your sale almost regardless of whether the other four are rooting for you.

V. Introducing: The Domino

The Domino does exactly what their name suggests: they influence the action and direction of their teams, stakeholders and other decision makers. And in doing so, exert strong influence on which way a particular sale is likely to go. The best way to think of the Domino is as a gatekeeper – in a very real sense, because they are. Dominos have the power, influence and clout to allow an opportunity to move forward, or block it from ever becoming reality

Advice for sellers

It’s important to spot a Domino early on in the sales process. They tend to be independent thinkers who don’t particularly favor one provider or another, and take time to build a relationship with. Once they’re on your side (which they may be reluctant to admit, especially at first), you’ll have little trouble winning over the others.

Final tip: don’t always assume the Domino is the most senior person in the room. They may well be a highly skilled expert (especially for highly complex, technical sales or organisations) or a mid-level manager with a lot of informal power inside the organization.

Note: just because there are five types doesn’t necessarily mean these are automatically five different people; in many cases, a single person can hold 1, 2 or even 3 of these roles in the buying process.

Finding, connecting with and building deep relationships with each of these types in the buying center is what often makes the difference between winning and losing a particular opportunity. When opportunities are lost, many sellers blame price, competition or simply the dreaded “status quo” when, in reality, they lost due to their inability to connect with the five types, and cater to their needs.