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How to Manage the Different Buyer Roles in the Sales Process 👥

Sales
Written by
David Levy

Running into enterprise sales roadblocks? Read this guide for insights on the different buyer roles that can make or break your deals and how to manage them.

A prospect's organization can come with a wide range of buyer roles that affect your deals.

Today I'll explain these buyer roles in detail and how to manage them successfully.

Understanding how they think and what motivates them will equip your reps with the knowledge to speak to their needs and get them on board with your product. 

Table of contents:

What Are Sales Process Buyer Roles?

Sales buyer roles are the different archetypes of buyers that influence a deal. In other words, sales buyer roles refer to the activities a prospect may carry out in the buying decision. 

Individual buyer roles are essential because if you don’t know who’s influencing and actually making the purchasing decision, you could waste precious sales time on the wrong person.

A helpful way of figuring out buyer roles is by using archetypes (personality types based on behavior, conceptualized by Carl Jung in the early 20th century). Understanding someone’s archetype helps explain their perspectives and their motivations.  

With enterprise-level companies, the person your AE or SDR is reaching out to likely isn't the only one that needs to be involved in the deal. According to Harvard Business Review, “the number of people involved in B2B solutions purchases has climbed from an average of 5.4 two years ago to 6.8 today, and these stakeholders come from a lengthening roster of roles, functions, and geographies.” So, for this reason, knowing who else contributes and what their role is in moving a deal forward is necessary.

When your AE's are aware of and know how to handle these buyer roles, they can:  

  • Anticipate roadblocks
  • Identify advocates
  • Learn buyer patterns
  • Improve sales messaging
  • Leverage sales enablement better

Common buyer roles include (we’ll go deeper into each one in this article):

  • Champion
  • Influencer
  • End-user(s)
  • Blocker
  • Evaluator 
  • Executive sponsor(s)
  • Decision-maker

When sellers understand these buyer archetypes, they can tailor their messaging and positioning, improve their strategy, and deliver an overall better buyer experience for the customer.

This is extremely important considering 61% of buyers want relevant (personalized) information, and 69% value it when salespeople listen to their needs.

Buyer Roles: The 7 Buyer Archetypes & How to Manage Them

Understanding these 7-buyer roles will help you get acquainted with WHO they are and HOW to manage them in the sales process. 

1. Champions

Champions are people that advocate for your product. They could be someone you initially connected with on a discovery call, a past buyer, or a current customer. The champion is arguably the most important person(s) in your deal and can be the difference between a closed won opportunity or the project getting pushed. 

Champions value your product, understand the buying and political structure of the company you’re selling to, and become vital assets for a land and expand strategy. They’re important because they tend to shoulder responsibility for the deal, almost acting as an internal seller on your behalf. 

It’s critical to qualify early whether or not the person can become a strong champion for you. They may love your product, but any 1 of these 3 things could block them from becoming your champion: 

  1. They aren’t willing to go through the purchasing process 
  2. They’re unable to purchase something
  3. They don’t know how the purchasing process works

You MUST verify this information before moving forward with them — one way to do this is by asking qualifying questions about times they’ve done this process before:

The last time you purchased a similar product, what was the process like and who was involved?

Depending on the response, you'll be able to tell if they've got the potential to be a strong champion for you, assuming they value your product.

Managing champions

Champions sell FOR you, so be sure to understand your buyer's personal and professional motivations. The more closely you can align your offering to these 2 areas, the more invested they’ll be in seeing a successful rollout of your product. To uncover these motivating factors, you can try asking questions such as:

What are the consequences to you personally and/or the organization if you don't solve your problem?

What are the benefits to you personally if we could help you solve them?

You have to arm your champion with the knowledge and assets to help them sell for you when you’re not in the room.

You can accomplish this by giving them:

  • Demos
  • Educate them on the overall market and where your solution fits
  • Product whitepapers & case studies
  • Customer references

Managing your champion(s) isn't a one-and-done deal. AEs should develop a productive working relationship to help them navigate the organization and identify what’s on the mind of other stakeholders in the deal (i.e., decision-makers, influencers, blockers, etc.).

Ask the right questions, create a mutual success plan, and map out the stakeholders involved to help build deal momentum and keep champions in the loop on what to expect next. 

You can use software like Aircover to identify the various roles in a deal, ask the right questions, and create action items for following up across your entire team. In addition, you can assign action items to each team member based on their responsibility in the sales process, allowing everyone to know who's been tasked with what. 

2. Influencers 

Influencers hold authority in an organization which means they’ve got the clout to sway deal opinion. 

In other words, they can make or break your deals.

Decision-makers tend to look at influencers as trusted advisors, meaning what they think holds weight. Therefore, the better you understand the influencer's needs and concerns, the better your odds are of landing the deal. 

Managing influencers

Start by spotting who the influencers are, which can be done by leveraging your champion to find out the other stakeholders involved in the decision-making process and what their involvement is. You might be able to infer their influence internally by looking at their company info:

  • Number of years in the company
  • Industry or department expertise
  • Job role 

Next, work to understand what they want to see from the deal. 

For instance, if you’re selling a marketing automation platform, marketing operations will likely be involved to weigh in on whether or not your product meets the company requirements.

To manage influencers well, you need to understand what the influencer wants from the solution.

Start by asking discovery questions to find out:

  • WHAT they've implemented in the past 
  • WHY they did it
  • HOW it turned out

Use this information to tailor your messaging and positioning that speaks to these points.

By knowing what the influencer cares about, you can focus on those areas during the evaluation.

3. End-users

End-users will directly use the product or service you're offering. 

For example, if you're selling to the VP of Sales, the end-users will be his sales team.

End-users may voice their opinion on your product indirectly or directly on sales calls, making it essential for the value-proposition to meet their needs. 

Managing end-users

Managing end-users comes down to ensuring they are getting value from your product. 

You can accomplish this by showing them why and how using your product or service will make their lives easier. You can do this through:

  • Demos
  • Customer stories
  • POCs

End-users play a significant role in adoption during the POC stage, so it’s paramount they’re excited about your solution.

End-user-buy-in results in them advocating for your product.

During the POC, you should be scheduling regular check-ins to help the end-users navigate your product. This builds the relationship, increasing the odds of official adoption.

4. Blockers

Blockers are those that stop the sale or lower its chances of happening.

People become blockers when they're not on board with your solution or are more interested in a competitor. Sometimes blockers are not sold on a specific use case or prefer to build it internally. 

An example of a blocker could be a CFO that says the company just doesn't have the budget to implement your product next quarter. 

Budget objections are common — according to a 2021 study,  55% of sales reps cited “budget” as the most common reason for solid sales opportunities falling through.

Blockers can be a showstopper in the deal if they're not managed properly.

Managing blockers

Like influencers, you’ve got to understand what a blocker is looking for and why.

Ask questions like these to dig deeper:

  • What have they implemented in the past?
  • What competitors are they siding with and why?
  • What are their desires?
  • What do they dislike about your product and why?

You should be ready to handle objections when blockers elaborate on their stances.

Your sales reps can use Aircover to handle objections effectively. Its in-meeting AI tools detect objections during conversations and offer insights into exactly how to handle that specific objection during the call.

For example, if you’re dealing with a blocker who’s sold on one of your competitors, you could add specific competitor battlecards to your stack. 

Another asset to manage the blocker would be customer stories — if you had a similar skeptical client in the past, mention how their skepticism was squashed once they adopted your product.

Whether an objection is based on trust, budget, or value, the right sales enablement can get blockers to change their mind.

5. Evaluator 

Evaluators analyze the specifics of your solution based on their company’s technical requirements.

34% of B2B buyers say their purchase decisions are driven most by features, while 27% say price and 39% say brand, so answering any questions concerning features effectively is vital.

When it comes to product implementation, evaluators look for:

  • What it would take to implement your product 
  • Implementation length 
  • How scalable the product is
  • Long-term product viability 
  • Deployment success

They'll contemplate how your product fits into the overall tech stack. Their concerns usually include:

  • Does your product integrate into their existing systems? 
  • Are there feature overlaps?

Evaluators have a technical vantage point that requires your sellers to convey value while simultaneously explaining technical components.

Your reps should be thorough when handling objections and product questions. In addition, they should be capable of answering spec details and giving high-level information.

It's not uncommon for evaluators to also be influencers in the deal. The deal may fall through if your product makes sense theoretically, but the practical application isn't there.

Managing evaluators

One of the best methods for managing evaluators is having a subject matter expert or sales engineer meet with the evaluator.

Have your sales engineer join the deal team to address an evaluator's technical questions about:

  • Features 
  • Integrations
  • Solutions to any problems that may arise during POC 

The sales engineer takes the lead during the POC, ensuring your buyer’s technical requirements are met along the way.

Your AE’s role is to share the evaluator’s POC scope and any technical questions and concerns with the sales engineer beforehand (during pre-call prep). 

Aircover streamlines pre-call prep by providing info about everyone who will be on the call and the objectives. Post-meeting analysis also shares critical moments on the call, helping you determine if you reached your meeting objective. (This includes the action items discussed in the meeting.)

The AE’s job is to drive "technical acceptance" during post-call follow-up, which occurs once the evaluator confirms that your solution aligns with their requirements. 

6. Exec Sponsor 

Executive sponsors are those who are sponsoring the project from a budget standpoint. Depending on your product’s cost and the prospect company size, the exec sponsor can be anyone from a Director to a VP or a C=level executive.

Exec sponsors tend to look at the deal from an ROI, financial, and a big picture perspective. As a result, they can heavily influence deals since their involvement is closely tied to purchasing — by acting as decision-makers, champions, influencers, or blockers.

Managing exec sponsors

You can leverage your champion to discover what motivates the executive sponsor. Ask probing questions like:

  • Are they aware of our project? Why or why not?
  • What's their focus in the company?
  • What are their OKRs and/or goals for this year?
  • Do you see any blockers?

There are 2 ways to manage exec sponsors:

  1. Create long-term scenarios with your product — Mention what their investment will look like in 1-3 years. Also, what will things look like in 1-3 years if they don't invest in your product? And why?
  2. Share ROI-focused sales talking points — Show ROI numbers from past customers who used your product (e.x., Saved capital, time saved, efficiency metrics, etc.)

7. Decision-maker(s)

The decision-maker (DM) can be one or multiple participants who decide whether or not to buy.

Large enterprises often require more interactions with the other buyer roles before you get to a decision-maker. Try to get the decision-maker involved early to qualify if there is a deal on the table. If your champion is unwilling to get the decision-maker involved, they should have a good reason not to — it may also be a red flag, and time to find another champion.

If your champion is trying to protect the decision maker’s time, try offering up meetings with your senior executives in return for a meeting with the DM. 

Because if other roles are already sold, the odds of a "yes" from a decision-maker increases. Decision-makers know and appreciate the other roles’ perspectives.

Managing decision-makers

You can win the decision-maker’s favor by working on getting the other buyer roles onboard first. (Using the management protocols mentioned earlier.)

Next, remember that decision-makers are typically long-term thinkers, so create long-term scenarios using your product in your communications and proposals:

  • Multi-year ROI 
  • Share customer stories that show successful long-term adoption 
  • Connecting them with your executive team and/or R&D leads to discuss a roadmap and vision for the future

Remember that B2B deals can take time depending on your industry, so having updated insights on your decision-maker to share with your team is essential. 

For instance, perhaps the primary decision-maker is taking a vacation in the coming weeks. To compensate for this, the AE should be creating a joint action plan with their champion to help move the deal to close. 

In other words, start with a successful deployment and work backward. Ask yourself, “What has to happen between now and then to move forward?” 

Knowing this, your team can schedule a time to speak with all stakeholders involved, including the DM, who will need to sign off on the project.

A Final Recap on Buyer Roles

Different buyer roles contribute to deal outcomes in enterprise-level selling.

When you understand their different motivations, you can more effectively manage the sales process and position your product as something they should want to invest in.

Remember that individual roles can embody multiple buyer archetypes. Start by identifying what archetype(s) the role falls under and tailor your messaging and positioning accordingly.

Aircover can be your secret weapon in your deals. You gain real-time, in-meeting tools to help you learn more about the prospect, shorten your sales cycle, handle objections and manage your deal team to support all buyer roles involved in the decision-making process.

Get early access to Aircover's in-meeting tool today and turn your different buyer archetypes into advocates!