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How to Deal With Economic Buyers as the Focal Point of Every Sales Cycle

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

Every buying decision requires an Economic Buyer to fund it. To qualify as an Economic Buyer the stakeholder of a buying decision must carry a business goal and have access to budgets to achieve them.

On the lower value stages (Commodity and Product) we usually find just one Economic Buyer, while on the higher stages (Solution and Strategic Alliance) multiple Economic Buyers might work together to fund an investment for improving their goal achievement.

Decisions on business platforms are a good example for the latter, e.g., implementing a digital production platform will impact not only manufacturing, but also material management, procurement, logistics, and delivery.

So the first analysis a seller must perform is on the Economic Buyers involved in a buying decision and the business case they are working on to justify the investment.

Unfortunately, we might not get a clear answer when asking our contacts: Depending on the department they work for, the power base they are part of, their personal relationship with stakeholders, and their own agenda they might give us a biased picture. To prevent this, sellers must probe for Economical Buyers with multiple contacts and dive deep in cases where the situation is ambiguous.

Which is not a one-time activity: The more complex a buying decision and the longer it takes the bigger the chances stakeholders will come and go, their relative strength will increase or decrease, disruptive changes like a pandemic wipe out their access to budgets from one day to the next.

The only conversation an Economic Buyer really cares about is around the business case demonstrating how the investment will positively impact their targets. Any feature not contributing to achieving their target they are not interested in.

So the first rule for sellers talking to Economic Buyers is: Stop selling your offering, start influencing the business case.

For this we first need to assess the state of the business case when we enter into the sales cycle. Is it about increasing top-line revenues or bottom-line contribution? What are the expectations towards payback, net present value? Is it linked to a strategic initiative, e.g., entering new markets, sustainability, resilience?

Next we must explore the stakeholders, how they are going to be impacted by the investment, whether they co-fund it. If there are multiple Economic Buyers, how do they relate? Are they part of the same power base? How do they split the investment? In case of a longer implementation period how do they determine who will go first, next, and last?

Now starts the real work. How does our offering contribute to the business case? How can we link it to our Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and thus protect it from attacks from the competition? Did the competition already successfully link their USP to the business case?

In case we cannot establish our USP as vital to the business case we need to challenge its scope. We can try to shrink the scope so a competitive USP gets eliminated and ours can be associated. Or we can try to increase the scope to add our USP to the equation.

Shrinking the business case might also allow us to eliminate an Economic Buyer leaning towards the comeptition and, conversely, expanding the scope can include Economical Buyers supporting us.

For example: A local Economic Buyer is looking for an isolated data analytics platform just covering their local business and currently prefers a competitor well equipped to deal with this local scope. As we have a superior global offering we counter this by approaching additional Economical Buyers on corporate level and inform them about the local buying process highlighting the fact that they will have difficulties accessing the local data for their own purposes. They involve themselves in the decision process offering to co-fund the investment in exchange for implementing a global solution. The USP of our competitor is invalidated and we can leverage our global solution to drive a bigger business case.

The business case is where we will win or lose a deal. Accepting a given business case scope deprives a seller from one of the most powerful influences they have on the decision. Instead we must have the strength, language and arguments to shape the business case in our favor.

For additional details on the Economical Buyer please refer to this narrative.

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