Identifying Your Users – The Buyers

Using the tools of UX design to navigate and master the sales process

Just as in the UX process, we need to define who our users are so that we can define what we are going to build for them.

In consultative sales, we are defining and identifying the buyers and defining what the best proposal will be for them.

This means that we need to make an effort to interview and understand all the types of buyers involved in the sale. This is akin to having an understanding of the different users of your product before you start designing your user experience.

In the sales process, there are four types of buyers. You will find these four types in every sales call, although some might be identified within the same person.

The four types are:

  • The Sponsor Buyer
  • The User Buyer
  • The Detail Buyer
  • The Financial Buyer.

Each buyer has different needs and these needs should be addressed in your proposal. It’s important that you get their names in the initial conversation.

As you are working through your sales questions there are a few that you need to ask to uncover the various buyers in the process.

The best question is very direct.

In addition to yourself, who else will be involved in the decision making process?

When these people are identified we then say,

We can make this process smoother if we are able to meet with all them.

This may sound presumptuous to ask, but it’s critical to get access to these different buyers. Inevitably, it’s the person you didn’t speak to in the process who will derail the project.

So let’s look at each of the buyers in detail.

The Sponsor Buyer

The sponsor buyer is the person who brought you into the opportunity. They have a vested interest in your success which is tied to their reputation and they want to see you succeed. After all they brought you in, they are your biggest champion and fan. They are also the person who will give you as much insider information as possible in order to make the buying process move forward successfully. You may find as you ask questions, that they are also your user buyer.

The User Buyer

The user buyer is the person who will be using your services. They might be a product manager, a lead engineer, a design director or other designers on the team. There may be more than one of these types of buyers identified and you should try to talk to as many of these people as possible. This user buyer might also be your sponsor.

The Detail Buyer

The detail buyer is anyone in the company or on the team who can derail your success of getting the project. This might be a relevant stakeholder or it might be someone who is in competition for the same funds. Unknown detail buyers will be difficult to get with since even the sponsor buyer probably doesn’t know about all of them. But there will be detail buyers that they do know about — that engineering director, the QA engineer, other designers on the team — who will all be looking for reasons to kick the tires of the project until you have made it clear to them that you understand their needs.

The Financial Buyer

The financial buyer is the person who will sign off on the money. They don’t care about your great process or your beautiful deliverables. They only care about what results they will be getting for their money and what ROI they will see as a result.

In a startup the financial buyer may be the founder or CEO and in many cases they will be the user buyer as well.

In a large company, the financial buyer is often difficult to find. Really difficult.

Other buyers will say they have the budget, but generally, unless they have the sign-off authority, then they are not the financial buyer. You need to ferret out who they have to go to to get sign off on a project. Whoever approves the P.O.—that is the financial buyer. We have seen that in leaner times, like the last recession, budgets get smaller and smaller lower on the chain and the signing authority moves higher and higher up the chain. Often when times get flush again, this signing level doesn’t move back down.

Your sponsor buyer or the user buyer may try to block your access to the financial buyer claiming they have it covered or can make the case but unless you really understand what that buyer’s needs are you will be at a disadvantage in developing your proposal.

It is critical in the sales process to have a good understanding of your users, in this case the buyers. The four buyer types to identify are user, sponsor, detail and financial, with financial being the most critical for releasing the funds for the project.

One you have everyone identified and have had an opportunity to ask them questions to truly understand their specific needs, you can start to synthesize these all together and develop your draft proposal.