Focus of the User Buyer

The key phrase here is on the job. User buyers are concerned primarily with how a sale is going to affect everyday operations in their own areas or department their focus is therefore narrower than that of economic buyers. People acting as user buying influences will ask you about areas of day to day concern, such as the product’s reliability service record, retraining needed, downtime record ease of operation, maintenance safety, and potential impact on morale.

Because the focus of user buyer is how a sale will affect their jobs, their reactions to sales proposals as well as their predictions about performance, tend to be subjective. This doesn’t mean that they are either irrational or irrelevant. It means that, because their personal success hinges on the success of your product or service, you have to take subjectivity into account when you’re selling to them. User buyers want good performance not only because it makes their people productive, but also because better productivity makes them look good.  You get user buyers on your side, therefore by giving them satisfactory answer to one simple question: How will your product or service work for me?

There’s always at least one person whose central focus is the job to be done; therefore, there’s always at least one user buyer. Most complex sales, however, have more than one person playing this role. In fact, in certain scenarios a majority of the people you’re calling on might fall into the user buyer category.  If you’re selling group insurance to a large firm, for example,   user buyers might include the employee benefits, a personnel manager, union representatives or other agents of the employees being insured. If you’re selling laboratory equipment they might include a technical administrator and R&D manager, and various lab technicians. If you’re putting 30 new computers into a branch office, they might include the branch manager, a head of data processing and individual operators. In the case of the aeroplane sale we just mentioned the user buyers were the military personnel, the pilots and their commanders, who would actually operate the planes. Because the primary interest of all these people is the job to be done all of them must be considered user buyers.

If a key user buyer isn’t convinced, you’ll have a very difficult time closing the sale. Management can and sometimes does, approve orders for products that user buyers just as soon wouldn’t buy; the eventual outcome of these sales is generally bad for everyone concerned. You have to please user buyers because the way they use your product directly affects how that product is viewed and, even more important, how it is implemented by everyone else in the buying organization. That’s why going around a key user buyer can be so hazardous; when you do that, the chances are good, that future orders to his or her department will be hampered by resentment, lack of cooperation or outright sabotage.

A friend of ours encountered just this type of sabotage several years ago, when he sold a Rs 10,00,000 training programme to a major textile firm. The programme was designed to help mechanics and other skilled labourers troubleshoot more efficiently. The textile company MD was so impressed with its miraculous possibilities that he agreed to give it a trial run in every one of his 12 units. Unfortunately, one individual neglected to contact the managers of those units, the key user buyers, before   he closed the sale.

After the papers had been signed when he showed up to help implement the programme the plant managers treated him like an outside troublemaker who had gone over their heads to The Boss. A month after the programme went online trouble shooting in every one of the 12 units was far less effective than it had been before the sale. There was nothing wrong with the programme itself. The user buyer managers annoyed at having been ignored had just seen to it that it wouldn’t work. As a result, the end of the trial period was also the end of the program.