Buying Center


We mentioned earlier that organizational purchase decisions. All individuals who participate in decision-making are referred to as the decision-making unit (DMU).To be able to get classified as a DMU it is important that concerned individuals should have a common goal and share the risk arising out of the decision. These individuals may or may not be a part of the buying organization ,like a consultant who is an outsider ,but plays a key role in the decision-making process. Also these individuals may directly or indirectly be involved in the decision process. For example ,a foreman in the factory may not be directly involved in selecting a furnace or furnace oil .But his familiarity with a particular brand or make or model and his criterion for using the product will play an important and critical role His view mat be expressed in the purchase committee meeting by his superior ,may be the Works Manager.

The marketer should identify all the DMUs in the client organization and understand their expectation and parameters on which vendor recommendation will be done by them. All these DMUs will then constitute the buying centre.

Roles in Buying Centre

Individuals play different roles in the buying centre. These roles are :

Actual User

Actual user is a person who actually uses the vendor ‘s product. These people are typically shop floor individuals. They could be foreman and workmen in a factory, lab technicians and chemists in a chemical firm, and programs in a software firm. These people often lay down product specifications. They also lay down service requirements and more often than not ,even the training requirements. In a way, they are technical guys down there for whom the only consideration are uninterrupted production and familiarity with machines and processes. I have often heard shop floor people saying they do not want headaches. The actual user an indenter of goods and service .


Influencer is a person or persons who may or may not be a part of customer organization but whose opinion is valued significantly by the customer. Within the organization, the actual user plays the influencer role. Outsiders ,like consultants also play a significant influencing role. For example, in buying a switchgear panel designer plays a significant role. Likewise, in a construction project, the architect plays an influencing role in determining the grade of cement to be bought.


Decider is the person who actually takes the decision to buy. The decider will invariably consider both the technical and economic factors in decision-making .Thus he will consider commercial terms like price ,payment options, delivery schedules, etc. In choosing a vendor, the general rule is that, the level at which the decision will be taken is based on cost and perceived risks associated with a decision. For example ,higher the cost and risk, higher is the level at which the decision will be taken or vice versa.


Buyer is the person who actually buys on behalf of the organization This person or department is typically known as a purchase or buyer. He is a part of the purchase or materials department. For the buyer, the most critical factor is on-time delivery as he does not want to spend sleepless nights on uncertain deliveries.


This is often a critical role played by an individual. The purpose of a gatekeeper is to facilitate the flow of information in the organization. This role could be played by a receptionist, a secretary to the DMU or even by a finance person. The gatekeeper is an important source of information .To him/her technical or economic parameters are not at all important .It is therefore critical that the marketer understands who is playing the gatekeeper role and make him/her as his salesperson inside the organization.

The marketer should not only identify who is playing what role in the buying centre but it is imperative that he understands each individual’s expectations. It is in this sense that the marketer has to influence several individuals and systems in the client organization .His role today ,is of negotiating with each of them and make them his partner. Gone are the days when a vendor could get an order only by being in touch with the purchase department .Today he has to know the whole in client system in order to succeed.