Defining the B2B DMU

If you are selling to consumers then there are probably one or two people involved in the decision to buy, and you have buyer personas set up. However, if you are a business-to-business organisation then often the sales and marketing cycle is more complicated. There are typically more people involved, and any one of them could affect your success in converting leads to sales. The people involved can be referred to as a Decision Making Unit (DMU). So how do we go about defining the DMU?

Roles within the DMU

There are various roles within a DMU that you should market to and involve in any sales processes. A person may cover may one or more of the roles within the unit. The messages for each role should be clear and tailored to their particular areas of concern within the DMU. So what, are these roles?

The budget holder:

The person that controls the budget that is being accessed for the service. The key messages here will be about value for money. Do not lead on the cost, instead lead on the return on investment, what they get for the spend, how that will save them money and benefit their profitability thus making their jobs easier.

The gatekeeper:

We have all come across the PA or receptionist who refuses to pass a message on to their boss / team, as they assume that it is not relevant to them. They act as a blocker to save their boss / team time and from unnecessary interruptions. The key here is to have a strong enough message that is relevant to their boss / team, that they too can see the value. If they can look good for having “found” the answer to a problem, then all the better. Of course, the message can be delivered in ways that the other members of the DMU are informed to circumnavigate the gatekeeper, but if they can be brought onside the path to conversion is a lot easier.

The subject expert or technical advisor:

If you are selling IT products or services then this would be IT Director, IT Manager, Network Manager; if you are selling cleaning products or services then this could be Facilities Manager (if a factory / office setting) or Housekeeping (if a hotel setting). It is the person who is going to know the most about your product or service and they will be the ones whose opinion will be considered quite highly. They will want to know all the benefits, that your products are safe / compliant / as good as or better than your competitors. They want products and services that are going to make them look good and at the leading edge for the company.

The buyer:

This may be a purchaser who operates PSLs (Preferred Supplier Lists) and who will not be happy with others in the organisation who try and use suppliers that they have not negotiated deals with and completed due diligence checks on. They will probably have supplier onboarding questionnaires that need to be completed. The buyer can be as problematic as the gatekeeper, but normally can be overruled and coerced internally into giving way, if they are stubborn and can not be won over by you. They are normally swayed by price, so prepare to push back and have the budget holder on side.

The influencer:

This person can be totally outside the rest of the group, from a different department, or even external to the organisation. They have the respect of the rest of the DMU and their opinion counts. Finding these people can be a little more tricky, but they are very valuable. They form opinions based on the solution presented but also the CSR (corporate social responsibility) aspects and the reputation of the organisation. This is where good quality PR and clear messaging in social media and on the web are absolutely key

The initiator:

The person who realises that there is a problem which needs a solution. This person is looking to make improvements to the companies processes  / offerings for the benefit of the staff and the bottom line. Very often they are also one of the other roles. They need to see the advantages clearly messaged. They are influenced by case studies from others that have done it, as they seek to follow best practices. So, having one company utilising your products and services will encourage others to follow suit.

It may be worthwhile to have a “loss leader” of a smaller organisation before capturing a larger organisation. By loss leader we do not mean that they pay below the going rate, but there can be an understanding that the smaller organisation agrees to do a case study and on that basis they have x discount, but if they do not complete the case study within a certain timeframe, then that discount is invoiced for. This is a technique that the author has used previously to great effect. It means that the case study provider is more likely to be open to the costs savings that they achieved as a percentage which makes the messaging to other companies all the more powerful, as well as any “soft” advantages.

The decision maker:

This role can be held by any of the above roles, or be a different person, maybe a director. Having good links into the other roles means that the decision maker has an easier decision to make. They need to be aware of the advantages of your product or solution before it is brought to their attention by the DMUs proposal if at all possible, to remove a further hurdle. They tend to be pragmatic and tend to be interested in business improvements and bottom line / profitability enhancement.

Defining the DMU, marketing to all the roles and including those roles in your sales process will make the process smoother. If you need help in identifying these roles and the messages each needs that drop us a line.

[originally issued 11/2/21; edited 15/3/24]

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