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B2B Customers: A Field Guide

B2B Customers come in several varieties. Some are decision-makers; others are simply influencers. Even so, if you're going to make that big B2B sale, you'll need to get all of them on board with the deal. To help you with this process, here's a compilation of most common varieties of B2B stakeholders, along with some sage advice on how to sell to them.

CLICK HERE for the first stakeholder
The Engineering Guru
  • Why he's a stakeholder: Everyone trusts him to know whether something will actually work, including the solution you're selling.
  • Typical plumage: Pocket protector under the suitcoat.
  • Quote: "Dialectial interference at subwavelength frequencies is manageable... if you've got reticular imaging, of course!"
  • Pros: Is usually willing to meet with sales folks.
  • Cons: He can and will bore you to tears.
  • Warning: May refer to specific Star Trek episodes during business conversations.
  • How to sell to him: Show that you and your firm are technically competent. If you can't talk major tech, bring along one of your own engineers.
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The Purchasing Manager
  • Why he's a stakeholder: Controls the list of approved vendors.
  • Typical plumage: A suit that's two decades out of date.
  • Quote: "If you can convince me, you can convince anybody."
  • Pros: Once you're on his list, you're there forever.
  • Cons: Can sometimes stop a deal permanently.
  • Warning: He's so terrified of being exposed as useless that, if left out of the loop, he may act, well, loopy.
  • How to sell to him: Convince him that you would personally value his YES more than anyone else's opinion because you know that he's "naturally skeptical."
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The Head of Human Resources
  • Why she's a stakeholder: She knows everything about everyone.
  • Typical plumage: A happy-face button on the left lapel.
  • Quote: "There are free donuts in the break room."
  • Pros: Usually doesn't wield all that much power.
  • Cons: Will stroke the gossip mill if you flub up.
  • Warning: Can be surprisingly devious.
  • How to sell to her: Invite her to key meetings. Ask her who else should be attending. And be the one who brings the donuts.
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The Departmental Manager
  • Why she's a stakeholder: She's the one who actually needs your solution.
  • Typical plumage: Slightly rumpled business suit with shirtsleeves rolled up.
  • Quote: "We're up to our ass in alligators here!"
  • Pros: Has problems that need solving.
  • Cons: Is usually too busy to listen to you.
  • Warning: She may be on the edge of burn-out, in which case she'll be taking a leave of absence.
  • How to sell to her: Get the Engineering Guru to help you understand the manager's problems, then get HIM to present YOUR solution to address HER problem.
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The CEO's Toady (Title May Vary)
  • Why he's a stakeholder: He's the spy who watches the CEO's back.
  • Typical plumage: Whatever the CEO wears.
  • Quote: "He can't see you right now, but I'll be happy to hear you out."
  • Pros: Incredibly easy to butter up.
  • Cons: Has all the CEO's character flaws with none of his charisma.
  • Warning: Will be suspicious of any attempt to cultivate a relationship with the CEO.
  • How to sell to him: Since everyone at customer's firm secrets hates him, he'll appreciate any positive attention. Ask his advice on how to get the CEO on board.
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The Chief Financial Officer
  • Why he's a stakeholder: Holds the purse-strings of everyone's budget.
  • Typical plumage: Invisible green eyeshades.
  • Quote: "We expect to see a significant ROI within three weeks."
  • Pros: Can actually cut you a check.
  • Cons: Probably won't cut the check unless forced to do so.
  • Warning: Secretly thinks that the concept of spending money to make money is "crazy talk."
  • How to sell to him: When you present to him, make it quick, and stick to the numbers. Don't talk about solutions; talk about ROI.
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The CEO's Admin
  • Why she's a stakeholder: She actually runs the company.
  • Typical plumage: Better dressed than most of the managers.
  • Quote: "I'll bring this to his attention as soon as it's appropriate."
  • Pros: Probably won't attend many meetings.
  • Cons: When she does, she'll take detailed notes.
  • Warning: She may be, uh..., "overly close" to the CEO.
  • Care and Feeding: Always keep her in the loop. Ask her advice about how to work through the corporate bureaucracy. After all, she's the expert!
CLICK HERE for the FINAL stakeholder
  • Why he's a stakeholder: He thinks he runs the company.
  • Typical plumage: A suit that costs more than your car.
  • Quote: "If it doesn't raise the stock price, I'm not interested."
  • Pros: Is surprising easy to sell to.
  • Cons: Is surrounded by people who don't want you to sell to him.
  • Warning: May suffer from "CEO Disease", a malady where the CEO's sphincter expands to cover his entire body, causing subsequent itching that can only be assuaged by underling osculation.
  • How to sell to him: Treat him like an equal. And why not? You've got something he needs; he's got something you want.
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