Know your Buyers: Buyer Role Mapping

Shyam HN
September 20, 2021

B2B selling is usually focused around a few specific buyer stakeholders. We call them ‘Champion’, ‘Decision Maker’, ‘Economic Buyer’ etc.

However, as technology products become more and more cross-functional, and elevate themselves from the value proposition of automation to generating insights that will drive core business processes, the number of stakeholders who are involved in a typical decision-making process, and their extent of influence in the decision have both increased significantly.

We are happy to share with you a framework that we have developed in consultation with hundreds of revenue leaders from fast-growing tech companies and from our own experience of driving hundreds of complex enterprise deals. This will help your sales team better appreciate the configuration of your buying team on any deal, the functions that people in each of those buyer roles play during the process, their priorities, and how your team can deliver value to them during and after the buying process.

The post is structured as follows:

What is Buyer Role Mapping?

Buyer journey mapping is the process of visualizing and understanding the journey that a customer takes when interacting with a brand, from the initial awareness stage to the final purchase and beyond. The goal of buyer journey mapping is to identify the different stages of the journey, the touchpoints that the customer interacts with at each stage, and the emotions, thoughts, and behaviors that the customer experiences along the way.

By mapping the buyer journey, businesses can gain valuable insights into the customer experience and identify areas where they can improve engagement, build trust, and ultimately drive more sales. For example, a buyer journey map might reveal that customers are dropping out of the sales funnel at a particular stage, indicating that there is a problem with the customer experience at that point.

Why is Buyer Role Mapping relevant to you as a sales team?

Most enterprise B2B technology purchases are medium to high-stakes decisions because what is being purchased has the ability to directly or indirectly influence the business outcomes for the company (or org). A wrong decision could set a strategic project back, cascading the connected initiatives and leading to missed goals and opportunities.

With the subscription business model, business leaders in non-purchasing functions (like Engineering, Marketing, Sales, etc.) are driving the evaluation, selection, and implementation process. In addition to that, most solutions today are designed for multiple stakeholders and cross-functional impact (land and expand model). Because of this reason, most primary buyers can't make unilateral decisions. They have to carry a team of stakeholders with them, and therefore a significant element of consensus-based decision making is involved in such a B2B buying process.

According to different research, the number of buyer stakeholders who join the process is anywhere from 6 to 19. Gartner puts the range as 6-10. According to an article by Clari, at the end of 2020, deals below $50K require 7 external (buyer) stakeholders, deals between $50K to $250K require 10, and those above $250K need 19 stakeholders! Besides the rising number of people included in the decision process, it is also important to note that most of them have their unique expectations and preferences, which have to be met (or exceeded) to complete the buying process.

Engaging the right buyer stakeholders at the right time, understanding and meeting their unique needs, and hand-holding them towards a favorable relationship with you is one of the biggest, and perhaps most under-appreciated challenges that sellers and their primary buyers must work on together to make any B2B relationship successful across its lifecycle, particularly in the selling-buying process.

Through this post, we share a framework to map the typical B2B buyer stakeholder team that gets involved during the buying process into multiple Buyer Roles based on their closeness to the decision, motivations, and functions in the buying process. (Note that we are not covering the implementation and beyond part of the journey in this post, that's probably for something in the future.)

What are the types of Buyer Roles?

Understanding each Buyer Role better

The table below covers the motivations and preferences of the different buyer roles and their activities within the buying process.



Who Are they?

  • Primary business owner of the decision and the initiative that backs the purchase effort.
  • Typically, Director/ VP level team or function leaders.

Why are they involved? (Motivations)

  • Solve a critical business problem.
  • Find the right partner who can make them win.
  • Claim the win and use it to advance their career.

How much/Why do they care about which vendor is selected (i.e. “you”)?

  • Very High, Their credibility (and sometimes their job) is on the line based on the success of the initiative.

Key roles within the buying process

  • Own project internally.
  • Get exec alignment.
  • Get buy-in from key stakeholders.
  • Request budget/ submit proposal.
  • On-time and effective implementation.

Vendor engagement preference

  • Not much in the initial phase, but primary business leadership contact from vendor-of-choice to go-live.
  • They are fundamentally responsible for the decisions made in this process, so would want to spend a lot of time with the incoming vendors.

If you are the vendor, you must…

  • Build credibility with them, earn their trust, and clearly establish your equal partnership in the success of this relationship. 
  • Help them solve the business problem (and convince them why you are best suited to do that), connect them with other customers, share best practices
  • Enable them to make their best pitch internally on your behalf while they go into the budget and leadership meetings.
  • Keywords: Trust, Partnership, Co-ownership of success



Who Are they?

  • Members on the Owner’s team or adjacent functions who’d directly and significantly benefit from the proposed solution
  • Typically, junior/mid-level members of the team.

Why are they involved? (Motivations)

  • Make their day-to-day life easier and better.
  • Find the partner whose solution meets their expectations.
  • Be part of the team’s strategic project.

How much/ Why do they care about which vendor is selected (i.e. “you”)?

  • High, This investment is aimed to improve their output, so having the right solution matters to them, but at the same time, the final choice may not be entirely theirs.

Key roles within the buying process

  • Research on the space, vendors, and best practices
  • Set up intro call with vendors, documentation for shortlisting
  • Project management during evaluation, esp for technical evaluation
  • Hands-on ownership of the implementation phase.

Vendor engagement preference

  • The primary point of contact initially and fairly hands-on engagement throughout the process. Likely to be the first point of contact for vendors.

If you are the vendor, you must…

  • Help them understand what they are seeing/ reading in their research as well any information that you share so that they are not overwhelmed or confused.
  • Reassure them of your solution’s ability to help them in their day-to-day work, and also share best practices, guides, and tips from other power users.
  • Build a strong rapport between them and your customer success team so that the deployment is set up for success
  • Keywords: Product, Support, Best practices



Who Are they?

  • Very likely to be the Owner’s manager or someone else from the leadership team who have chosen to invest into this initiative (over others) 
  • Typically, VP/ CXO level function or org leaders.

Why are they involved? (Motivations)

  • Move the needle for their function/organization.
  • Find a partner that puts them in an impressive company.
  • Advance their transformation agenda.

How much/ Why do they care about which vendor is selected (i.e. “you”)?

  • Low, They care to some extent but ultimately, it is the results and business impact that they care about.
  • If your solution fails, that might have cascading effects on their other initiatives.

Key roles within the buying process

  • Validate that the choice of vendor is appropriate and can help meet the strategic goals.
  • Get alignment and buy-in from internal leaders and peers.
  • Resolve any issues/concerns regarding budget approval with their CFO.

Vendor engagement preference

  • They might do a few meetings (usually, just one) with the leadership on the vendor team for strategic alignment.
  • Otherwise, they’d prefer to receive periodic updates from the Owner in internal reviews.

If you are the vendor, you must…

  • Make it easy for the Owner to earn their confidence, inspire them, answer their questions, address their concerns, and provide visibility into how things are coming along. This is very critical.
  • Ensure that your executives and leadership meet them and reaffirm your commitment to the partnership and its strategic objectives.
  • Offer to introduce them to some of the other CXOs you work with, proactively welcome them into your exec community.
  • Keywords: Business impact, Strategic alignment



Who Are they?

  • Peers of Owner or members of such adjacent teams who are indirectly impacted by the choice of vendor/solution.

Why are they involved? (Motivations)

  • Ensure that the solution plays well with its function.
  • Explore options to use the solution themselves.
  • Be involved in a strategic initiative and stake claim to a share of the win.

How much/ Why do they care about which vendor is selected (i.e. “you”)?

  • Medium, Their extent of concern is usually limited to ensuring that the solution does not disrupt their work, and if possible, has something to offer to them in the future.

Key roles within the buying process

  • Inform the Owner about any potential red flag upfront (before they go too much down the path with the vendor)
  • Verify the proposed solution and sign off on the decision if there are no objections.

Vendor engagement preference

  • Depends on the company culture and preferences of the Owner.
  • Some of them could join all vendor calls, or just show up a few times - early in the process for a demo, and then perhaps for the more hands-on evaluation process

If you are the vendor, you must…

  • Proactively address how your solution will work well with their business process, as well as any benefit that it can offer for them right from the beginning.
  • Make it easy for the Owner to handle any objection they might bring up as part of internal discussions.
  • Keywords: Reassurance



Who Are they?

  • Representatives of business teams that have to be involved/have to sign off on any buying activity in the company.

Why are they involved? (Motivations)

  • Check off on all policies, ensure the company’s interests are safeguarded.

How much/ Why do they care about which vendor is selected (i.e. “you”)?

  • Negligible, They are indifferent to the vendor who’s coming aboard as long as they meet the company’s interests and policies.

Key roles within the buying process

  • Collaborate with the Owner and team on executing the buying process once the vendor is identified.
  • Confirm that the buying process is in line with company policy and there are no red flags.
  • Expressly sign off on the buying effort once their requirements are met.

Vendor engagement preference

  • They prefer to be in-and-out, as much as they can.
  • This is one among many projects for them, and also in many cases not their primary responsibility at all.
  • So in most cases, they want to meet their buying roles and move on to the next one.

If you are the vendor, you must…

  • Provide them information and inputs they might need as part of executing on their roles right up front, in a format that they can directly use to do their job.
  • Make it extremely easy for them to sign off on this partnership, without too much back and forth.
  • Leverage the power of your institutional knowledge to make it easy for them
  • Keywords: GSD, Efficiency, Enablement

Please fill in your email Id to download this table now!


Key Professionals in Buyer Roles 


Key roles within the buying process

  • Vendor due diligence
  • Commercial Negotiation
  • Sign-off on all aspects of the buying process followed
  • Sometimes, a single point of contact across the paper process

Vendor engagement preference

  • Depends on the company’s processes. In some cases, they ride pillion with the Owner from the earliest conversations.
  • But in most cases, they fully own the part around final commercial negotiation, sometimes keeping the Owner and others out of the process as a practice.

If you are the vendor, you must…

  • Enable them with the due diligence materials that they’d need to get aboard this journey.
  • Share/ collaborate with them to develop an ROI assessment that can be used to justify cost.
  • Offer them possible alternatives for deal structuring that gives them choices, and a win in terms of reducing spend and better risk mitigation.
  • (Unfortunately, you’ll almost always have to have a price negotiation. So it’s good to anticipate and factor that.)



Key roles within the buying process

  • Negotiate and finalize the terms in the Master Services Agreement and generally, any other legal document involved in the process.

Vendor engagement preference

  • Legal is directly involved in the specific part of the process where the legal documents are negotiated.
  • The only other exception is when an NDA is signed early in the process, however, it is very uncommon for them to interact with the vendors directly at that stage.
  • NDAs typically require very little back and forth.

If you are the vendor, you must…

  • Enable them on two fronts -
    • What business are you in? What risks should they be evaluating and safeguarding their company against in this transaction?
    • (If you are using your legal document) What are some of the key points and how should they be interpreted in the context of this partnership?
  • Be extremely easy to work with (Some agreements are designed in a unilateral manner that forces the other lawyers to negotiate and get into a back and forth, and this causes general mistrust on the spirit behind all other terms)


Information Security

Key roles within the buying process

  • Confirm compliance with all required and applicable policies pertaining to data security and privacy, especially where PII or customer information is involved.
  • In some cases, also eliminate a vendor upfront in case they don’t comply with the company’s infosec policies/requirements.

Vendor engagement preference

  • InfoSec is a supercritical sign-off in today's business environment. Their interaction with the vendor can be direct or indirect (through the Owner).
  • The lowest-touch engagement could be sharing some documents and questionnaires over email.
  • The other extreme is a thorough assessment over multiple meetings and even access to a sandbox.

If you are the vendor, you must…

  • Enable them with a comprehensive set of documentation that helps them categorize this relationship in the right bucket of InfoSec risks.
  • These categorizations are based on the classification of data you store and process, and the compliances that are mandated by the company.
  • Proactively share with them your policies around data security and privacy, incident response, etc., as well as results of vulnerability assessments and compliances like SOC, ISO, etc. that reassure them of your robust infosec practices.



Key roles within the buying process

  • Blueprint and implement integrations that will allow your solution to operate seamlessly in their tech ecosystem.
  • In some cases, also eliminate a vendor upfront in case they wouldn’t be able to fit into the company’s tech ecosystem.

Vendor engagement preference

  • IT could be involved at two points in the process -
    • Earlier during the evaluation phase to eliminate/validate technical aspects of the solution, and/or
    • Towards the end as part of integrating the selected vendor into the company’s tech ecosystem.

If you are the vendor, you must…

  • Enable them with a comprehensive set of documentation and product overview that highlights the technical aspects of the solution.
  • Collaborate hands-on with them to get the solution set up for success, with your team working with them on integrations and other areas.



Key roles within the buying process

  • Final signatory on the agreement and other documents that ratifies the partnership. 
  • Note: Signatory is not a buyer role at the same level of criticality as others. The reason for including them here is because more often than not, they are not consciously considered as a part of the buyer stakeholders and this causes last-minute delays for contract execution.

Vendor engagement preference

  • While the signatory could be someone who has some other role(s) to play in the process, as a signatory, they only come in for the specific act of document execution.
  • They do not engage directly with the vendor

If you are the vendor, you must…

  • Confirm the stakeholder and ensure that they are available to perform their part at the proposed point in the journey.

Please fill in your email Id to download this table now!

How does BuyerAssist help?

BuyerAssist platform helps you drive clarity on who's who, and deliver a buyer experience that stands out from the rest, and delights each of these stakeholders based on how much it speaks to their motivations and preferences.

Buyer Value Discovery

  • Systematically understand the stakeholders on the buyer side.
  • Undertake a methodical approach to understanding the buying context from multiple lenses: Owner, Beneficiary, sponsors, etc.
  • Document your understanding of the buying context, drive clarity and transparency.

Buyer-Seller Collaboration

  • Onboard the different stakeholders at the right time with the right context.
  • Personalize the engagement for each stakeholder based on their motivations and preferences.
  • Drive mutual accountability across both teams, especially during the last mile - paperwork and implementation.
Self-serve onboarding experience for the Buyer Role to get started fast

Buyer Enablement

  • Demonstrate your commitment to your primary buyers' success - share best practices and learnings from your other evaluations/deployments.
  • Provide the secondary buyer stakeholders with a pre-packaged set of materials that will get them going efficiently.
  • Educate all stakeholders on your business and proactively address their questions and concerns.

Buyer Data Platform

  • Understand the key stakeholders in a deal and their engagement over the buying cycle.
  • Analyze interaction patterns over multiple deals to deliver the best buying experience for each stakeholder.
  • Identify new buyer roles and buying priorities that emerge in your business, and get ahead of the game.

Brainstorm how you can elevate your Buyer Engagement strategy

Schedule a session now!


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