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  • Writer's pictureNadav Efraty

Chapter 9 - The Economic Buyer

The Economic Buyer, sometimes referred to as the Executive Buyer or the Decision Maker is typically a VP, Executive or sometimes a director level manager who:

  1. Has authority and responsibility related to the strategic objectives and impact that could be generated by the seller’s offering.

  2. Has access to budget or to discretionary funds that aren’t budgeted.

  3. Required to sign on for approval.

  4. Has the theoretical power to push a project forward even if everyone else objects.

To make this short – the Economic Buyer is the one person that the champion must convince in order to get the buying decision approved. 

Many stakeholders would typically claim to be the decision makers and will claim to have veto power, which to some extent may be the case in group decisions where everyone could veto anything. However, even in group decisions there is that manager or a small subset of the stakeholders group that could simply bring the budget and get the deal done if they are so inclined. Hence, when someone claims to be the decision maker, the seller’s next question should be – “so you could sign on the purchase order right now if you are inclined, or is there anyone else whose signature is required?”. In most situations, the stakeholder will explain that other people are required to formally approve the decision, and those are the potential Economic Buyers.

The Economic Buyer is the one person that the champion must convince in order to get the buying decision approved.

Everything we do in the earlier stages of the sales process is designed to bring us prepared for the meeting with the Economic Buyer which is a significant milestone in the sales process. The required achievement is to leave the meeting with the economic buyer validating several main areas:

  1. The Economic Buyer understands the pains, their strategic implications and business impact, and confirms that solving those pains is at or very close to the top of the priority list of the organization. 

  2. The Economic Buyer validates everything that the seller learned from the champion and stakeholders about the decision process and timeline, the decision criteria, the budget approval status etc.

  3. If there is a POV, the Economic Buyer should approve the POV objectives, timeline and success criteria, and validate the process following the completion of the POV.

Note that at this stage, the sellers should not be focused on pitching to the Economic Buyer – The champion should have already done the work of aligning the stakeholders, so during the meeting, the seller should let the champion and stakeholders own the presentation as much as possible from the inside, rather than the seller presenting it from the outside. 

It is highly recommended that an executive sponsor from the seller’s  side would attend every Economic Buyer meeting. First, the Economic Buyer is typically a senior leader, and the seller should match with senior representation from the seller side. More importantly, the Economic Buyer meeting is the opportunity to ask the Economic Buyer pains and priorities and to validate the real status of the deal, without the mediation of the champion and seller that are both highly motivated to focus on the bright side and not on the challenges.  

Note that while the Economic Buyer meeting is a critical milestone in the sales process to which the seller and champion must come fully prepared in order to pave the way to the buying approval, it is recommended to try to get this meeting as early as possible – it will drive urgency on both the seller and buyer side, and will give a very strong indication about the effectiveness of the champion, the priorities of the buying organization and the validated buying process. It will also save months of internal discussions and discussions between the seller and champion that may all be futile without the support of the Economic Buyer, so while it is critical to come prepared, the Economic Buyer meeting should not be delayed to the latest stages of the sales process. With a process of 5 or 6 stages, the Economic Buyer meeting should be on stage 3.

Because of the prominence of this meeting and the direct access to the actual decision maker, it is not untypical to have champions that are slow or reluctant to give the seller access to the Economic Buyer. Given that one of the most fundamental properties of a champion is giving access to the Economic Buyer, those who refuse to do so cannot be seen as champions. In such scenarios, the seller does not have the direct validation from the Economic Buyer and does not have a qualified champion, which means that this opportunity has major weaknesses and should not be forecasted as any more than pipeline, even if that failed champion and the seller are highly optimistic about it.

The Economic Buyer meeting should bring the main discovery journey to its conclusion, at which point the pains, implications, impact and priorities of the stakeholders and Economic Buyer as well as the needed capabilities and offerings should be aligned and validated. Buyers often ask for proposals at various stages of the sale process. It is fine to share budgetary ranges for mutual qualifications early at the sales process in order to avoid surprises at the end, but that ranges should be wide. When buyers get the final, detailed proposal, the seller is often sent to a holding pattern with very little leverage while the real battle happens behind the scenes. Sellers should push back on requests for a firm proposal saying that there’s no point getting into the specs and final pricing before the pains, needs and constraints of all stakeholders are addressed and accounted for, a process which ends at the Economic Buyer meeting.

Buying with laptop

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