Profile: Economic buyer

Past posts have stressed the need to think deeper than the RFP language if you want to win large contracts. Part of this is understanding the buying process and those who will influence the purchase decision.

This post profiles the economic buyer, the ultimate decision maker in complex sales. Only he or she can say yes—although technical buyers and user buyers may also influence the decision.

About the economic buyer

The economic buyer, often referred to as “the one who writes the cheque,” is typically a senior executive, often an owner or business unit leader. This individual typically focuses on value for money and is willing to make trade-offs to get the best deal. The economic buyer relies on recommendations from the other buyer types, but bears ultimate responsibility for the purchase. Often he or she gets involved late, after compliance and major technical thresholds have been satisfied.

So how do you appeal to the economic buyer for your proposal?

Show strategic fit and economic value

Economic buyers come closest to representing the strategic needs of the prospect. Get buy-in from these buyers by arguing that your solution:

  • Aligns with the purchaser’s vision and strategy: Connect the immediate purchase to the buyer’s corporate vision and/or strategy, based on first-hand conversation, the company website, annual report, or public remarks.
  • Achieves business goals: Cite specific goals from your sales conversations or other sources and show how your solution will achieve them.
  • Fits the budget: Show the cost of your solution is within the budget range for the required features and performance
  • Offers business improvements: Demonstrate how you will improve productivity, growth, competitiveness and/or profitability

If you offer the most price-competitive solution, stress that it fulfills all requirements at the lowest cost. If your price is higher, use a lifetime costs model to show how your extended warranty, higher performance, ease of use, lower maintenance and/or other factors justify the higher initial cost. Economic buyers will consider cash flow as well as accrual impacts, so use both in your arguments. Because the economic buyer is likely to spend little time with your proposal, make bite-sized arguments in section summaries, captions and call outs.

Don’t leave it to the evaluators to figure out your price competitiveness. If you can do so within the rules, ghost your competition—even in proposals that do not include prices, or where pricing is evaluated separately.

Hot button issues

Because of the power economic buyers have, prioritize discovering and addressing their key issues in your sales discovery.

When preparing an unsolicited proposal, check out the economic buyer’s online presence (LinkedIn, public remarks) for possible sources of information on his or her hot buttons.

Do economic buyers even read proposals?

Depending on the individual and the situation, the economic buyer may be highly involved—or a rubber stamp.

Business owners are almost certain to be involved and may also be the main technical buyer. In large public organizations, the final sign-off may be a formality—especially for small contracts with limited impact on the organization. In some cases, a committee will make the decision.

But that doesn’t mean you can skip the economic buyer arguments. When making its recommendation, the evaluation team will still want to position a solution as the best combination of cost and value–especially if they are not recommending the lowest priced solution.

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