Profile: User buyer

Earlier posts focused on understanding prospects, including the economic buyer and technical buyer. Today we’ll look at users, the third main buyer type.

User buyers are part of the evaluation team in any RFP for services. They represent individuals who will be directly impacted by your proposed solution. They know first-hand the lost weekends and career damage that result from poorly planned implementations, and that not all “improvements” actually make their lives better. As a result, they’re wary of change in general.

Appealing to the user buyer

User buyers will focus on your transition and their role in making your solution work. Anticipate and answer these questions:

  • Does the implementation plan make sense? Describe your transition plan, including a detailed schedule and milestones. User buyers will want to see pre-transition consultation and user training. Identify key members of your transition team and their experience. If you have a clean record of on-time, on-budget implementations, include details of similar projects with references.
  • Is your solution reliable and easy to use? Cite accepted measures of reliability and ease of use for your industry. Identify specific activities that will become easier using your solution—for example, form fields that auto fill as a result of file integration. If available, include survey results showing current user acceptance.
  • Are maintenance and support included and robust? User buyers will want to know how ongoing needs will be met. Is there a help desk providing a single point of contact? If the prospect is large, are you offering a dedicated account manager? Can you include a response time promise for emergency and non-emergency issues?
  • Is your solution safe? If relevant, explain your safety management plan. Include safety records for other sites, using standard measures, such as recordable injuries and lost-time accidents.
  • How do you propose to manage issues? Cite existing contracts with service level agreements similar to those required by the RFP. Provide case examples where you have successfully resolved issues that could have impacted a client’s employees and/or customers.
  • How will your solution affect morale? This is the subtext for all user buyer concerns. Will workload increase or decrease? Will customer issues be easier or harder to resolve? Will I face more or fewer upset customers? Allay these fears with case studies, survey results, etc. that cite specifics.

In every case avoid assurances unless you can prove you’re able to follow through. User buyers selected as evaluators are immune to empty promises.

What about non-services contracts?

Bidders on construction projects, for example, should adopt user buyer thinking when describing their approaches to governance and reporting, stakeholder communications, traffic management and similar requirements. In each case, evaluators will be asking: Will this plan make our lives easier by arming us with the information we’ll need and minimizing negative feedback from outside stakeholders?

How much clout do user buyers have?

User buyers usually have less formal status than other evaluators. Also, they tend to base conclusions on emotional and subjective factors, rather than hard facts. These factors can reduce their influence on evaluation outcomes, compared to technical buyers. On the other hand, user buyer issues are typically respected by other evaluators and help shape the consensus.

Win them over now

User buyers represent the front-line people who will implement and use your solution. For better or worse, they will have a large impact on its eventual success. Get them onside early by respecting their concerns in your proposal by including their issues when making strategy.

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