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Participants in the Business Buying Process

Who buys the trillions of dollars’ worth of goods and services needed by business organizations? Purchasing agents are influential in straight-rebuy and modified-rebuy situations, whereas other employees are more influential in new-buy situations. Engineers are usually influential in selecting product components, and purchasing agents dominate in selecting suppliers.48

The Buying Center

Webster and Wind call the decision-making unit of a buying organization the buying center. It consists of “all those individuals and groups who participate in the purchasing decisionmaking process, who share some common goals and the risks arising from the decisions.”49 The buying center includes all organizational members who play any of these roles in the purchase decision process.

  • 1. Initiators—Users or others in the organization who request that something be purchased.
  • 2. Users—Those who will use the product or service. In many cases, the users initiate the buying proposal and help define the product requirements.
  • 3. Influencers—People who influence the buying decision, often by helping define specifications and providing information for evaluating alternatives.
  • 4. Deciders—People who decide on product requirements or on suppliers.
  • 5. Approvers—People who authorize the proposed actions of deciders or buyers.
  • 6. Buyers—People who have formal authority to select the supplier and arrange the purchase terms. Buyers may help shape product specifications, but they play their major role in selecting vendors and negotiating. In more complex purchases, buyers might include high-level managers.
  • 7. Gatekeepers—People such as purchasing agents and receptionists who have the power to prevent sellers or information from reaching members of the buying center.

Several people can occupy a given role such as user or influencer, and one person may play multiple roles.50 A purchasing manager, for example, is often buyer, influencer, and gatekeeper simultaneously, deciding which sales reps can call on others in the organization, what budget and other constraints to place on the purchase, and which firm will actually get the business.

 
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