Decision Maker Analysis

Depending on the complexity of an issue, the decision to use a professional services firm may rest with several people in the prospective Client; there could be many 'buyers'. Although the ultimate user of the service may be a key buying influence, they may not be the budget holder. Generally there are multiple decision makers and hierarchical layers, so before proposing any solutions to the first contact made, it is clearly important to understand the Client's organisation and how it operates. It may be important to meet others, if possible, to scope the requirement in more detail and to uncover any possible hidden agendas.

In complex selling situations, the acronym DMU is often used when discussing multiple decision makers in Clients. DMU stands for Decision Making Unit and is a term used to describe the group of those people who make, or influence, purchasing decisions. It is important when planning meetings with Clients to assess the stances of the likely parties that will decide on future purchases. It is also important to consider who in the Client organisation might veto a solution, perhaps on technical, financial or even cultural grounds. The DMU is often located in different sites in a Client's organisation.

Analysing and Mapping the Client DMU

There are a number of ways of classifying 'buyers' in multiple decisionmaker situations. Suppose you are meeting a prospective Client and you encounter someone who is clearly a technical specifier; while they may spell out exactly what is required technically, they may not be the budget holder. Equally, you may have had a meeting with a department manager who is very keen on your proposed solution because it will make life easier for his team, but this manager tells you that they can only put forward your ideas and may not have much influence over the purchasing decision. It is possible that the buyer knows you well and recommends your firm to colleagues.

For more complex buying situations, it is important to identify those people with purchasing power and influence so that you can position your ideas accordingly. There are a number of tools and methods for classifying buyers used by practitioners in consultative selling which have developed over many years. The 'BACPOD' influencer's tool, attributed to my colleague

Summary of BACPOD Buying Influencers

Figure 2.1 Summary of BACPOD Buying Influencers

Source: Rob Fear, Marketing Improvements Group.

Rob Fear in Marketing Improvements Group, has proven effective with many years of use. This helps to analyse those people who make or influence the purchasing decision and is particularly applicable in highly strategic projects. Essentially the people in the buying structure are assigned 'roles' or 'hats' to distinguish their behaviour and responsibilities.

Many people with buying influence in the Client may wear more than one of these 'hats', so it is useful to prepare a matrix of people and the relevant 'BACPOD' factors. Being able to classify buying preferences and behaviours is often the key to winning a bid, yet many firms still rely on gut feelings rather than such analysis. The elements of the 'BACPOD' tool are explained in Figure 2.1 and an example of its use is shown in Table 2.5. In summary the acronym stands for: Blocker, Analyser, Coach, Policy maker, Operator and Deal maker.

Table 2.5. Using the BACPOD Tool

Using the BACPOD Tool

It is also useful to build up a relationship picture of contacts and their decision making power and influence - see 'Client Mapping' later on in this chapter.

The following case is an example of a missed opportunity where DMU analysis may have helped to avoid a poor outcome. This is based on a situation that occurred some years ago.


A large European banking group was interested in a cash management system allowing improved contact between bank tellers and Customers. It would enable removal of the glass security screen that was an obstacle to good face-to-face contact. It would replace the existing manual cash counting process and the computer system would automatically link to the cash withdrawal.

Local bank trials were well received and the IT department confirmed that it could organise the system changes required. Head office agreed in principle to a pilot of the changes.

The supplier then received notification that the project had failed to secure the required budget. The supplier decided to contact head office to determine why the proposal has been rejected. They were rather surprised at the decision since they had positive feedback from bank managers and their staff, the local IT departments and the finance head.

The supplier discovered that the bank's corporate marketing and facilities management people had not been involved in discussing the proposal. The proposed changes would mean that each bank would have to undergo a considerable and costly facelift. It would also require a communications programme to be created and implemented to raise awareness and benefits of the changes among the bank's Customers. Marketing and facilities teams were already in the process of upgrading the 'banking experience' and had already commissioned new designs prior to the new ideas being proposed.

If the proposed approach had included the head of corporate marketing and facilities at an early stage, it may have succeeded.

If a firm is about to suggest a solution to a Client's problem, it is important to ensure that the right people are involved in the Client's organisation. It clearly pays to map out, and meet where possible, the likely decision makers and influencers, especially within a complex organisation structure. Client mapping is a useful technique to inform decisions on who to target in an organisation.

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