buying center

In contrast to retail markets, purchasing decisions in corporate customer markets are usually made with the participation of several people – the buying center of a company.

The term ‘buying center’ refers to the totality of persons or groups involved in an organizational buying decision. Usually, a buying center is not organizationally anchored as an independent department within the company – it is a mental concept for locating relevant actors for the purchase decision.

The members of the buying center take on different roles. One person can play several roles at the same time or several people can play the same role simultaneously. In general, the following five roles in a buying center can be distinguished:

  • User: The product to be procured is used by the user. In many cases, the initiative to purchase the product/service comes from the user.
  • Buyer: The buyer has the formal authority to prepare purchase contracts from a commercial and legal point of view and to select the supplier.
  • Influencers: Influencers are usually experts who possess special information in their role as opinion leaders. They often define specifications and compile information.
  • Gatekeepers: The gatekeepers carry out a pre-structuring and reduce alternatives. They may select the suppliers that receive the opportunity to give a personal presentation. This role is often performed by assistants to the relevant decision-maker.
  • Decision-makers: Due to their position, decision-makers have the (legal) authority to make the final purchase decision.

The sales success depends largely on whether the decision-making structures and the demands of the various parties in the buying center are understood and adequately considered. Sales-related customer processing activities often place a too strong focus on the buyer. However, the formalization, procurement criteria, composition, roles, power structures as well as individual perceptions and benefit generation of the other members need to be considered when analyzing the buying center.