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Start-up Sales: Understanding Different Buyer Roles

There are broadly five ‘roles’ people play in the buying process. In start-up sales, you need to understand the different buyer roles. The roles defined here are not necessarily part of their job title, rather it’s the role they play in the potential purchase of your solution.

It is imperative that you try to apply a role to each contact early on in any relationship. If a contact does not make it clear what role they plan, discover this by asking straightforward questions where and when appropriate.

User (U)

These people are users of the system you are proposing. They tend to play the role of a superuser – or representatives of the broader users of any proposed new system. In your context, they may be in senior administration or operational roles.

  • These people are likely to be occupied with the impact any system will have on their organisation and its employees (their colleagues).
  • They will focus on the functionality and benefits of the system it provides.
  • They are likely to be concerned with the transition/migration process.
  • Provide these people with confirmation that your software works well and the migration is easy and fruitful for users.

Start-up Sales: Different Buyer Roles Need To Be Understood

Technical (T)

These actors are involved in the purchase or management of IT in your prospect. They will have IT knowledge and skills and will be familiar with the implementation and impact of a new IT system.  These people are likely to be in a dedicated IT team or have an IT role within a finance team.

  • Fully technical staff will be focused on the technical aspect of your solution, they will expect and seek technical information about your product.
  • Often, they may fill the role of a recommender of a solution, but they will play a central role in any IT procurement.
  • They will be focused on the performance of your software application, and the ongoing system administration they will have to deal with.
  • Try not to under/overstate the technology involved in your solution.
  • Provide and offer as much technical information as they want.     

Gateway (G)

These people are largely neutral in their role with any purchase project, but act as a gateway to your firm to gain access to other people in the organisation.

  • You may have to groom someone to act in this role for you over time.
  • Always keep in contact with them, and thank them for any help they provide, however small.
  • These people can also act as a gateway to other client prospects in their sector.

Purchaser (P)

These contacts are primarily focused on the procurement activity – the administration of the purchase being made. They may be full-time purchasing staff or carry out the procurement activity within an organisation

  • Their role is to ensure ‘the purchase’ the organisation is making is dealt with correctly and in line with their organisational procedures.
  • They tend to be found in or associated with the finance function.
  • Make sure you comply with any requirements and requests made. Contractual terms will need to be clear and apparent to them.
  • A supplier who cannot comply with the procurement process (i.e. providing a quote or proposal) , will not be regarded as a potential ‘good supplier’.

External (E)

Often if a purchase of a new IT system, for example, is regarded as strategic, or it is deemed that the required know-how is not held within an organisation, an external advisor or project manager may be engaged.

  • As external to the organisation they will not act like a typical employee. They may communicate and express themselves in a more open manner than an employee.
  • Try to determine their motivation/aims in the project. Are they promoting an alternative supplier? Do they have an interest in a procurement project continuing further, as they are paid daily?
  • If they are ‘on side’ with your solution, could they act as a promoter of your solution in the future to other prospects?

Always approach these actors with more caution, and do not show all your cards unless you are 100% sure they can be trusted.


  1. Take a look at your current opportunities and the contacts you have.
  2. What role does each person you are in contact with play?
  3. How will this affect your future communication and behaviour with your current prospect list?

If you are a business struggling with sales get in touch and see how we can help.

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