The Decision Making Unit in B2B: A New Perspective

The Decision Making Unit in B2B: A New Perspective
Updated date:
Apr 18, 2022

Table of Contents

Group buying has become the standard in the B2B industry; therefore, it is advisable to look at the influence, perception, and roles of the members of a decision making unit in B2B. A DMU or Decision Making Unit is a small group of people who influence a particular purchase or decision process. 

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What is the decision making unit of a buying organization?

The decision-making unit, or DMU, is defined by Philip Kotler as “all individuals and groups that participate in the decision-making process relating to the negotiation of products and services.”

The DMU is a group of people who make collective purchasing decisions for goods and services. Philip Kotler has defined six roles, and he has indicated that one person can play multiple roles:

What is a Decision Making Unit in B2B marketing?

A more complex decision-making unit is likely to exist in a typical B2B purchase of any significance. Simply put, we need to communicate more details to more people, each of whom may have different information specifications. 

On the other hand, the decision-making process and units in the B2C environment are typically quite simple, consisting of an individual, a couple, or a family unit. At its most basic, the decision-maker in a B2B environment will need to justify their decision to superiors or subordinates. 

Aside from this, there may be several other stakeholders in the B2B landscape to consider procurement departments and group purchasing policies in larger organizations.

As a result, B2B marketers must navigate a complex communication landscape because decision-making may involve dozens of employees with diverse backgrounds. Understanding an organization's DMU or Decision Making Unit is critical to focus on the person who signs the check and the end-users of the products and services. 

Recognize who is influencing whom, when, how, and why. Seek out a collaborative conversation that brings to light the customer's pain points. This can provide you with an opportunity to present your company and your products as the cure to their problems.

When you identify the roles of each member, you will know how to approach the best. Sustainable networking is the key. You still want to engage each one of them.

The concept of targeting only one decision-maker is not practical anymore. Because the thing today is group buying. And buying gets more complicated, diverse, and democratic these days. 

How many decision-makers are there in B2B?

The Decision-Making Unit (DMU) is constantly changing and is rarely stable. Conflicts of interest may also play a significant role, or the addition of another person may make the decision-making process unpredictable.

In today's B2B industry, the DMU is as follows:

1. Users

These are the people who will work with the purchased goods or services and exert influence on the specifications. Both customers and employees may take on this role.

2. Initiators

The initiator is the player who recognizes a problem and tries to find a solution for this problem. This is the most crucial person in the decision-making unit or DMU.

3. The Gatekeepers

One of the best pieces of advice you'll ever get and wise to heed is never to work around the gatekeepers. It may be tempting to call the decision-maker when the assistant is not there. But remember, gatekeepers are often valued and trusted employees. 

It is vital to work with them and have them vouch for you with the decision-maker to build trust. It is not healthy to offend or antagonize the gatekeepers. They are there for a reason. Engage them instead of going above, below, or behind their back.

4. The Blockers

The blockers wield considerable powers as the primary contact and source of information. They will answer your calls and letters as the main point of contact. But then they stop answering your calls, your emails unopened…they fade away! 

The deal has stalled or halted or (forbid!) end. You've been ghosted! That's the specialty and one of the powers of the blockers. You can prevent this from happening by engaging the blockers and turning them over to your side. Make the blockers your insider, way, and weapon to get to the decision-maker.

5. The Influencers

The influencers are usually the ones who do the research and find solutions. They may not have the budget or authority to make the final decision, but they have the ear of the decision-maker. They have a considerable impact on the outcome.

You will do well to have them on your side making the sales pitch for your products and services. Indeed, in most organizations, there is only one Decision Maker. 

But he bases his decisions on the recommendations of the influencers. So, adapt your sales approach to please the needs of the influencers. This will ensure an agreeable outcome and a positive result. Again remember, a sustainable business network is a critical element. 

6. The Economic Decision Maker

The economic decision-maker is the one who pulls the trigger, no question about that. But, these days, decision-making is more disaggregated and consensus-driven. Often the decision-maker delegates the process of researching solutions to influencers until it's further along. He has his trusted gatekeepers and blockers. He asks, values, and considers the suggestions of the DMU before he inks the check.

Example of a B2B decision-making process

Example 1: 

Let's say Ana works in a small company's IT department. She determines that the company must purchase a new computer for the new IT administration staff (Joshua). She then discusses this with her line manager, Ben, responsible for making purchasing decisions. Ben agreed, purchased a new computer, and gave Joshua the computer to use. Ana is the initiator in this scenario, Ben is the decider and buyer, and Joshua is the user.

Example 2:

The employees of Aragon Company have been experiencing internal communication problems. Joyce, the COO, asked the employees about the root cause. They agreed that they needed a management tool for their tasks and projects. Joyce then asked Yvette, the head of the IT department, to research which product would best suit their needs. Yvette gets assistance from the rest of her team in researching effective solutions. Ada was assigned to screen the return calls as they inquired from various companies. 

As everyone narrowed down their prospects, they decided on a few they thought were the best options and Darlene was in charge of filtering them out and reporting to the CEO which three were the best. The CEO then decides to make a purchase.

In this scenario, the user is the entire Aragon company. The initiator is Yvette. Ada is the blocker. Darlene is the gatekeeper, and the rest of the IT team are the influencers. And the economic decision-maker is, of course, the CEO.

As mentioned above, the B2B buying center is not fixed (Kotler & Armstrong, 2009). Different people don't need to play different roles in an organization. A single person can play multiple roles. Similarly, it may require more than five or six people at times. 

Moreover, the number of people involved in business decision-making has recently increased from an average of 5.4 to 6.8. The size of a buying center is determined by the product or service and the purchasing situation.

Eight Stages of the B2B buying process

1. A requirement has been identified. 

Someone notices that the organization needs to purchase a product or service. This stage is frequently driven by users, though others can play the role of initiator. 

2. Describing and quantifying the needs. 

Following that, the DMU, or group of people brought together to assist in the purchase decision, works to establish parameters for purchasing requirements. They describe what they believe is required, the features they have to include, how much the requirements are, where, etc. 

The buyer will define the technical specifications for more specialized or complex products. Will an off-the-shelf product suffice, or will it need to be customized?

3. Potential suppliers are being sought. 

At this point, those involved in the purchasing process seek information about the products they want and the vendors who can provide them. Most buyers look for vendors and products online first, then attend industry trade shows and conventions and call or email the suppliers with whom they have relationships.

Buyers may also consult trade magazines, industry experts' blogs and possibly attend Webinars or visit vendors' facilities. When it comes to determining which vendors are the most qualified, purchasing agents frequently play an essential role. 

They make sure they find good answers to questions like the following:

  • Are they dependable and financially secure? 
  • Will they still exist in the future? 
  • Do they have to be close to the organization? Or can they be in another part of the country or another country? 

Vendors who do not cut are quickly removed from the list.

4. Qualified suppliers must respond to requests for proposals (RFPs). 

Each selected vendor receives a request for proposal (RFP) to submit a bid to provide the good or service. An RFP specifies what the vendor can provide in terms of product specs, pricing, delivery, after-sales services, whether it can be customized or returned, and, in some cases, disposal. 

In RFPs, exemplary sales and marketing professionals do more than just provide basic information to potential buyers. They concentrate on the buyer's problems and tailor their offers to address those problems.

Vendors formally present their products to those involved in purchasing decisions. If the product is physical, the vendor will usually give the buyer samples, which the buyers inspect and test. 

5. The proposals are evaluated, and a supplier (or suppliers) is chosen. 

RFPs evaluations are best when all members agree on their assessment criteria and importance. Depending on their needs and the products they buy, different organizations will weigh other parts of a proposal differently. 

Other organizations may be more concerned with high-quality goods and the service provided by a seller. Considerations include product availability and the dependability with which vendors can supply them. 

6. Justifying the decision. 

Once the core decision-making unit has decided, it must justify it to senior decision-makers. This may entail requesting references from the vendor and delivering a presentation to senior management to gain their support.

7. Establishing the routine for placing orders. 

This is the stage at which the actual order is assembled. The order specifies the agreed-upon price, quantity, expected delivery date, return policies, warranties, and other negotiation terms.

The order can be placed on paper, online, or electronically from the buyer's computer system to the seller's computer system. It may be a one-time order or a series of regular orders as a company requires a good or service. 

Some buyers order products continuously by having their vendors electronically monitor their inventory and ship replacement items as needed.

8. A post-purchase evaluation is carried out, and the results are provided to the vendor. 

Businesses, like consumers, go through an evaluation period after purchasing goods and services. The purchasing unit may survey product users to determine how satisfied they are with it. 

Some buyers establish on-time performance, quality, customer satisfaction, and other measures for their vendors to meet. They then regularly provide that information to those vendors, such as trend reports showing whether their performance is improving, staying the same, or worsening. 

The Final Note

Everyone has a role to play. So make sure you gather valuable perspective as you build your brand in your target market. In short, don't disregard; instead, seek always to collaborate. 

To close a deal, it is necessary to know more about where you are right now and where you are trying to go. And all the stages in between. It is a challenge for most salespeople to gather intelligence on their prospective clients. It is not easy to spotlight the identities of those elusive decision-makers. 

The best resource for these is those you may have been trying your best to avoid. So change course, change your perspective. Don't choose between, instead embrace all. We hope that now you have a better understanding of the decision making unit in the B2B industry.

Indeed, it is a powerful marketing management tool that can guide you to reach the right people and hit your goals!

Need more help? Please don’t hesitate to contact AI-Bees. Our team of award-winning experts is just on the other side of the line, all willing to help you.

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