3 Common Pitfalls to the Buying Centre

Avoid surprises in the sales process

I am sure you already know about the Buying Centre, maybe you call it the Buying Group or Decision Making Unit and you may use different terminology to identify the people in it, but the principle remains the same. In a B2B sale there are several people, or groups of people, involved in making a purchase decision and you have to identify and communicate with them all. Note I said communicate, not talk to them.
That is a one common pitfall to the Buying Centre, but first let me clarify what we are talking about.

Identifying all Roles in the Buying Centre

Every Sales Methodology has its own terminology. These are the Roles that Infoteam uses in every complex B2B sale. The Roles are specific to the sales opportunity.

  • Endorser
  • Decider
  • User
  • Assessor
  • Coach

The Endorser

This is the most senior person in the customer organisation who is involved in the decision, maybe even the CEO. It can also be a committee. A yes from the Endorser is required before the organisation commits to the investment.

This is the first place some Sales People make a big mistake. If you insist on talking directly to the Endorser you are likely to alienate your supporters. It is much better to create a powerful business case along with communication tools that help your contacts sell internally to the Endorser.

The Decider

This is the person, again it might be a team, who decides which solution is submitted to the Endorser for approval. The Decider is responsible for project success.  You must have a good relationship with the Decider but always keep in mind they have to get their choice endorsed so you will need to give them the tools to sell internally.

There is always a risk that your solution will not be endorsed, not because it isn’t the best solution but because other projects are given priority. A good business case will be the best thing you can give your Decider in this scenario.

The User

Often ignored until it is too late, Users can help you to understand what is really needed and make a better case for your solution, or adapt your solution to deliver a better return. They definitely need to be on-board when you come to implement your solution. I have often seen organisations struggle to implement Sales Management Software that the Sales Team didn’t like only to abandon it a few months later because of poor uptake.

The Assessor

These tend to be experts inside or outside the customer organisation who are consulted about a particular aspect of your solution. They are important because they can say no and may well make recommendations if they like what they see, but this is where the second big pitfall lies.

Assessors cannot say ‘yes’ on their own. So don’t spend all your energy on them, even if they are very positive towards you. They are often the easiest people to get to speak to in the first place but often inflate their degree of influence. The longer you focus on them the more difficult it becomes to access the other roles.

One of my clients fell into the trap of focusing all efforts on an Assessor without understanding the rest of the Buying Centre. They were asked last May to pitch for part of a $1.4 billion dam construction project at short notice. In June they were told:  “Great of you to meet us today, look forward to a long and profitable relationship”. In July, having submitted a proposal, they were told everything was fine and just awaiting approval, in August they had to tell the customer the resources required for the job had to be redeployed but they didn’t hear until October that the contract had been awarded to a competitor. If they had effectively covered the Buying Centre they might of won the business and they certainly would not have had valuable resources on hold while they waited for a response.

The key to the Buying Centre – The Coach

This is the closest thing there is to a ‘secret of success’ in B2B selling. Identifying and developing a suitable Coach quickly.

Often the Coach is quite simply the difference between winning and losing.  Sometimes It takes a matter of weeks to earn her or his trust – and trust is the key.

So what can a Coach do for you? They are your guide around an organisation, someone who knows the real relationships between individuals and departments.  They can help you gain access to the Buying Centre and perhaps give you insights into what the competition are up to. Also, they can be invaluable as a sounding board when you are mapping out the Buying Centre.

Recruiting and developing a Coach

You have to be astute in selecting your Coach and use all your skills to grow them into a really useful asset. Don’t be misled by friendly people who cannot or don’t want to give you the information you need – that is pitfall #3.

A relationship of mutual respect and trust is what you need. All your personal skills will be required but here are a few pointers to help you earn that trust. Start by finding out as much as you can about the organisation and the industry they work in. Then you can ask questions based on existing knowledge to fully understand and, if necessary, challenge their needs.

Then you have to prove you are worthy of trust. That means always being responsive, reliable, respectful and honest. Which includes saying no if you cannot fulfil a need. To further build trust, always summarise meetings and contacts and feed back to them to show you have understood what they have said.

Coaches usually have a dual-role in the Buying Centre but they could be someone who is not involved in the decision but with whom you have a strong track record. An external consultant who typically plays the role of an Assessor can also be a Coach.

One of the things you are giving the Coach in exchange for their help is the chance to shine in their organisation. So let them talk about themselves, make them feel important and give them anything you can help them in their role. It is best if their role as Coach is not too obvious within their organisation.

Covering the Buying Centre professionally

To sum up, you start with an initial contact, demonstrate that you are worthy of trust and if suitable develop them into a Coach. Use the Coach to help you map the Buying Centre and get feedback on how best to deal with them. Give all the people in the Buying Centre what they need either directly or by giving your contacts the tools they need to effectively sell internally.

Ask yourself

  • Do you map out all Buying Center roles in complex sales?
  • Do you have the skills to develop Coaches quickly?
  • Which roles did you not cover in a recently lost sale?


Source: Phil Kreindler, Infoteam Sales Process Consulting AG

Professional customer meetings

Source: Infoteam Sales Process Consulting
Source: Infoteam Sales Process Consulting

When I ask a salesman what percentage of talking the customer should have, the answer is usually 70 %. But in reality,salespersons often talk so much themselves. First, they start with a boring company presentation and talk about solutions and their advantages before they understand the customer’s needs.

In my opinion, there are three reasons for this: insufficient time for preparation, too little control throughout the conversation and wrong questions.

What distinguishes a good first appointment?

The first goal is to create trust. Only then is the customer willing to answer your questions. Secondly, you get all the relevant information before you talk about solutions. And finally, you arrange access to other members of the Buying Center to get to know their needs before making an offer.

You won’t achieve such results by having a high proportion of your own talking and lots of power points.

The Appointment One Pager

To build trust and increase the outcome of a conversation, we recommend the Appointment One-Pager tool. It enables you to deepen your understanding of the customer and ask questions before you talk about solutions. You demonstrate your professional preparation and control the progress of the conversation.

Let me first talk about the structure of an Appointment One-Pager:

  1. Mutual presentation
  2. Validate your perception about the customer and potential needs
  3. Solution approaches and benefits with a case study
  4. Questions and answers
  5. Next steps

Here is an Info team example to illustrate this. This is a first appointment with the sales manager of a supplier in the mining industry.


Questions to validate and understand customer needs

The most important part of the conversation is asking good questions about potential challenges. To minimize the time and effort involved, we recommend that you create a database of good questions that only need to be adapted to a specific customer.

Content proposal:

  1. Function
  2. Potential challenges of this function
  3. Typical causes for each challenge
  4. Questions to deepen your understanding
  5. Description of your approach
  6. Benefit for the customer (illustrated by an example)


Below is an example of a database entry for Infoteam:

1) Function: sales manager

2) Potential challenges: Large, expected deals are not realized

3) Typical cause: lack of relationship with the real decision-makers

4) Questions to deepen your understanding:

  • How often do you lose business because you lack access to key decision-makers?
  • How does this affect the reliability of your forecasts?
  • How many sales are lost in this way?
  • If you could reduce this problem by 25%, by how much would your sales increase?
  • How would this affect net profit?

5) Solution approach: Opportunity Roadmap and Deal Pit-Stops

6) Benefits: Considerable profit increase!

Other potential challenges for a sales manager are avoiding ‘dead horses’ and reducing mistakes in the recruitment of new employees. Of course, the entries in our question database for other roles, e.g. personnel manager, look different. The challenges of a sales manager in the IT industry are different from those in the food industry. Therefore, your database should be developed function- and branch-specific.

The development of a database of good questions is a valuable investment. It considerably shortens the preparation of good sales talks. Also, in the conversation itself, the customer takes a much higher share of the conversation.

Questions you should ask yourself

  • Do you plan enough time for the preparation of customer meetings?
  • Do you often get into your car with the feeling that you have talked too much?
  • Would well-prepared questions help you to do your sales job better?


Source: Infoteam Sales Process Consulting AG

Best Practice B2B Customer Meeting Online (Part 1)

Photo by Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash

Not only schools are turning to the possibility to reach their students and conversation partners online.

This may also be a good time for sales staff to start online meetings.

I myself have organized and led hundreds of hours of online meetings. Online meetings are not only useful for initiating conversations and getting to know each other for the first time, but you can also use them to close sales.

In this blog, I would like to share my experience with you regarding the technique and structure of an online meeting. So, it is not a comparison or a blog to help you choose the right technique and products.


  • There are several free products on the market
  • Better headset than microphone and speaker
  • No bright light in the background
  • Agenda and discussion discipline help enormously
  • Test everything first and connect 5 minutes before



I work with ZOOM. In 99 out of 100 cases, my conversation partner successfully joins the online meeting. The person I invite does not need to log in to Zoom and the installation works even without administrator rights.

In addition, Zoom also offers the possibility to join the online meeting via a telephone number. But this option does not allow video. Other free platforms are: Google Hangouts, UberConference, TrueConf Online, Skype, FreeConference, Appear.in, Slack Video Calls, Facebook Live or YouTube Live.



I always use the camera on my iMac. But the sound is more important than the images. Even long-time “video conferencers” still often work without a headset. This is usually quite uncomfortable for the other person (my feeling). Much better sound is produced when using a headset (headphones with a microphone). My recommendation: Always use a headset.



Cameras have great difficulty with a bright background. The person in the foreground then becomes very dark. So, if a window in the background cannot be avoided, then at least lower the shutters. A white wall is better. Some programs can even show a very realistic background in their own video. For home offices, make sure that no personal things are visible in the background.



A video meeting is definitely different from a physical meeting, that’s for sure. However, it also means that some discipline must be maintained when speaking and commenting.

A clear agenda in advance helps to maintain this discipline. While someone is speaking, it is best to be quiet or even switch off the microphone temporarily, especially at larger conferences.



Always dial in 5 minutes before. If you are not yet an experienced “video-conferencer”, make sure you have a ” final rehearsal” with a colleague to make sure you can hear and be heard as well.

Best Practice B2B-Kunden-Meeting Online (Part 2)

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash


Not only schools are turning to the possibility of reaching their students and conversation partners online.

This may also be a good time for sales staff to start online meetings.

Personally, I have organized and led hundreds of hours of online meetings. Online meetings are not only useful for initiating conversations and getting to know each other for the first time, but you can also use them to close sales.

In this blog, I would like to share my experience on how to appear in front of the camera. I published a post about the technique and structure of an online meeting last week (Part 1).



Most of us do not like to see or hear each other. This is a big hurdle to appear natural. I’ve heard this happens even to seasoned actors. So don’t worry about it. This is not getting any better.

What helps is to make friends with your own picture but most of all with the camera. “Befriend” can be taken quite literally. Imagine that behind the little black lens there is a friend who listens to you. In this way, you will get a different, more natural appearance.

It also helps to produce a 1-minute video every day, just for yourself and for practice.



The camera increases the magnification of objects in the foreground and reduces objects in the background.

Make sure that you keep a suitable distance from the camera:

– A small strip remains free above the head

– The torso is visible

– Do not move your hands into the camera (high magnification)

– Sit up straight and lean forward slightly

If you take these points to heart, you will have better visibility in front of the camera.



Whether online or onsite. It’s a customer meeting. So choose the clothes as if you would visit the customer on-site. Wear clothes that are appropriate for your industry on the visible part of your body.

You can of course “save” your underwear online. So you could also leave your pyjama bottoms on if you have a business shirt on top (if the business shirt is common in your industry). However, I do not recommend this, because it is usually detrimental to your inner posture. I also recommend that you ” get dressed” for your home office in the morning to “polish” yourself for work”.



The energy level tends to be lower in home offices. However, the energy level is crucial for a convincing appearance in front of the camera. So, do exercises before the video meeting which increase your energy. Also, do exercises for your voice. Your voice may be “rusty” if you have not spoken for a few hours.

I always do a “7 minutes power up” of Julie Hansen, consultant, speaker, author and former actress.

Write to me and I will be happy to send you a PDF with the “7 Minutes Power Up”.

Negotiating in B2B sales, escalation or factual level?

Yesterday, I had a presentation of an offer at a global manufacturer of electrical appliances based in Bern (Switzerland). At the table, I had the CEO and the sales manager. When I got to the topic “Negotiations in B2B”, the CEO asked me what I would do with a “super aggressive buyer” of a retail chain who wants an unrealistic discount under all circumstances, which would bring my sales price to him below my production costs. I would go for it. “The buyer,” the CEO said metaphorically, “takes out the hammer and hits me (the salesman) over the head with it. What do you do with a buyer like that, Mr. Maugeri?”

I started with “win-win” and preparation for negotiations. “The salesperson has to prepare and set goals and try to find out the motives for the buyer’s behaviour and has to try to stay on the factual level”, I said, ” making tough fronts won’t get us anywhere”. “The last resort is of course also available: To break off the negotiation in a friendly and reasonable manner and leave the meeting”, I said.

He found that much too “soft”.

“Returning to the same level, a verbal fist in the face”, the CEO told me, “is the only thing that helps in such a case”.

From my point of view, emotions should be left out of a business negotiation, which of course never succeeds 100%, and one should always try to stay on the factual level. This can be achieved through good preparation and the ability to put yourself in the position of the other party.

What do you benefit from our services?

picture by Infoteam Sales Process Consulting

Last week I had an interesting chat about LinkedIn.

I am currently developing a new training module for the acquisition of new key customers or for the acquisition of new projects within existing key customers and key customers based on Design Thinking.

To make it relevant for my target group, I am currently contacting sales managers for a short 10-minute interview.

One person has answered my interview request as follows (quote):

Dear Mr Maugeri-de Graaff, thank you for your question. I’m happy to cooperate. Following conditions (please confirm if OK):

– 10 min conference call without preparation CHF 160

– 10 minutes conference call with preparation CHF 200

– One-hour Skype meeting exclusively for you CHF 300

Since I am fully booked about 3 weeks in advance, please register in time.

Best regards, XXXX


Since it was the first time someone requested money for an interview, I wanted to know a little more about what the performance and benefits that would be behind my investment. Because apparently, my potential interview partner had identified me as a potential customer.

Yes, please. What does this contribute to my success or what can you guarantee?

Depends on what you want to know. I can guarantee nothing but to answer the questions honestly and openly. Email xxxx.xxxx@abc.xy

This is a classic case of failure to clarify needs and interest in a customer. I often observe this behaviour in my practice as a B2B Sales Accelerator. Sales employees first send a standard offer and only ask themselves afterwards about the usefulness of their services and products. Or they leave it up to the potential customer to imagine or imagine a benefit.


Does this procedure bring more success or faster success?

Does the customer feel picked up?

Would this company be perceived as customer-centric?

Design Thinking in B2B Sales

Design Thinking in Business Sales (B2B Sales)
Participants in the workshop Design Thinking in Business Customer Sales (B2B Sales)

This week, I was with the sales team of Heizmann AG in the first pilot workshop “WINNING KEY CUSTOMERS” following the methods of DESIGN THINKING: “Directly applicable in everyday sales” or “good structure for my sales work” were two of the feedbacks. The workshop provided the participants with a visual method to approach potential customers, create added value and thus win new customers. Companies that do not regularly win new customers will not survive the next crisis in good shape. The Heizmann company takes precautions and makes itself fit for the future in good times. Using the latest methods. This is what I call #Leadership in sales.

Dealing with values and corporate mission statements

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Comment on the article by Christian Fichter, a columnist in the Tagesanzeiger.

Article “Spare us your banal company mission statements!” from 01.04.2019

The author of the TA article “Spare us your banal corporate mission statements” addresses the value attitude of employees. Flanders such as “customer orientation” are empty statements and do not help employees in their everyday lives, says author Christian Fichter. Compliance with corporate values must be monitored, and disregarding them must have consequences, he says.

My commentary on this article looks at how sales departments deal with these values and the statement that more control is needed.

20 years of business customer sales prove: Top salespersons are often not controlled; they are allowed to work as long as they bring “good figures”. That can go well, no problem. But as a CEO or sales manager, I would not rely on that. If things don’t go well, the “corpses” of this salesman only come to light years later and can then be a huge mortgage for the company. That’s why I always give companies a uniform method of selling. This puts the value of “customer orientation” into concrete terms and makes the salesman’s approach comprehensible and replicable. This has various advantages:

  1. Supervisors can discuss the Top salesman’s business activities on an objective level
  2. The organization learns from the best
  3. The salesman is not only “controlled”, but also supported in making the sales opportunities “stronger” in cooperation with his or her superior
  4. If the salesperson leaves the company, his chances of selling are not lost

More on that here.

30%* discount for women

30%* discount for women on all training and coaching sessions in March. This is my contribution to more women in business customer sales.

Today, 8 March on International Women’s Day, I read, heard and received a lot about the lack of equal opportunities for women. There are too few women in politics, on management boards and in other management positions. I cannot change that today and now. But I can help women in a sales management or in Account and Key Account positions to be more successful.

* This is only valid for women and for orders placed until 31 March 2019.