4 Types of Professional Buyers

A businessman and a businesswoman shaking hands to close a deal
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If you sell B2B, you probably deal with a lot of professional buyers. Buyers are responsible for finding materials for their companies, and they can literally lose their jobs if they make a bad deal – so they take purchasing very seriously. Experienced buyers know more about sales than many salespeople. Using sales tricks and manipulation tactics on a professional buyer is usually a bad idea, as they'll spot these tactics immediately and won't be happy. Instead, the best way to sell to a professional is to figure out what motivates them and then supply it. Different types of buyers tend to be motivated by different drives and goals, so being able to spot each type early in the sales process is crucial.

The Number-Cruncher

These buyers are driven by facts and figures. Their goal is to collect information and use it to build a model of the market as it stands. Then they will use that model to acquire the best possible product at the best possible price. Facts collected during the purchasing process will be used as ammunition, later on, to soften up the salesperson and get a better deal.

Number-crunchers are usually quiet and unemotional during the early stages of the sales process. They rarely offer objections, knowing that silence usually causes salespeople to talk more (and possibly spill details that she can use later). Because number-crunchers live and die by analysis, they tend to take a long time to come to a decision and will almost never be willing to close during the first (or even second) appointment. They often have a background in finance or business studies.​​

The good news about this type of buyer is that if you have the facts on your side and can prove ways in which your product is a better value, you will have no trouble closing a deal. Provide lots of provable details and numbers showing your points. Testimonials, references and customer stories are extremely helpful because they back up what you've told her.

The Intimidator

Intimidators use their position to bludgeon a good deal out of the salesperson. This is the buyer who will shout down, threaten or otherwise show open hostility during a presentation. His goal is to get the best possible price by whatever means necessary. In a way, this buyer is a mirror image of the stereotypical salesperson who uses manipulation and deceit to get the sale, and he may, in fact, believe that this is how all salespeople operate – hence his attitude. Intimidators rarely have a strong background in purchasing and usually slid into a buying role by chance because “the job was there.”

An intimidator is best handled by giving him the illusion of control. He wants to feel powerful, so let him. Plan on offering some kind of price deal or throwing in a special offer, as intimidators are insulted by the notion of paying full price for anything. Also be aware that because intimidators are very price-focused, the product they choose might not be the one that is best for the end users – so you may end up with a canceled sale once someone actually starts using the product. The good news is that a buyer who is completely out of touch with the company's needs probably won't last long in that position.

The Engineer

Buyers who come from a technical or R&D background are usually more interested in how a product works than in anything else. They will focus heavily on technical details and product features and are very by-the-book buyers. Like number-crunchers, an engineer is a very fact-oriented buyer, but her focus is more on how the product works than on what it does.

Engineers will respect salespeople who understand the technical details of their products and will be an easy sell for salespeople who also have technical backgrounds. In fact, once the engineer decides that a salesperson knows what he's talking about, she will take everything he says at face value and will assume that the offered price is a good one. She probably has an excellent relationship with the product's end users and her main goal is meeting their needs. Salespeople dealing with an engineer should feed her hunger for technical details with spec sheets, white papers, and so on. A tour of your factory or engineering department will also make her very happy.

The Talker

Talkers believe that they know everything there is to know about the market, and they relish sharing that knowledge. They often have a strong commercial background and are not stupid people, just convinced that they are smarter than everyone else. A talker is easily recognized by the fact that he will take over a meeting and go on and on, sharing facts and stories while hardly letting you get a word in. This can make them challenging to pitch, but the good news is that if you listen you can usually pick up all the clues you need to identify his motivations and then tailor your benefits to match.

The best way to handle a talker is to share snippets of information that will nudge him in the right direction. You'll need to prime him early in the sales process because once you reach the final negotiation stage he'll have shut down completely and won't listen to any counter-argument you might make. Talkers also respond well to validation. Remember, they like to think they're market gurus, so agreeing with his wisdom and/or bringing up details that back up what he's said earlier will win you serious approval.