Roles in the buying centre
Webster and Wind (1972) identified five specific roles that an individual in a buying centre can
perform. In some purchases, the same person may perform two or more of these functions.
1. Users – these are the people in the organization who actually use the product or service,
such as a secretary who will use the world processor
2. Influencer – these are the people in the organization who affect the buying decision,
usually by helping define the specifications for what is bought. The information systems
manager would be a key influencer in the purchase of a new mainframe computer.
3. Buyers – these are individuals in the organization who have formal authority and
responsibility to choose the supplier and negotiate contract terms. The purchasing
manager would probably perform this role in the purchase of computers.
4. Deciders – these people have the formal or informal power to select or approve the
supplier that receives the contract. Whereas in routine orders the decide is usually the
buyer or purchasing manager, in important technical purchases it is likely to be someone
from research and development (R & D), engineering, or quality control. Any of these
three people might be the decider for a key component being incorporated in a final
5. Gatekeepers – these individuals control he flow of information in the buying centre.
Purchasing personnel, technical experts and secretaries can all keep sales people or
information from reaching those performing the other four roles.
Types of business buying situation
1. Straight re-buy – this is the purchase of something purchased before from the same
supplier. A good example would be Nakumatt Supermarket re-ordering Elianto cooking
oil from Bidco Company Ltd.
2. The modified re-buy – this is the purchase of something purchased before but it includes
the search for information about alternative sources of supply and terms. Thus a
company purchasing raw materials may systemically ask for bids from several vendors or
it may telephone several potential vendors to seek information about their product
offerings. With the opening up of regional and global markets, a company like Kim-Fay
East Africa Ltd which manufacturers Cosy toilet paper rolls here in Kenya may decide to
start sourcing for raw materials from Egypt.
3. The new task – this involves purchasing something not purchased before, with all stages
of the buying decisions process involved.
Stages in the business buying process
1. Problem recognition
The business buying process is triggered by recognition of a need, problem or opportunity. This
could originate from within the organization (internal stimuli) or from outside (external stimuli)
include the development of new products. Other examples of internal stimuli include the
purchasing manager being unhappy about the quality of current products, service or prices or
machine breakdown necessitating replacement or a new part. External stimuli may include
getting new ideas at trade shows/fairs, advertisements, calls from sales representatives and direct
marketing messages among others.
2. General need description
This is the stage in the business buying process where the company describes the general
characteristics of the required item. For standard items, this process presents few problems. For
complex items, however, the buyer must work with other such as engineers, users and
consultants to define the item. The team may want to rank such variables as reliability,
durability, price and other attributes desired in the item. In this phase, the business marketer can
help the buyer to define his needs and provide information about the value of different product
3. Product specification
At this stage in the business buying process, the buying organization decides on the specifies the
best technical product characteristics of an item.
4. Supplier search
During this stage, the buying organization begins to search for alternative sources of supply.
Suppliers can be compiled from trade directories, computer search or phoning other companies
After a pool of possible suppliers has been identified, they must be qualified. Qualification
involves studying the suppliers and their capabilities in order to determine who can be a potential
5. Proposal solicitation
At this stage, the company issues a request for specific proposals from qualified suppliers. In
response, some suppliers will send only a catalogue or a salesperson. However, where the item
is complex or expensive, the buyer will usually require a detailed written proposal or formal
presentation from each potential supplier.
6. Supplier selection
Members of the buying centre now review the proposals and select a supplier or suppliers.
During supplier selections, the buying centre often will draw up a list of the desired supplier
attributes and their relative importance. In one survey, purchasing executives listed the
following attributes as most important in influencing the relationship between suppliers and the
Quality of products and services
On time delivery
Ethical corporate behavior
Honest communication and
Other key factors include repair and servicing capabilities, technical aid and advice, geographical
location, performance history and supplier reputation.
7. Order routine specification
This is the stage of the buying process in which the buyer writes the final order to the chosen
supplier, listing the technical specifications, quantity needed, expected time of delivery, return
policies and warranties.
8. Performance review
At this stage, the buyer reviews the supplier’s performance. The buyer may contact users and
ask them to rate their satisfaction levels. The performance review may lead the buyer to
continue, modify or drop the arrangement.
Major Influences on Business Buyers
Business buyers are influenced by many factors in making their buying decisions. Some
marketers assume that buyers are only influenced by economic reasons. They think that buyers
will favour the supplier who offers the lowest price or the best product. However, business
buyers actually respond to both economic and personal factors. Business buyers are human and
social too; they react to both reason and emotion. Where suppliers are offering similar products
services, business buyers have little room for making their decisions, strictly on rational basis.
Since they can meet business goals with any supplier, they allow personal factors to play the
biggest role. However, where supplier offerings are different business buyers are influenced
more by economic rather than personal factors. According to Webster and Wind (1972) the
following factors influence business buyer decisions.
(a) Environmental factors
Business buyers are heavily influenced by factors in the current and expected economic
environment such as the level of primary demand (consumer demand), the economic outlook and
cost of money (interest rates). When economic risks and uncertainty rise, business buyers cut
down on new investment and attempt to reduce their inventories.
Shortage of key raw materials is an increasingly important environment factor. Many companies
are now willing to buy and hold large inventories of scarce materials to ensure adequate supply.
Business buyers are also affected by technological, political, and competitive development in the
Culture and customs can strongly influence business buyer reactions to the marketers behavior
and strategies, especially in the international marketing environment.
(b) Business factors
Each buying organization has its own objectives, policies, procedures, structure and systems.
The business marketer must understand all these factors because they influence organization
buying. For example, businesses buy products and services for one main reason, that is, to help
them achieve their objectives.
Successful marketing to business requires answering the following questions:-
(i) How many people are involved in the buying decision?
(ii) Who are they?
(iii) What are their evaluative criteria?
(iv) What are the company’s policies and limits on its buyers?
(c) Interpersonal factors
The buying centre usually consists of many members who affect each other.
Members may have influence on the buying decision process because they control rewards and
punishments, are well liked, have special expertise or have a special relationship with other
important participants. Interpersonal factors are often unnoticeable. Whenever possible,
business marketers must try to understand these factors and design strategies that take them into
(d) Individual factors
Each member in the business buying decision process brings in personal motives, perceptions,
and preferences. These individual factors are affected by personal characteristics like age,
income, education, professional identification, personality and attitude towards risks. In
addition, buyers have different buying styles; some may be technical types who make-in-depth
analysis of competitive proposals before choosing a supplier while others are shrewd negotiators
who are skilled at putting sellers against one another for the best deal.