How to identify the key decision-makers in B2B companies

Michael Maximoff
AuthorMichael Maximoff
Updated:2023-04-29
Reading time:9 m
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The chemistry for B2B decision-making is vastly different from B2C. In B2C, the buyer, the payer, and the user are all one person who makes the process more straightforward and linear.

But in B2B, the end user, the buyer, and the payer are usually all different people, with several other influencers impacting the decision-making process. On average, 6 to 10 people are involved in complex B2B decision-making.

That said, effective B2B selling hinges on identifying and communicating with the right person or persons involved. 

In this article, you’ll learn how Belkins identifies key decision-makers for B2B selling and gets the right message across to ensure smooth sailing.

Who makes decisions in B2B? 

The B2B decision-making process is mainly driven by a set of individuals from different departments. They all influence the buying process in different ways and at different times of the buyer journey — even if they don’t have the final say. Such interdependency in B2B decision-making has increased since the pandemic, with as many as one-third of B2B buyers believing collaboration to be more vital now than before.

Too many cooks may spoil the broth, but for B2B buying, each player holds a significant place in the buyer’s journey. How many people are usually involved? The number is completely subjective to the industry, size, structure, and buying process of each organization.

The B2B decision-making matrix involves several key roles: 

  • The initiator: This person recognizes the need for a product or service and initiates the buying process.
  • Influencers: These are the people who advise the decision-makers but may not hold the authority to make the final call. They can be from within the company or an outsider, like a consultant.
  • Decision-makers: They hold the authority to make the final decision.
  • Purchasers: They place the order once the decision to buy has been made.  
  • Users: The employees within the organization who will use the product.
  • Gatekeepers: A gatekeeper controls access to the decision-makers in the company, screens incoming information, and filters out irrelevant sales efforts.
  • Researchers: A researcher is a person responsible for conducting thorough research on various products/services to see which offer best meets the needs of an organization.

Let’s explore the decision-making matrix for purchasing cybersecurity software.

CISO or IT Manager can be an initiator who identifies the need for enhanced cybersecurity software to protect the organization from potential threats. IT staff and cybersecurity consultants play the role of influencers. Decision-makers can be the CISO, CEO, or another high-ranking executive who holds the authority to make the final call, considering the organization's budget, needs, and compliance requirements.

Lastly, the procurement department would be responsible for placing the order, negotiating, and post-purchase assessing.

Participants of the B2B buying process

How to identify decision-makers in B2B?

Given the diverse matrix of people involved in B2B buying, identifying key B2B decision-makers may seem like looking for a needle in a haystack. But what if you could shrink the haystack altogether? 

At Belkins, we use strategic steps to identify the key decision-makers in a client organization and ensure effective C-suite sales execution and delivery.

But before we reveal this, there are 2 main components that prepare the groundwork for the whole research process. Without these, your team can fail finding a decision-maker.

  • Understand the product or service. To kick off your lead generation, identify the need for the product/service you offer. Answer what pains your product addresses and how it solves the client’s problem.
  • Outline your ideal customer profile. If you don't know whom to sell to, you’ll end up wasting your efforts on irrelevant audiences.

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To simplify the process, use one of HubSpot’s free customer profile templates. Create complete ICPs by filling in the blanks using available information from your company. By the end, you’ll have a clear description of your ideal customer.

Example of ICP for a cybersecurity software company:

Our ideal client organizations are based in North America. They carry a Cyber Security Maturity Compliance Mandate. They comprise more than 25 employees interacting with multiple customers spread around the world. They have an average of $10M in revenue.

Now, it’s time to break down our 2-step process to identify B2B decision-makers.

1. Create target personas and draft roles and titles

Once you have ICPs in place, you can go ahead and start building your buyer personas.

Note: Buyer personas are different from ICPs. The latter are the attributes of the organization you’re targeting, while target personas are the people who influence the final decision.

Knowing buyer personas, who they are (as individuals), what they’re looking for, and what challenges they face allows you to approach them with the right message and drive sales.

For building target personas, we at Belkins consider this basic info: 

  • Duties/Responsibilities 
  • Challenges
  • Product usability
  • Objectives
  • Decision-making process

This allows us to pinpoint the decision-makers and tailor our cold email campaigns accordingly. But where do you find all this information? Here are some easy-access channels we use to do just that:

  • Ask your customers: Your current clients have the most information regarding pain points and concerns. They picked your company to resolve them, so they have much to share with you. Use it to identify your persona’s preferences and challenges.
  • Analyze data in your CRM: Use CRM to look at your past experiences. You may have worked with similar organizations in the past. Identify relevant personas by looking at who you pitched to and who made the final decisions. Also, consider the sales cycle, revenue, and customer lifetime value (CLV).

Some personas will revolve around job titles and roles, and others will be based on the day-to-day challenges these individuals face. Focus on the solutions your product/service provides to resolve those challenges.

Once you’re all set with ICPs and buyer personas, it’ll become easier to identify people who fall under those criteria. Usually, B2B decision-makers hold positions like C-level execs, VPs, deputies, and heads who have strategic authority and influence company-wide decisions. The influence can shift from one role to another during different stages of the buying process.

This step is more granular compared to building target personas and entails all possible decision-makers and their impacts on the buying process.

Case in point: Peregrine Renewable Energy asked Belkins to help establish a flow of leads to grow their local business in Connecticut. However, the client didn’t have a clear understanding of their target personas, so Belkins’ team rolled up their sleeves and tested different titles and roles of decision-makers to locate the most responsive ones.

So we first outlined the building owners who could potentially benefit from setting up solar panels, but the conversions fell short. Fast forward, we figured out the winning target personas for Peregrine — real estate brokers. Not only were brokers more responsive to the offering, but also each broker could bring us several more leads who were open to dialogue.

Going into the weeds with decision-makers titles helped Belkins achieve a 55% overall positive reply rate, with 15% instant meetings booked.

How creating granular titles and roles influences B2B lead generation results

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You can also exploit the LinkedIn Sales Navigator to find more people in the company who fit target personas. At Belkins, Sales Navigator is a go-to tool for lead research and identifying decision-makers. With its advanced filters, you can find people who show indirect or direct interest in your products or services. What data to look for:

  • Who engages with/posts content around the problem you’re solving.
  • Headcount, industry, company revenue, and other criteria attributed to your ICP.
  • Followers of particular LinkedIn Groups in your niche.

Using of LinkedIn Sales Navigator

2. Run A/B tests and act accordingly

In this step, you should put all your hypothesis into action and launch A/B testing campaigns to understand which titles are more responsive to specific offers.

At Belkins, the testing phase is where we launch the pilot campaign. We usually use the referral approach to email template writing to see whether we’re knocking on the right doors. See the exact email template we utilize to get a sense of this method.

Subject line: join {{Referral_Name}} for a call with me

Hi {{FirstName}},

I have invited {{Referral_Name}}, the {{Referral_Title}} at {{Company}} to discuss expanding your offerings with our power solutions. But I realized you, too, might be interested in a conversation given the growing need for portable power across industries.

The {{OurCompany}} products are sought after by coworking and office spaces; education, healthcare, and government institutions; large enterprises and SMBs and are available through {{Partner}}.

Each of our {{Products}} holds 5 or 10 power banks capable of powering any device using the AC port, DC Barrel port, USB-C port, two USB ports, and wireless charging.

Sounds like a plan worth considering? I’ll be happy to dive into details next Tuesday at 3 PM. I appreciate your time and attention.

Best,

{{Sender}}

What we like is that the referral method works from the get-go and brings numerous leads.

Qualifying questions to find decision-makers

How do you make sure you connect to the right people? By asking the right questions. Qualifying questions help point you in the right direction without stepping on any toes. Brad Ball, VP of Sales and Marketing at GlobalSim, suggests in his video never to ask the “who” question. People don’t like to admit they’re not the ones in control. Rather, use “what” and “where” questions. 

Asking people, “Who makes the decisions?” or “Who do we go to for approval?” may offend them if they’re not in charge. They’re likely to kill your deal there and then.

Instead, first offer some information about the product and inquire about their specific needs and requirement timeline. Then ask questions like:

  • Where do we go from here?
  • What are the next steps?
  • How long does this process usually take?

Get the conversation going, and once they’re involved in a dialogue with you, ask, “Who are the people usually involved in the process?”

This way, you increase your chances of identifying the relevant authority without offending anyone in the process.

Do's Don'ts
Ask "what? how? and where?" Don't ask "who?"
What is your process? Who do we go for approval on this?
How long does this process take? Who's in charge?
Where do we go from here? Who do I talk to?
Who else is involved? Who has the authority to decide?

Check out 25 more qualifying questions while probing any B2B organization.

Successfully identify key B2B decision-makers using this guide 

Effective B2B selling is an art. By following the exact method mentioned in this article, you’ll be able to quickly identify key decision-makers, tailor content to their needs, and build long-lasting relationships with clients.

Remember to build accurate personas and create targeted and personalized content for each. And A/B test! Your ideal client could be an email away!

Need a helping hand with B2B lead generation? Check out Belkins’ customer stories and contact our senior outbound sales strategist to discuss your project.

Michael Maximoff
Author
Michael Maximoff
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Co-founder and Managing Partner at Belkins
Michael is the Co-founder of Belkins, serial entrepreneur, and investor. With a decade of experience in B2B Sales and Marketing, he has a passion for building world-class teams and implementing efficient processes to drive the success of his ventures and clients.
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