Customer Influencer Roles and Their Motivations

To market your consulting approach and proposal effectively it's useful to identify the roles people may be playing, recognize their typical needs, and be prepared to demonstrate that your proposed solutions have something for everyone. Here are some common characterizations of the influencing roles you may encounter with clients.

The Roles

The Accountable Customer

This is the one person (or a clearly designated small group) with the principal accountability for achieving the targeted results, with the support of the consultant. Sometimes this person is designated, "The Client". This may have been the person who initially brought you in to the situation or someone assigned the problem to solve. They have an operating question, "How can we best define and deliver results?"

The Funding Source

This is the individual we most often think of as "The Decision Maker". It is the person who is personally responsible for securing and investing the funds necessary to fund your proposal. Typically, this is one person, although on occasion a committee may play this role. This person's primary focus tends to be long-term. A typical question they hope to see answered in your proposal is: "What return will I get on my investment?"

The person that plays this role will be driven primarily by risk. The higher the risk, the higher in the organization chart this person will be.

Applications Customers

The applications customers are those individuals who have a vested interest in what you are selling as they will be either managing the application of your solutions or directly affected by them in their day-to-day work. They're concerned about answering the question, "How will this affect my job?"

An application customer could be anyone from the chief executive officer who reads the reports from the new software or a secretary who enters data into the system. They can't say yes to your proposal, nor can they say no. However, their perceptions about what is workable can make a difference and could be expressed as needs or wants that would tip the balance for the Funding Source or Gatekeeper (see below).

Gatekeeper Customers

You've met them. These are the people who say, directly or indirectly, "I have my criteria. If you don't meet them, I will screen you out." There could be one or more individuals who play this role. They can't unilaterally say yes to a proposal (only the Funding Source can do that), but they can say no. They are frustrating sometimes in that they imply that you will present to them, when in reality, the funding is coming from the Funding Source. The Gatekeepers set up hurdles for all vendors. They may be making judgments about you, your capability, or your offering. However, their principal focus is likely to be on your specific product, service, or methodology.

The Motivations

The following are the personal motivations that each of the above roles might have. Understanding a person's underlying motivations can help direct your efforts when constructing a consulting proposal.

Threat

To what extend does the individual perceive that they are at risk? Are they facing a major shortfall in their goals? Or trending in the wrong direction? These people perceive themselves to be "up to their necks in a pool of sharks" and are highly motivated to explore proposals that could eliminate the threat. Drain the pool now!

Opportunity

To what extent does this individual perceive an opportunity to better their position in some way? Do they sense a way to increase results, expand, or grow the business? Are they already "suffering from the blessing of success" and trying to keep up to keep their opportunities going? While not as motivated as the individual who feels threat, this person is also highly motivated to consider proposals that will support the opportunity.

Status Quo

This individual is unable to detect either impending threats or opportunities. From their world view all is good the way it is and so no change is required. Their may be entirely accurate or in light of industry patterns, there may be opportunities going undiscovered and even threats around the corner. When provided a set of persuasive facts from some of your initial analysis, you may find these individuals become more motivated. Help them recognize opportunities and threats they may not see.

Over-Confident

This individual's perception of their reality is "everything is just peachy". Any yet, your first impressions of their situation may be quite the opposite. They are reticent to consider any information that may contradict their world view because "they are right and you are wrong."

Marketing to these individuals requires patience and gentle injects of reality. Stay close, share credible industry data (articles, seminars, studies) that might help them recognize that their own base of information could be too narrow or insufficient.

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