Brett Bonser, Director of, writes…

Understanding your buyer’s concept starts with three magic words: what is your buyer trying to fix, accomplish, or avoid?

How often are you working on projects where the buying influence (Economic, Technical or User – all terms coined by global sales performance leader, Miller Heiman) lacks a concept altogether, or where you and them hold different ideas as to what the concept should be? And, what tends to be the end result of these engagements? Lots of time wasted chasing rainbows, right?

To progress a project, you must first understand the buyer’s concept, and only then can you align your action commitment requests. Failure to do so often results in less than satisfactory results.

A real example for you to ponder…

Vendor to prospect

Hi Prospect,

The video below is an accountant who has a similar environment to XYZ Pty Ltd and was under contract with another supplier, we were still able to save them 18%.

This video is quite short (less than a minute). The cost reduction analysis only takes 15 minutes to gather the information. Would you prefer me to undertake this with Name or yourself (at no charge)?

Kind Regards

Prospect to vendor


Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Who are you? Why are you contacting me?

You say “the cost reduction analysis…”. Exactly which cost reduction are you referring to, and why would I know about it? What exactly about our environment do you assume to be similar between our business and that accountant? Where did you get my email address from?

Your assumptive close is clumsy. What about our environment, challenges, or needs do you assume would make this offer compelling?  BTW, the video does not work in either Firefox or IE.

You work for a great company; surely you can do better than this?


Vendor to his Manager seeking guidance

Hi Manager,

How would you like me to respond? I just want to get your opinion and guidance.


So, what do you think happened next?  What would you do have done differently if you were the vendor?

This dialogue yet again reinforced the importance of understanding the buyer’s concept FULLY before you ask for them to make a commitment.  And ONLY seeking a commitment that’s aligned to where they are in the buying process.  I’ve not yet declared a problem, so why would I commit to a needs review and ROI calculation?


  • Every Buying Influence has a solution image or concept
  • Buying Influences buy what they think your solution will enable them to accomplish
  • The Buying Influence’s concept evolves during the buying process
  • The sales professional needs to understand the Buying Influence’s concept
  • Buying Influences (people) have concepts; companies do not

Ultimately, work out:

  • What is the buyer trying to fix, accomplish, or avoid?

And something for you to action right now:

  1. Think about an upcoming meeting with an important Buying Influence for a project that you know should be high priority for that individual, but isn’t currently
  2. Write down what you understand your buyer’s concept to be right now. And then what you think it should be
  3. Think about ways that you might shift the buyer’s concept from keen to urgent
  4. Talk this through with a colleague or team mate in advance of the meeting, and then lock in on the questions that you will ask, or the information you will provide, to shift your buyer’s concept
  5. After the meeting review your success, and make a conscious decision to engage or disengage