What is a customer stakeholder?

The term customer stakeholder is often used in B2B relationships, where the customer is a business, and the customer stakeholder is a key decision maker within that business. As the name implies, the customer stakeholder has a stake in the relationship with the vendor.

There can be more than one stakeholder within a customer organization, each with their own set of priorities and objectives. Successful sales, customer support, and account management teams understand the differences between each stakeholder and know how to tailor the conversation to address their diverse interests.

What are the different types of customer stakeholders?

When it comes to a B2B relationship, there are a number of potential customer stakeholders who will each have a different level of interest and goal during the procurement process. These include the following:

  • The economic buyer. The person who makes the purchasing decisions and has the authority to approve contracts – often a senior executive with broad organizational responsibilities. Where they sit in the organization depends on the size of the deal (e.g. a small deal will fit into a manager’s budgetary discretion, and a large deal might go up to the CFO).
  • The user buyer. These individuals will be using the product, service, or offering. Whatever the brand is selling will directly impact the user buyer’s job, so their concerns will mostly be operational.
  • The technical buyer. Usually, this person will manage or oversee the integration of a brand’s technical offering. The technical buyer often has a list of specifications they will screen a potential vendor against. This means they have the power to say “no” to a product. As such, they’re important people to engage with and learn from, and are often people who encourage rapid custom changes in the product.
  • The coach. While not always a decision maker in the procurement process, the coach will be responsible for advising a vendor through the sales process. A good coach is someone who is willing to advocate for the vendor, referencing past experiences or connecting the dots between the customer’s needs and the brand’s offerings. Plus, they have likely established credibility with the other stakeholders.

What is the value of identifying different customer stakeholders?

Understanding who your customer stakeholders are, and what motivates them, is always going to be important. For starters, if you know who you’re talking to and what their objectives are, you can make the sales process more targeted and efficient. Plus, having a clearer picture of who you’re selling to can give you a competitive advantage over your competitors, showing that you’re willing to go the extra mile to understand the customer organization in all its parts.

Lastly, proactive vendors that segment their customer stakeholders are also in a better position to build strong, trusting relationships, which can set the stage for a fruitful partnership down the line.

When identifying and engaging with customer stakeholders, it’s important to remember that they are individuals with specific goals and intentions. Meeting them where they are can generate more trust and transparency – both key elements in the sales process.