User-centered thinking

User-centered thinking: also to influence purchase decisions

Each and every salesman has been there: although he has the feeling that the buyer is convinced by his sales talks, he later receives a negative reply. It’s not easy to find out where it went wrong, and yet the reason is obvious. A purchaser does not decide single-handedly. All kinds of stakeholders within the company often have a strong influence on the decision. This network of persons is also called the purchaser’s eco-system.

The stakeholders are either direct colleagues or acquaintances outside the company influencing the purchaser in some way or another.

Let’s illustrate this by means of an example. The picture below represents the eco-system of Theo.


Theo is the manager of a wood processing company and is looking for a new machine. He is talking with the machine manufacturer, but takes into account the input of his different departments. Each of these stakeholders is looking at the decision from a different angle:

  • The operations manager will mainly look at the machine’s performances
  • The operator will emphasize the machine’s user-friendliness and flexibility
  • The CAD designer will point out the integration of the existing software in the new machine
  • The maintenance technician will be afraid he’ll loose his job if new and maintenance-free machines will replace the older ones
  • The financial director will mainly be interested in the financing conditions and look for leasing opportunities or instalments

These "influencers" play an important role, that is often not acknowledged. Therefore it is important to map the eco-system well and to analyse the needs of the different influencers in order to sell.

However, there is more to reckon with: also in the company of the salesman himself, there are other players who influence the purchase decision. A (potential) client comes into contact with more people than the salesman alone: the receptionist, the installer, the accountant can leave a positive or negative impression on the client. All these people are called the "touchpoints".

A good analysis of these touchpoints will soon lead to some quick wins to improve the client’s perception of your company. Did you already call the general number of your company to ask for a standard information? That experience will open your eyes and might be a first step towards a client-oriented sales system.

This article has been written with the support of IWT in the research project: User Centered Design in B2B, that is being carried out by Agoria, Centexbel, Flanders InShape and Hogeschool Gent.

More information: Sander De Vrieze