Strategic Human Capital Insights

How to Better Understand the Total Client Buying Center (TCBC)


 Breathe Life into Your Client Business Plans
Take your Sales Targets to the Next Level

This is the eighth blog in in our Sales & Business Development blog series. In case you missed the other blogs, you can
 view them here.

Client Business Plans are one of the most critical sales business tools. A big problem with these plans is they often neglect to identify the most important information about the client – the qualitative data! What do I mean?

The Total Client Buying Center (TCBC)

I’ve seen countless business plans that identify the names of people within the buying center.  But, remember, a name is only a name without an operating context associated with the name.  I will often hear salespeople say, “I have the company organization chart.”  So what!  A name on an organization chart is often meaningless.  It is simply a ‘what’ data point.   There is so much more to this name that a great salesperson must know to truly understand the buying landscape:

  • Who is in the TCBC?
  • How does that TCBC operate?
  • What role does each person play in the TCBC? 
  • With whom do people within the TCBC interact? 
  • What are those relationships? 
  • Are they formal, hierarchical lines of authority and responsibility? 
  • Are they informal, matrix lines of authority and responsibility?
  • What impact do these people have on the ultimate buying decision? 
  • How long will the decision-making process take?
  • What are other existing supplier relationships with each person in the TCBC? 

For each name in your business plan, you must have detailed operating context information. 
Only then does that name mean something important.

Challenge: Convert the Client Organization Chart into the Client ‘Organigram’

What is an ‘organigram’?  It is the realignment of the formal organization chart to depict the way an organization really works informally.  It goes beyond people’s organizational roles to understanding the way people operate in those roles and, therefore, how the organization really works.  The ‘organigram’ reflects:

  • Who are the decision makers?
  • Who are the influencers?
  • Who are the gatekeepers?
  • Who are the bottlenecks?

Why do salespeople tend to avoid asking about TCBC information?

To ask for information about TCBC means the salesperson must ask what feels like very personal questions.  And, if those questions are improperly asked, that’s exactly how those questions come across, as too personal and impertinent. When these questions are improperly asked, they can disrupt the critical relationship building process. So, more often than not, salespeople will avoid asking these questions and assume critical TCBC information. Here’s how TCBC assumptions can kill your sales efforts, create invalid operating contexts, waste your time (your scarce resource that salespeople must manage) and introduce significant flaws into your Client Business Plan. Some results include, but are not limited to: 

  • No business because salespeople are talking to the wrong person who may not be a key player in the decision-making process
  • Delayed business results and missed sales targets due to a lack of understanding regarding the time to make decisions by the key people in the TCBC
  • Delayed or no business because the salesperson did not develop business relationships with all the important people in the TCBC

TCBC Information - The Most Critical and Difficult Questions to Ask

There is indeed a mindset and process that exceptional salespeople must both understand and have the ability to implement / execute.  The TCBC questions do have a structure, sequence and skill set that must be followed. Any gaps in both knowledge and skills in this area will create flawed Client Business Plans leading to inaccurate sales projections and missed strategic initiatives.  Both knowledge and skills, at this stage, must be consciously and methodically applied. 

Remember, there is nothing casual or haphazard about building data about the TCBC.

To better understand the Total Client Buying Center (TCBC), I invite you to learn more about our Sales & Business Development program as part of the Phoenix Strategic Performance Institute. This program helps you to strategically align your sales process to the relationship sales process, accelerating corporate growth and building strategic value.

Explore the Sales & Business Development Program


Topics: Business Development

Posted by Joanne Flynn

Joanne Flynn

In 2014, Joanne Flynn founded Phoenix Strategic Performance, a strategic human capital advisory firm. Prior to this, Joanne was Vice President at Goldman Sachs for 10 years responsible for global learning and development. She then led the consulting practice of Phoenix Group International, a consulting firm specializing in global financial service. Joanne is now taking best practices from the people-intensive financial services industry and adapting those best practices to startup and growth businesses. She is a thought leader in the areas of strategic organizational alignment, organizational agility, human capital gap analysis, leadership challenges for the new workplace and transformation leadership.

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