Initiators. These are the individuals who first recognize the problem.
Gatekeepers. These individuals control the flow of knowledge, either by being proactive in collecting information, or by filtering it. They could be junior staff who are told to visit a trade fair and collect brochures, or a personal assistant who sees his or her role as being to prevent salespeople from “wasting” the decision-maker’s time.
Buyers. The individuals given the task of sourcing suppliers and negotiating the final deal. Often these are purchasing agents who complete the administrative tasks necessary for buying. These people often work to a specific brief, and may have very little autonomy, even though they may be the only contact a supplier’s salespeople have at the purchasing organization.
Deciders. These are the people who make the final decisions, and may be senior managers or specialists. They may never meet any representatives of the supplying companies. Deciders generally rely heavily on advice from other members of the DMU.
Users. These are the people who will be using the products which are supplied: they may be engineers or technicians, or even the cleaning staff who use cleaning products. Their opinions may well be sought by the deciders, and in many cases the users are also the initiators.
Influencers. These people “have the ear of” the deciders. They are trusted advisers, but from the supplying company’s viewpoint they are extremely difficult to identify. Influencers may be employed by the purchasing firm (for example, engineers, information systems managers or research managers) or they may be consultants (for example, architects, acoustics and safety consultants). An influencer might even be the decider’s golf partner, old college friend, or teenage son.