Gartner Blog Network


Occasional Buying Team Participants – Added Value or Added Complexity

by Hank Barnes  |  July 9, 2019  |  1 Comment

Beyond having a diverse range of groups and perspectives as part of technology buying teams, there also are diverse levels of participation.  In our most recent study, we discovered that there are a similar number of “occasional” participants in relation to active participants in buying teams (with a noted exception that as the spend increases, the ratio of active to occasional also increases).

We defined these two groups as :

  • Active – Primary members of the purchasing team who are included in all/most discussions related to purchasing a solution
  • Occasional – Individuals involved for specific tasks, who monitor from a distance, who have veto/approval power but are NOT involved in daily/regular discussions, OR who “drop-in” on an occasional basis.

When looking at this mix, it is easy to wonder if the occasional participants–which include decisions makers and decision influencers–are adding value or adding complexity.

From a value added standpoint, it is always useful to have a “voice outside the room” who can be led through the work and thinking that got you to a certain point.  Then their affirmation, or suggestions and thoughts, can build confidence or open your eyes to other things to consider.

From an added complexity, the ability to get folks up to speed and to establish the right context can be both challenging and frustrating  Will these occasional participants read through a detailed implementation plan?   Will they review the details of a reference interview?

As a vendor, we need to understand the mix of participants and their levels of participation.    For occasional participants, creating summaries that save them time and guide them to what matters most is important.   They may follow the thread for deeper analysis.

This dynamic of occasional and active is tricky–because even active participants may be distracted or overloaded.   We saw a marked difference between perceptions of videos for vendors and buying team members.  Vendors say videos are very effective for demand gen, and they are investing heavily.  Our buyers rank videos much lower in terms of useful content for buying decisions.  Our hypothesis–its hard to use a video to build consensus.  Others have to dedicate the time and find the important parts (that others found valuable).   The extra work to guide others ( “check out the part that starts at 1:34 in and runs for 45 seconds”) is just that extra work, and likely happens infrequently.

To be successful in this dynamic environment requires empathy and in depth understanding.   Active participants may be open to different levels of information than occasional.  Helping those active participants prepare for the occasional participants will be a win for them and you.

How much do you tailor your marketing and sales approach for active and occasional participants?

Additional Resources

View Free, Relevant Gartner Research

Gartner's research helps you cut through the complexity and deliver the knowledge you need to make the right decisions quickly, and with confidence.

Read Free Gartner Research

Category: go-to-market  

Tags: active  b2b-buying  buying-cycle  buying-team  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes explores the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. Using that customer-centric lens, he advises those responsible for marketing technology products and services, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and startup CEOs on next practices to drive success for their customers and their business. Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Occasional Buying Team Participants – Added Value or Added Complexity


  1. Richard Nockolds says:

    Hi Hank – great add-on to the DMU/Buying Center/Buying Team research. Curious to know how the research was conducted. Was it anything like the “exhaustive snowballing” technique described by Moriarty and Bateson in their 1982 paper “Exploring Complex Decision Making Units: A New Approach”? I have often thought that the [average] numbers published by the CEB [as was] were a little low, as it’s never been clear where they set the perimeter fence of their studies.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments or opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributors only, and do not necessarily represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management. Readers may copy and redistribute blog postings on other blogs, or otherwise for private, non-commercial or journalistic purposes, with attribution to Gartner. This content may not be used for any other purposes in any other formats or media. The content on this blog is provided on an "as-is" basis. Gartner shall not be liable for any damages whatsoever arising out of the content or use of this blog.