Many elements of the sociocultural environment discussed earlier influence organizational as well as consumer buying, but some additional forces are salient only in the organizational setting. In particular, each organization has its own business philosophy that guides its actions in resolving conflicts, handling uncertainty and risk, searching for solutions, and adapting to change. For example, Peabody Coal, which is part of a declining industry, relies on a conservative purchase strategy in an attempt to maintain their status quo.
Five characteristics mark the organizational buying process:
- In organizations, many individuals are involved in making buying decisions.
- The organizational buyer is motivated by both rational and quantitative criteria dominant in organizational decisions; the decision makers are people, subject to many of the same emotional criteria used in personal purchases.
- Organizational buying decisions frequently involve a range of complex technical dimensions. A purchasing agent for Volvo Automobiles, for example, must consider a number of technical factors before ordering a radio to go into the new model. The electronic system, the acoustics of the interior, and the shape of the dashboard are a few of these considerations.
- The organizational decision process frequently spans a considerable time, creating a significant lag between the marketer's initial contact with the customer and the purchasing decision. Since many new factors can enter the picture during this lag time, the marketer's ability to monitor and adjust to these changes is critical.
- Organizations cannot be grouped into precise categories. Each organization has a characteristic way of functioning and a personality.9
The first item in this list of characteristics has important implications. Unlike the consumer buying process, organizational buying involves decision making by groups and enforces rules for making decisions. These two characteristics greatly complicate the task of understanding the buying process. For example, to predict the buying behavior of an organization with certainty, it is important to know who will take part in the buying process, what criteria each member uses in evaluating prospective suppliers, and what influence each member has. It is also necessary to understand something not only about the psychology of the individuals involved but also how they work as a group. Who makes the decision to buy depends in part on the situation. Three types of buying situations have been distinguished: the straight rebuy, the modified rebuy, and the new task.
The straight rebuy is the simplest situation: The company reorders a good or service without any modifications. The transaction tends to be routine and may be handled totally by the purchasing department. With the modified rebuy, the buyer is seeking to modify product specifications, prices, and so on. The purchaser is interested in negotiation, and several participants may take part in the buying decision. A company faces a new task when it considers buying a product for the first time. The number of participants and the amount of information sought tend to increase with the cost and risks associated with the transaction. This situation represents the best opportunity for the marketer.