Understanding how businesses make their purchasing decisions is critical to small businesses
that market to the business sector. Purchases by a business are more complicated than
purchases by someone making a personal purchase (B2C). B2B purchases vary according to
dollar amount, the people involved in the decision process, and the amount of time needed to
make the decision,  and they involve “a much more complex web of interactions between
prospects and vendors in which the actual transaction represents only a small part of the entire
purchase process.” 
The individual or the group that makes the B2B buying decisions is referred to as
the buying center. The buying center consists of “all those individuals and groups who
participate in the purchasing decision-making process, who share some common goals and the
risks arising from the decision.”  The buying center in a small business could be as small as one
person versus the twenty or more people in the buying center of a large corporation. Regardless
of the size of the buying center, however, there are seven distinct roles: initiator, gatekeeper,
user, purchaser or buyer, decider, approver, and influencer.  One person could play multiple
roles, there could be multiple people in a single role, and the roles could change over time and
across different purchase situations.
1. Initiator. The person who requests that something be purchased.
2. Gatekeeper. The person responsible for the flow of information to the buying center. This could be the
secretary or the receptionist that screens calls and prevents salespeople from accessing users or deciders.
By having control over information, the gatekeeper has a major impact on the purchasing process.
3. User. The person in a company who uses a product or takes advantage of a service.
4. Purchaser or buyer. The person who makes the actual purchase.
5. Decider. The person who decides on product requirements, suppliers, or both.
6. Approver. The person who authorizes the proposed actions of the decider or the buyer.
7. Influencer. The person who influences the buying decision but does not necessarily use the product or
the service. The influencer may assist in the preparation of product or service specifications, provide
vendor ideas, and suggest criteria for evaluating vendors.