Buying: Who really does the buying?

When is a buyer not really a buyer? How can the best product at the lowest price turn off buyers? Are there anonymous kingpins who make the real buying decisions? As these questions suggest, the reality of buying and selling is often not what it seems. The psychological and emotional factors that figure strongly in buying and selling usually are unobserved. By overlooking these less tangible aspects of selling, a vendor can lose sales and not even understand why. The author sets up a procedure for analyzing buying decisions and tells sellers how to apply the framework to specific situations. Steps in the procedure include identifying the actual decision makers, determining how they view their self-interests, and using that information to develop an effective sales strategy.

You don’t understand: Willy was a salesman… He don’t put a bolt to a nut. He don’t tell you the law or give you medicine. He’s a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine. And when they start not smiling back—that’s an earthquake.

—Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman

Many companies’ selling efforts are models of marketing efficiency. Account plans are carefully drawn, key accounts receive special management attention, and substantial resources are devoted to the sales process, from prospect identification to postsale service. Even such well-planned and well-executed selling strategies often fail, though, because management has an incomplete understanding of buying psychology—the human side of selling. Consider the following two examples:

  • A fast-growing maker and seller of sophisticated graphics computers had trouble selling to potentially major customers. Contrary to the industry practice of quoting high list prices and giving large discounts to users who bought in quantity, this company priced 10% to 15% lower than competitors and gave smaller quantity discounts. Even though its net price was often the lowest, the company met resistance from buyers. The reason, management later learned, was that purchasing agents measured themselves, and were measured by their superiors, less by the net price of the sophisticated computers they bought than by the amount deducted from the price during negotiations. The discount had a significance to buyers that sound pricing logic could not predict.
  • Several years ago, at AT&T’s Long Lines Division, an account manager was competing against a vendor with possibly better technology who threatened to lure away a key account. Among the customer’s executives who might make the final decision about whether to switch from Bell were a telecommunications manager who had once been a Bell employee, a vice president of data processing who was known as a “big-name system buster” in his previous job because he had replaced all the IBM computers with other vendors’ machines, and an aggressive telecommunications division manager who seemed to be unreachable by the AT&T team.

AT&T’s young national account manager was nearly paralyzed by the threat. His team had never seriously considered the power, motivations, or perceptions of the various executives in the customer company, which had been buying from AT&T for many years. Without such analysis, effective and coordinated action on short notice—the usual time available for response to sales threats—was impossible.

Getting at the Human Factors

How can psychology be used to improve sales effectiveness? My contention is that seller awareness of and attention to the human factors in purchasing will produce higher percentages of completed sales and fewer unpleasant surprises in the selling process.

It would be inaccurate to call the human side of selling an emerging sales concern; only the most advanced companies recognize the psychology of buying as a major factor in improving account selection and selling results. Yet in most industries, the bulk of a company’s business comes from a small minority of its customers. Retaining these key accounts is becoming increasingly difficult as buyers constantly look not only for the best deal but also for the vendor that best understands them and their needs. It is this understanding and the targeted selling that results from it that can most benefit marketing managers.

Buying a Corporate Jet

The personal aspects and their complexities become apparent when one looks closely at an example of the buying process: the purchase of a business jet, which carries a price tag in excess of $3 million. The business-jet market splits obviously into two segments: those companies that already own or operate a corporate aircraft and those that do not.

In the owner market, the purchase process may be initiated by the chief executive officer, a board member (wishing to increase efficiency or security), the company’s chief pilot, or through vendor efforts like advertising or a sales visit. The CEO will be central in deciding whether to buy the jet, but he or she will be heavily influenced by the company’s pilot, financial officer, and perhaps the board itself.

Each party in the buying process has subtle roles and needs. The salesperson who tries to impress, for example, the CEO with depreciation schedules and the chief pilot with minimum runway statistics will almost certainly not sell a plane if he or she overlooks the psychological and emotional components of the buying decision. “For the chief executive,” observes one salesperson, “you need all the numbers for support, but if you can’t find the kid inside the CEO and excite him or her with the raw beauty of the new plane, you’ll never sell the equipment. If you sell the excitement, you sell the jet.”

The chief pilot, as an equipment expert, often has veto power over the purchase decisions and may be able to stop the purchase of one or another brand of jet by simply expressing a negative opinion about, say, the plane’s bad-weather capabilities. In this sense, the pilot not only influences the decision but also serves as an information “gatekeeper” by advising management on the equipment to select. Though the corporate legal staff will formulate the purchase agreement and the purchasing department will acquire the jet, these parties may have little to say about whether or how the plane will be obtained, and which type. The users of the jet—middle and upper management of the buying company, important customers, and others—may have at least an indirect role in choosing the equipment.

The involvement of many people in the purchase decision creates a group dynamic that the selling company must factor into its sales planning. Who makes up the buying group? How will the parties interact? Who will dominate and who will submit? What priorities do the individuals have?

It takes about three months for those companies that already own or operate aircraft to reach a decision. Because even the most successful vendor will sell no more than 90 jets a year, every serious prospect is a key account. The nonowners, not surprisingly, represent an even more complex market, since no precedent or aviation specialists exist.

The buying process for other pieces of equipment and for services will be more or less similar, depending on the company, product, and people involved. The purchase of computer equipment, for example, parallels the jet decision, except that sales prospects are likely to include data processing and production executives, and the market is divided into small and large prospects rather than owners and nonowners. In other cases (such as upgrading the corporate communications network, making a fleet purchase, or launching a plant expansion), the buying process may be very different. Which common factors will reliably steer selling-company management toward those human considerations likely to improve selling effectiveness?

Different buying psychologies exist that make effective selling difficult. On the one hand, companies don’t buy, people do. This knowledge drives the seller to analyze who the important buyers are and what they want. On the other hand, many individuals, some of whom may be unknown to the seller, are involved in most major purchases. Even if all the parties are identified, the outcome of their interaction may not be predictable from knowledge of them as individuals. Effective selling requires usefully combining the individual and group dynamics of buying to predict what the buying “decision-making unit” will do. For this combination to be practical, the selling company must answer four key questions.

Who’s in the Buying Center?

The set of roles, or social tasks, buyers can assume is the same regardless of the product or participants in the purchase decision. This set of roles can be thought of as a fixed set of behavioral pigeonholes into which different managers from different functions can be placed to aid understanding. Together, the buying managers who take on these roles can be thought of as a “buying center.”1

Exhibit 1 shows six buying roles encountered in every selling situation. I have illustrated these roles using the purchase or upgrading of a telecommunications system as an example. Let’s consider each triangle, representing a buying role, in turn.

The initiator of the purchase process, whether for a jet, paper towels, or communication services, recognizes that some company problem can be solved or avoided by acquiring a product or service. A company’s turboprop aircraft may provide neither the speed nor the range to get top management quickly to and from scattered operations. The prospective buyer of communications equipment may want to take advantage of technological improvements or to reduce costs through owning instead of leasing.

One or more gatekeepers are involved in the purchase process. These individuals, who may have the title of buyer or purchasing manager, usually act as problem or product experts. They are paid to keep up with the range of vendor offerings. In the jet example, the chief pilot will ordinarily fill this role. In the telecommunications example given in Exhibit 1, corporate purchasing, the corporate telecommunications staff, or, increasingly, data processing experts may be consulted. By controlling (literally keeping the gate open or shut for) information and, sometimes, vendor access to corporate decision makers, the gatekeepers largely determine which vendors get the chance to sell. For some purchases the gatekeeping process is formalized through the use of an approved-vendors list, which constitutes a written statement of who can (and who, by absence, cannot) sell to the company.

Influencers are those who “have a say” in whether a purchase is made and about what is bought. The range of influencers becomes increasingly broad as major purchases are contemplated, because so many corporate resources are involved and so many people affected. In important decisions, board committees, stockholders of a public company, and even mechanics can become influencers. One mining-machinery company encountered difficulty selling a new type of machine to its underground-mining customers. It turned out that mine maintenance personnel, who influenced the buying decision, resisted the purchase because they would have to learn to fix the new machine and maintain another stock of spare parts.

The deciders are those who say yes or no to the contemplated purchase. Often with major purchases, many of a company’s senior managers act together to carry out the decider role. Ordinarily, however, one of these will become champion or advocate of the contemplated purchase and move it to completion. Without such a champion, many purchases would never be made. It is important to point out that deciders often do not “sign off” on purchases, nor do they make them. That is left to others. Though signers often represent themselves as deciders, such representation can be deceptive. It is possible for a vendor with a poor feel for the buying center never to become aware of the real movers in the buying company.

The purchase of executive computer work stations clearly illustrates both the importance of the champion and the behind-the-scenes role of the decider. A high-level executive who has become interested in using computers at his or her job after reading a magazine article or after tinkering with a home computer might decide to try out microcomputers or time-sharing terminals. The executive might then ask the company’s data processing group—which is likely to be quite resistant and averse to executive meddling—to evaluate available microcomputer equipment. When trial purchases are made, the high-level executive will quietly help steer the system through the proper channels leading to acceptance and further purchases. The vendor, dealing directly with the data processing people, may never be aware that this decider exists.

The purchaser and the user are those concerned, respectively, with obtaining and consuming the product or service. The corporate purchasing department usually fills the purchaser role. Who fills the user role depends on the product or service.

Remember that I am discussing social roles, not individuals or groups of individuals. Thus, the number of managers filling the buying roles varies from 1 to 35. In very trivial situations, such as a manager’s purchase of a pocket calculator on a business trip, one person fills all six roles. The triangles in Exhibit 1 would overlap: the manager initiates (perceives a need), gatekeeps (what brand did I forget at home?), influences himself or herself (this is more than I need, but it’s only $39.95), decides, buys, and uses the equipment.

In more important buying situations, the number of managers assuming roles increases. In a study of 62 capital equipment and service acquisitions in 31 companies, Wesley J. Johnston and I quantified the buying center.2 In the typical capital equipment purchase, an average of four departments (engineering and purchasing were always included), three levels of management hierarchy (for example, manager, regional manager, vice president), and seven different persons filled the six buying roles. For services, the corresponding numbers were four departments, two levels of management, and five managers. As might be expected, the more complex and involved the buying decision, the larger the decision unit and the more careful its decisions. For example, when packing supplies were ordered, little vendor searching or postsale evaluation was involved. When a new boiler was bought, careful vendor comparisons and postsale audits were undertaken.

Who are the Powerful Buyers?

As useful as the buying-center concept is, it is difficult to apply because managers do not wear tags that say “decision maker” or “unimportant person.”3 The powerful are often invisible, at least to vendor representatives.

Unfortunately, power does not correlate perfectly with organizational rank. As the case of the mine maintenance personnel illustrates, those with little formal power may be able to stop a purchase or hinder its completion. A purchasing manager who will not specify a disfavored vendor, or the secretary who screens one vendor’s salespeople because of a real or imagined slight, also can dramatically change the purchasing outcome. Sales efforts cannot be directed through a simple reading of organizational charts; the selling company must identify the powerful buying center members.

In Exhibit 2, I outline five major power bases in the corporation. In addition, I categorize them according to whether their influence is positive (champion power) or negative (veto power).

Reward power refers to a manager’s ability to encourage purchases by providing others with monetary, social, political, or psychological benefits. In one small company, for instance, the marketing vice president hoped to improve marketing decisions by equipping the sales force with small data-entry computers. Anticipating objections that the terminals were unnecessary, she felt forced to offer the sales vice president a computer of his own. The purchase was made.

Coercive power refers to a manager’s ability to impose punishment on others. Of course, threatening punishment is not the same thing as having the power to impose it. Those managers who wave sticks most vigorously are sometimes the least able to deliver anything beyond a gentle breeze.

Attraction power refers to a person’s ability to charm or otherwise persuade people to go along with his or her preferences. Next to the ability to reward and punish, attraction is the most potent power base in managerial life. Even CEOs find it difficult to rebut a key customer with whom they have flown for ten years who says, “Joe, as your friend, I’m telling you that buying this plane would be a mistake.”

When a manager gets others to go along with his or her judgment because of real or perceived expertise in some area, expert power is being invoked. A telecommunications manager will find it difficult to argue with an acknowledged computer expert who contends that buying a particular telephone switching system is essential for the “office of the future”—or that not buying it now eventually will make effective communication impossible. With expert power, the skills need not be real, if by “real” we mean that the individual actually possesses what is attributed to him or her. It is enough that others believe that the expert has special skills or are willing to respect his or her opinion because of accomplishments in a totally unrelated field.

Status power comes from having a high position in the corporation. This notion of power is most akin to what is meant by the word authority. It refers to the kind of influence a president has over a first-line supervisor and is more restricted than the other power bases. At first glance, status power might be thought of as similar to reward or coercive power. But it differs in significant ways. First, the major influence activity of those positions of corporate authority is persuasion, not punishment or reward. They jawbone rather than dangle carrots and taunt with sticks because others in the company also have significant power which they could invoke in retaliation.

Second, the high-status manager can exercise his or her status repeatedly only because subordinates allow it. In one heavy-manufacturing division, for example, the continual specification of favored suppliers by a plant manager (often at unfavorable prices) led to a “palace revolt” among other managers whose component cost evaluations were constantly made to look poor. Third, the power base of those in authority is very circumscribed, since authority tends to work only in a downward direction on the organization chart and is restricted to specific work-related requests. Status power is one of the weaker power bases.

Buying centers and individual managers usually display one dominant power base in purchasing decisions. In one small company, an important factor is whether the manager arguing a position is a member of the founding family—a kind of status power and attraction power rolled into one. In a large high-technology defense contractor, almost all decisions are made on the basis of real or reputed expertise. This is true even when the issue under consideration has nothing to do with hardware or engineering science.

The key to improved selling effectiveness is in observation and investigation to understand prospects’ corporate power culture. The sales team must also learn the type of power key managers in the buying company have or aspire to. Discounts or offers of price reductions may not be especially meaningful to a young turk in the buying company who is most concerned with status power; a visit by senior selling-company management may prove much more effective for flattering the ego and making the sale. Similarly, sales management may wish to make more technical selling appeals to engineers or other buying-company staff who base their power on expertise.

The last two columns of Exhibit 2 show that the type of power invoked may allow the manager to support or to oppose a proposal but not always both. I believe status and expert power are more often employed by their holders to veto decisions with which they do not agree. Because others are often “sold” on the contemplated purchase, vetoing it generally requires either the ability to perceive aspects not seen by the average manager because of special expertise or the broader view that high corporate status is said to provide. Reward and coercive power are more frequently used to push through purchases and the choice of favored vendors. Attraction power seems useful and is used by both champions and vetoers. The central point here is that for many buying-center members, power tends to be unidirectional.

Six Behavioral Clues

On the basis of the preceding analysis of power centers, I have distilled six behavioral clues for identifying the powerful:

  1. Though power and formal authority often go together, the correlation between the two is not perfect. The selling company must take into account other clues about where the true buying power lies.

  2. One way to identify buying-center powerholders is to observe communications in the buying company. Of course, the powerful are not threatened by others, nor are they often promised rewards. Still, even the most powerful managers are likely to be influenced by others, especially by those whose power is based on attraction or expertise. Those with less power use persuasion and rational argument to try to influence the more powerful. Managers to whom others direct much attention but who receive few offers of rewards or threats of punishment usually possess substantial decision making power.

  3. Buying-center decision makers may be disliked by those with less power. Thus, when others express concern about one buying-center member’s opinions along with their feelings of dislike or ambivalence, sellers have strong clues as to who the powerful buyer is.

  4. High-power buyers tend to be one-way information centers, serving as focal points for information from others. The vice president who doesn’t come to meetings but who receives copies of all correspondence about a buying matter is probably a central influencer or decider.

  5. The most powerful buying-center members are probably not the most easily identified or the most talkative members of their groups. Indeed, the really powerful buying group members often send others to critical negotiations because they are confident that little of substance will be made final without their approval.

  6. No correlation exists between the functional area of a manager and his or her power within a company. It is not possible to approach the data processing department blindly to find decision makers for a new computer system, as many sellers of mainframes have learned. Nor can one simply look to the CEO to find a decision maker for a corporate jet. There is no substitute for working hard to understand the dynamics of the buying company.

What Do They Want?

Diagnosing motivation accurately is one of the easiest management tasks to do poorly and one of the most difficult to do well. Most managers have lots of experience at diagnosing another’s wants, but though the admission comes hard, most are just not very accurate when trying to figure out what another person wants and will do. A basic rule of motivation is as follows: all buyers (indeed, all people) act selfishly or try to be selfish but sometimes miscalculate and don’t serve their own interests. Thus, buyers attempt to maximize their gains and minimize their losses from purchase situations. How do buyers choose their own self-interest? The following are insights into that decision-making process from research.

First, buyers act as if a complex product or service was decomposable into various benefits. Examples of benefits might include product features, price, reliability, and so on.

Second, buyers segment the potential benefits into various categories. The most common of these are financial, product-service, social-political, and personal. For some buyers, the financial benefits are paramount, while for others, the social-political ones—how others in the company will view the purchase—rank highest. Of course, the dimensions may be related, as when getting the lowest-cost product (financial) results in good performance evaluations and a promotion (social-political).

Finally, buyers ordinarily are not certain that purchasing the product will actually bring the desired benefit. For example, a control computer sold on its reliability and industrial-strength construction may or may not fulfill its promise. Because benefits have value only if they actually are delivered, the buyer must be confident that the selling company will keep its promises. Well-known vendors, like IBM or Xerox, may have some advantage over lesser-known companies in this respect.

As marketers know, not all promised benefits will be equally desired by all customers. All buyers have top-priority benefit classes, or “hot buttons.” For example, a telecommunications manager weighing a choice between Bell and non-Bell equipment will find some benefits, like ownership, available only from non-Bell vendors. Other desired benefits, such as reputation for service and reliability, may be available to a much greater degree from Bell. The buyer who has financial priorities as a hot button may decide to risk possible service-reliability problems for the cost-reduction benefits available through ownership. Another manager—one primarily concerned with reducing the social-political risks that result from service problems—may reach a different decision. Exhibit 3 schematically shows the four classes into which buyers divide benefits. The telecommunications example illustrates each class.

Outlining the buyer’s motivation suggests several possible selling approaches. The vendor can try to focus the buyer’s attention on benefits not a part of his or her thinking. A magazine ad sales representative, for instance, devised a questionnaire to help convince an uncertain client to buy advertising space. The questionnaire sought information about the preferred benefits—in terms of reach, audience composition, and cost per thousand readers. When the prospective buyer “played this silly game” and filled out the questionnaire, he convinced himself of the superior worth of the vendor’s magazine on the very grounds he was seeking to devalue it.

Conversely, a vendor can de-emphasize the buyer’s desire for benefits against which the vendor’s offering stacks up poorly. For example, if a competing vendor’s jet offers better fuel economy, the selling company might attempt to refocus the buyer’s attention toward greater speed or lower maintenance costs.

The vendor can also try to increase the buyer’s confidence that promised benefits will be realized. One software company selling legal administrative systems, for example, provides a consulting service that remote users can phone if they are having problems, backup copies of its main programs in case users destroy the original, a complete set of input forms to encourage full data entry, and regular conferences to keep users current on system revisions. These services are designed to bolster the confidence of extremely conservative administrators and lawyers who are shopping for a system.

Finally, vendors often try to change what the buyer wants or which class of benefits he or she responds to most strongly. My view of motivation is that such an approach is almost always unsuccessful. Selling strategy needs to work with the buyer’s motivations, not around them.

How Do They Perceive Us?

How buyers perceive the selling company, its products, and its personnel is very important to efficient selling. Powerful buyers invariably have a wide range of perceptions about a vending company. One buyer will have a friend at another company who has used a similar product and claims that “it very nearly ruined us.” Another may have talked to someone with a similar product who claims that the vending company “even sent a guy out on a plane to Hawaii to fix the unit there quickly. These people really care.”

One drug company representative relates the story of how the company was excluded from all the major metropolitan hospitals in one city because a single influential physician believed that one of the company’s new offerings was implicated in a patient’s death. This doctor not only generalized his impressions to include all the company’s products but encouraged his friends to boycott the company.

A simple scheme for keeping tabs on how buyers perceive sellers is to ask sales officials to estimate how the important buyers judge the vending company and its actions. This judgment can be recorded on a continuum ranging from negative to positive. If a more detailed judgment is desired, the selling company can place its products and its people on two axes perpendicular to each other, like this:

The scarcity of marketing dollars and the effectiveness of champions in the buying process argue strongly for focusing resources where they are likely to do the most good. Marketing efforts should aim at those in the buying company who like the selling company, since they are partially presold. While there is no denying the adage, “It’s important to sell everybody,” those who diffuse their efforts this way often sell no one.

Gathering Psychological Intelligence

While I would like to claim that some new technique will put sound psychological analyses magically in your sales staff’s hands, no such technique exists. But I have used the human-side approach in several companies to increase sales effectiveness, and there are only three guidelines needed to make it work well.

Make Productive Sales Calls a Norm, Not an Oddity

Because of concern about the rapidly rising cost of a sales call, managers are seeking alternative approaches to selling. Sales personnel often do not have a good idea of why they are going on most calls, what they hope to find out, and which questions will give them the needed answers. Sales-call planning is a matter not only of minimizing miles traveled or courtesy calls on unimportant prospects but of determining what intelligence is needed about key buyers and what questions or requests are likely to produce that information.

I recently traveled with a major account representative of a duplication equipment company, accompanying him on the five calls he made during the day. None of the visits yielded even 10% of the potential psychological or other information that the representative could use on future calls, despite the fact that prospects made such information available repeatedly.

At one company, for example, we learned from a talkative administrator that the CEO was a semirecluse who insisted on personally approving equipment requests; that one of the divisional managers had (without the agreement of the administrator) brought in a competitor’s equipment to test; and that a new duplicator the vendor had sold to the company was more out of service than in. The salesperson pursued none of this freely offered information, nor thought any of it important enough to write down or pass on to the sales manager. The call was wasted because the salesperson didn’t know what to look for or how to use what was offered.

Exhibit 4 shows a matrix that can be used to capture on a single sheet of paper essential psychological data about a customer. I gave some clues for filling in the matrix earlier in the article, but how sales representatives go about gathering the information depends on the industry, the product, and especially the customer. In all cases, however, key selling assessments involve (1) isolating the powerful buying-center members, (2) identifying what they want in terms of both their hot buttons and specific needs, and (3) assessing their perceptions of the situation. Additionally, gathering psychological information is more often a matter of listening carefully than of asking clever questions during the sales interview.

Listen to the Sales Force

Nothing discourages intelligence gathering as much as the sales force’s conviction that management doesn’t really want to hear what salespeople know about an account. Many companies require the sales force to file voluminous call reports and furnish other data—which vanish, never to be seen or even referred to again unless a sales representative is to be punished for one reason or another.

To counter this potentially fatal impediment, I recommend a sales audit. Evaluate all sales force control forms and call reports and discard any that have not been used by management for planning or control purposes in the last year. This approach has a marvelously uplifting effect all around; it frees the sales force from filling in forms it knows nobody uses, sales management from gathering forms it doesn’t know what to do with, and data processing from processing reports no one ever requests. Instead, use a simple, clear, and accurate sales control form of the sort suggested in Exhibit 4—preferably on a single sheet of paper for a particular sales period. These recommendations may sound drastic, but where management credibility in gathering and using sales force intelligence is absent, drastic measures may be appropriate.

Emphasize Homework and Details

Having techniques for acquiring sales intelligence and attending to reports is not enough. Sales management must stress that the company rewards careful fact gathering, tight analysis, and impeccable execution. This message is most meaningful when it comes from the top.

Cautionary Notes

The group that influences a purchase doesn’t call itself a buying center. Nor do decision makers and influencers think of themselves in those terms. Managers must be careful not to mistake the analysis and ordering process for the buyers’ actions themselves. In addition, gathering data such as I have recommended is a sensitive issue. For whatever reasons, it is considered less acceptable to make psychological estimates of buyers than economic ones. Computing the numbers without understanding the psychology, however, leads to lost sales. Finally, the notion implicit throughout this article has been that sellers must understand buying, just as buyers must understand selling. When that happens, psychology and marketing begin to come together usefully. Closed sales follow almost as an afterthought.

1. The concept of the buying center was proposed in its present form by Frederick E. Webster, Jr., and Yoram Wind in Organizational Buying Behavior (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1972), pp. 75–87.

2. Wesley J. Johnston and Thomas V. Bonoma, “Purchase Process for Capital Equipment and Services,” Industrial Marketing Management 10 (1981): 253.

3. Documentation for my assertions regarding psychological research can be found in Thomas V. Bonoma and Gerald Zaltman, Management Psychology (Boston: Kent Publishing Company, 1981). See Chapter 8 for the power literature and Chapter 3 for material on motivation.

Writer: by : Thomas V. Bonoma


A version of this article appeared in the May 1982 issue of Harvard Business Review.

Thomas V. Bonoma was a professor of marketing at Harvard Business School, in Boston, and the founder of Renaissance Cosmetics, in Stamford, Connecticut. He authored several books and HBR articles.



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