Decisions, Decisions...Who is in the Loop When Deciding on an Industrial or Municipal Wastewater Treatment Process?


Decisions can be pretty tough to make, even for something as simple as deciding what to have for dinner, nevermind an industrial or municipal wastewater treatment process.

Decisions can get even more complicated when more people are involved, because everyone has to agree on something. There can be different opinions on what that decision should be. If a group of friends is deciding on what to have for dinner, there could be a long process of discussing who wants what, what some people may be allergic to, whether certain people are vegetarian or vegan, etc.

This similar process occurs in the procurement for a new or retrofitted industrial or municipal wastewater treatment system process.

Let’s say one of the friends recently tried a new restaurant that they really enjoyed, so one evening when deciding on where to eat dinner, they suggest it to their group of friends. Some of the other friends may be wanting to try something new while others may be skeptical.

Therefore, the friend who has eaten at this new place may try to sell it to the others by stating how much they enjoyed the food. One friend may ask what the restaurant had on the menu. Another friend, may ask how much the food costs. Yet another friend may ask if the friend who had eaten there thinks the food is something they will enjoy.

Pros and cons will be weighed and it will be put to a vote. In some cases, more weight will be added to the vote of the friend that is paying the bill if one person in paying.

As discussed above, this process can be observed in an industry or municipal setting. Whether the solution provider approaches the potential buyer initially or the buyer approaches the solution provider, the purchasing company must go through a process involving multiple departments and positions before the final decision is made, water treatment or wastewater treatment process is approved, and systems are purchased.

Let’s look at how this process might happen, and who might be involved should an industrial company or small / mid-sized municipality be interested in implementing a system within their new or existing wastewater treatment process.

An article by Frederick E. Webster Jr. and Yoram Wind in the Journal of Marketing provides a general model of organizational buying behavior. Webster and Wind define five roles within the buyer’s organization that are involved in the decision-making process:

Users – those that will be using the product or service

Influencers – personnel that directly or indirectly influence the decision-making process by presenting information and evaluation criteria for the product/service and its alternatives

Deciders – personnel with the authority to make final decisions on products, specifications, and suppliers

Buyers – those who deal with the contractual agreement concerning suppliers and products

Gatekeepers – anyone who controls the flow of information between the vendor and the buyer

Multiple organizational personnel could fit into each of these roles depending on the circumstances of the procurement, just as one person could fit into multiple roles.

For instance, a Senior or Chief Engineer could be a User, an Influencer, or a Gatekeeper all within the same buying decision process. This means there isn’t a set hierarchy to the five roles, but in general, we can assume that the Deciders and Buyers are at the top, the Gatekeepers and Influencers in the middle, and the Users at the bottom of this hierarchy.

The hierarchy, however, will have little to do with the process chain. In most cases, the original point of contact in the organization, whether they be a User, Influencer, or Decider, will typically become a Gatekeeper. Then there will be back and forth communication between the Gatekeeper(s) and the solution provider while the Influencers discuss the benefits and disadvantages with the Deciders. The process will end with either no agreement or the Buyers working out final agreements with the vendor.

Therefore, the chain will generally progress as Gatekeeper to Influencer to Decider to Buyer.

Users are not involved in the decision-making unless they also double in an Influencer or Gatekeeper role in a particular procurement specification process.

So who fits into what roles?

Well, it can vary depending on who in the organization heard about the system and from where.

For example, anyone from an Engineer to a Project Manager to a Department Head could see an article published online or in a magazine or an award won about a water or wastewater treatment system. This stimulates their interest into wanting to implement this system in their water or wastewater treatment process.

When they contact a company about the system, they become a Gatekeeper. While almost any member of an organization can fit into any role depending on various circumstances.

We can make some generalizations based on one typical sales process in water/wastewater treatment.

For instance, a sales representative at a water treatment company is targeting Senior Engineers of companies that produce paper products. The salesperson catches the interest of a Senior Engineer with the promise of a wastewater treatment system that could improve the process efficiency of their pulp and paper wastewater treatment process.

Therefore, the Senior Engineer brings the system forward to the Plant Manager. Any questions from this Manager are relayed to the salesperson via the Engineer. The Manager could continue pushing the system up the chain of command, to the Department Head, Vice President or Managing Director.

The Engineer and Manager could influence their decisions by using their technical knowledge to discuss the production and cost benefits of the system in their existing water or wastewater treatment process.

Perhaps they use external resources like articles and case studies to show how the system has worked in the past. Therefore, the business case could even be presented upwards to the company CEO.

Should the higher level executives decide to implement the system (as well as any specifications) the details of the purchase are passed onto the Purchasing Department who discusses contracts and agreements with the solution provider and installing contractor.

For an industrial or municipal wastewater treatment system purchase, organizational personnel can be generally divided among the buying roles as follows:

Users – typically people that work on the floor like operators and maintenance crew who may consist of engineers or skilled operators.

Gatekeepers – usually whoever makes first contact with a sales representative could be any level of Engineer, Managers, Presidents and Vice Presidents, or even a CEO.

Influencers – technical staff within the buyers company, writers and editors of magazines and websites that feature technology (external influence)

Deciders – higher executive team personnel that make the final decision

Buyers – most typically the company or municipalities purchasing department

Summary Table of the Five Buying Roles and the Possible Organizational Positions that could Fit Them in the Case of a Wastewater Treatment System

Buying Role

Possible Organizational Position(s)


Engineer, Supervisor, Maintenance, Operator


Chief/Senior Engineer, Manager, (Vice) President, Magazine/Website Author/Editor


Manager, Department Head, President, CEO


Purchasing department, external financing company


Reception, Engineer, Manager, Department Head

In truth, the number and type of people that can be involved in a company decision can vary, depending on the scale of the purchase and the size of the company involved. A larger company or municipality with multiple locations may not involve the CEO or Managing Director in the decision for a water or wastewater treatment system in a single location.

However, with water treatment systems, it is certainly a guarantee that engineers and other technical staff will at least be involved as Influencers if not Deciders of the system in their water or wastewater treatment process.

Do you fit into one of these roles, and want to propose or specify a water or wastewater treatment solution to meet or optimize your company or municipalities wastewater treatment process goals?

Contact Genesis Water Technologies at 1-877-267-3699 in the USA or through email at for an initial consultation.

We can certainly advise you on a specific treatment solution that everyone can agree on!