Informed buyers are now in control of the sales cycle, warns Gartner

7th Aug 2013

And according to the analyst firm, that’s going to have a major impact on how providers take their products to market.

Providers have long been accustomed to defining not only what customers will buy (the product), but also how they will buy it (the sales model).  But whereas once their focus was pushing product to a large, loosely defined customer segment, Gatner now advises firms to redirect their focus to connecting customers to their desired offering through their desired purchase experience.

Tiffani Bova, VP and distinguished analyst at Gartner, said: “The existing ways of selling, based on specific segments, high-touch, often face-to-face sales, with a select few channels and heavy investments in lead generation marketing, are beginning to be less effective as people's buying behaviour changes, and the expectations of IT shift. The key to moving forward is to take a customer-centred approach and adopt sales models that support customers' new buying processes, rather than fight against them."

And the customer isn’t the only factor affecting vendors’ sales models. Traditional technology providers are also failing to reinvent their sales models for fear of placing quarterly revenues at risk, said the firm.

Bova added that despite technology’s evolution in recent years, providers have failed to keep their sales models up to date.

"The greatest innovation challenge for providers today may be in finding the means to reinvent the sales organization and go-to-market model to meet new market demands, while at the same time continuing to protect and defend existing customers and deliver net new revenue,” she said.

According to the analyst house, we’ll begin to see three different types of provider emerge as a result of the changing role of technology. Some will cling onto old models of selling to protect their installed bases; some will evolve their products to compete better; and some will take a revolutionary approach with radical new products and business models.

As the market changes, to compete successfully, the analyst firm advises that providers will have to base their growth initiatives around three key areas:

  • The products and services they offer (and what need they fulfill)
  • Their target customers (beyond standard segmentations)
  • The sales models they deploy to sell to customers (a combination of direct and indirect activities)

Focusing too much on any one of these without considering the other two in the equation will reduce the overall impact of their go-to-market approach and sales performance, said Gartner.

Forrester also commented on the changing behaviour of buyers who are now far more content to begin the sales cycle by undertaking their own research than sift through promotional messages. Analyst Peter O'Neill said that B2B marketers must more intelligently understand their customer base if they are to provide educational content marketing that impacts the decision journey.

Fellow Forrester analyst Mark Lindwall also wrote of the need for salespeople to understand how buyers calculate value in solutions or services.  

“A significant problem for many companies (and their salespeople) is that their product managers, marketers, and sales trainers believe that their products or services have intrinsic value that just needs to be presented to make sales,” he said.

“In reality, buyers are the only real judges of value, and they don’t care about your offering unless it has the specific impact they desire at an acceptable level of risk and investment to gain that impact.”

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