Buyer 3.0: Changes to Technology Buyer Behavior
This morning in my infinite spare time (insert eye roll here) I attended a webcast presented by Christine Crandell of New Business Strategies on “Buyer 3.0: The Buyer’s Journey.” This was by far the most interesting 30 minutes of my week. Since I spend all my time on the supply side, thinking about the changes to the demand side–in light of changing demographics and social media–really gave me a new perspective on some challenges technology services is facing–especially as services focuses more on revenue generation.
A few key points from Christine:
- Customer experience. Today’s buyers are putting as much emphasis on the buying experience as they are the product features. This is something I hear all the time. I even have a section in my upcoming book about how often a rude or abrasive sales rep eliminates a “best fit” vendor from a technology project. If the customer doesn’t feel the love in every contact, you won’t be considered for the deal, no matter how good your technology is.
- Informed buyers. According to Christine, 70% of the buy cycle is complete before the buyers contacts you, giving the traditional sales rep less influence, and making other touch points (web sites, demos, blogs, analyst reports, etc.) very important. Again, this is something I hear from TSIA members shopping for technology. We have conversations about project goals and best fit options, I line them up with other members using the tool for reference calls or visits, and they spend time researching Forrester Waves, Gartner MQs, and doing lots of reading of online communities and expert blogs–all before they speak with a sales rep. By the time they contact the vendor, they are usually down to 2 or 3 vendors and ready for a test drive.
- Understanding influencers. What websites do prospects visit to learn about you? How big of an influence are social media channels and online communities? Are there particular people (press, analysts, bloggers) with a big sphere of influence? With so much research going on before engaging with a vendor, technology firms need to get much better at understanding how prospects form opinions about the brand and products, and look for ways to influence these influencers in your favor. I find only the very largest companies are doing this sort of analytic research involving millions of page views and clicks, and even then, the focus is more on customers than prospects.
I think there are some good lessons here for services marketing, who are trying to sell more services, and competing for that business with their customer’s own IT departments, as well as 3rd party service providers. Buying services from a product company may not seem obvious to buyers, so we need to get much more sophisticated about branding the service options and making them highly visible, particularly during the original product sales cycle. If they push the services decision to a later stage, the door opens for a lot of competition.
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