ogy. But it is also harder to buy technology. With rare exception, buyers described their purchasing processes as formal and frustrating. As a result: • The partnerships between business and IT were vital, but often inelegant.
• Buyers found it exhausting to accurately compare solu- tions “apples to apples.”
• The lack of internal consensus prolonged decisions (and problems).
• Misalignments between budgets and business require- ments stymied contracting.
Interestingly, many buyers bristled at the formality of their own internal procurement processes – lamenting “politics, red tape, and unnecessary steps.”
You can have all the talent in the world but, without determination, you won’t get very far. MALORIE BLACKMAN
That’s where high-performing sellers had an advantage. Buyers looked at the buying process as a way to determine whether a potential for partnership exists. In two-thirds (65%) of the situations analyzed, buyers noted their final decision was “significantly influenced” by whether the seller had demonstrated cultural alignment and effectively navigated power structures. When solutions are viewed as similar, those two factors can be the difference between winners and second choices.
WHAT SHOULD SELLERS DO DIFFERENTLY? Taken together, these insights provide key guidance for sellers and enablement teams: • Build and maintain a broader, cross-functional network of relationships.
• Find white space early; create business and technical awareness of your ability to solve for it.
• Actively help buyers navigate their complicated buying processes.
The only step buyers did not deem challenging was figuring out their options. In fact, only 5% of buyers said identifying potential solutions was their biggest challenge. That’s surprising given the sheer enormity of solutions in the marketplace.
So, how did buyers efficiently sift through all the pos- sibilities? They didn’t. Unfortunately for sellers, buyers usually knew there were multiple options but chose convenience – constraining conversations to existing relationships. Sellers lacking the right connections can be excluded from opportunities where their solutions would be a perfect fit.
DECISIONS ARE DIFFICULT; INTANGIBLES TIP THE SCALE.
Buyers shared that selecting a clear-cut winner was a rarity. In fact, in less than one-quarter of situations (22%) did buyers perceive the winning solution as an “ideal fit” and “vastly superior” to competitors. Usually, it was a nuanced decision based on “close enoughs” and intan- gibles.
• Double down on the intangibles, such as demonstrat- ing partnership potential. Executing these motions presents a challenge. To do this well, sellers need to know where white space exists, who possesses power, how buying processes work, and more. If sellers wait until (hopefully) gaining a discovery meeting to ask the client, it’s usually too late. Most sellers are equipped with news feeds, contact databases, and social networks. While incredibly helpful, these tools don’t mine undocumented intelligence – that which resides in the minds and experiences of people, and not on a Web page or in a system field. To capture these deeper-level insights, leading organizations are turning to “human intelligence networks” composed of experts and former executives from target accounts who can close in- formation gaps and fuel focused, differentiated strategies.
Fortunately for sellers, technology is expected to remain a core investment for many fiscal cycles to come. How- ever, the specifics of who buys technology – and how and why they make buying decisions – will constantly evolve. Sellers will need to continuously refine their approaches to take advantage of emerging opportunities without falling victim to the growing complexity. It promises to be anything but boring!
Seleste Lunsford is chief research and strategy officer at Emissary. Connect with Seleste on LinkedIn for Emissary’s latest research.
SELLING POWER MARCH/APRIL 2021 | 15 © 2021 SELLING POWER. CALL 1-800-752-7355 FOR REPRINT PERMISSION.
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