A new survey conducted by IDG on behalf of Salesforce.com finds that 65 percent of B2B buyers only engage with a vendor sales representative after they’ve already made a purchase decision. That number is probably even higher when it comes to IT products and services, which suggests that the way most IT service providers are selling those products and services is fundamentally broken.
The core selling challenge today is that unless IT services firms actively create awareness of the problem their solution solves they are basically hoping that somehow a lead for their services will be generated after a purchase decision is made. Given the number of IT services firms there are in any geographical area that specialize in any particular technology, waiting for leads from a vendor is at best a reactive approach to selling. In fact, any business founded on the premise of hope is generally going to fail.
IT services firms need a proactive approach to sales
The one thing that most B2B buyers are looking for during their research process is validation. Most vendors market the features and benefits of their products and services fairly effectively. The issue is that most products and services are only one element in a much larger solution a buyer is trying create for their business.
Making the case for a true IT solution requires an understanding of how the technology can be applied and the benefits the business can derive from making that investment. This is where most IT services firms miss a significant opportunity to influence the purchasing process and actually generate demand.
Instead of cold calling prospects to tell them about the latest widget that’s been added to a particular product, IT services firms need to identify business trends where the application of a particular set of technologies can make a strategic difference. For example, rather than waiting for a potential customer to discover they need a new storage system, IT services firms need to engage in conversations about how Big Data analytics is transforming the customer experience or how an Internet of Things (IoT) system will maximize profitability.
Armed with that information, an IT executive can then make the case for a new application, which undoubtedly will include a need to invest in new IT infrastructure. The IT services firm that educated the prospective customer about that business need will naturally have the inside track on all the IT infrastructure opportunities, right down to helping that customer actually craft the request for proposal (RFP).
Engaging potential customers at that level obviously requires a fair amount of business knowledge and selling sophistication. But, if most customers are already making a purchase decision before they contact a sales representative, then it’s clear that the people making the buying decision are gathering information from influential peers.
High level sales pitches win new business
That means that by the time most customers issue an RFP, they’ve already decided what they are going to do. The RFP is now little more than a formality that creates an opportunity for one IT services firm to try to lowball another at the expense of profitability. IT services firms that work on the business strategy usually craft those RFPs in a way that only a handful of potential competitors could possibly respond, thereby protecting the value of their intellectual investment in creating the opportunity in the first place.
Successfully selling IT solutions today requires a much savvier approach to generate new business opportunities. Failing to engage customers at a higher level means the best an IT services firm can hope for is to convert a lead that was generated in a way they did not have any influence over. In other words, success is defined by the difference between actually making something happen and merely waiting for it.