The voice of the enterprise customer

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Let's examine the b-to-b marketing and selling process from your customer's point of view. 

What do your customers really think about that new marketing campaign that you recently launched? And were they pleased with the two hours of time that they just spent with your sales representative?

IDC has just published its annual assessment of buyer perception on these processes and here is a quick overview for you.

Some good news: The overall sentiment of buyers is improving in 2011. However, these gains appear to be marginal and so it remains IDC's opinion that IT vendors who are motivated and capable of change have a great deal to win. 

Here are some of the key pain points that buyers are feeling today, and IDC's suggested guidance for vendors:

Overall preparedness of sales reps is the biggest problem. Buyers just don't see that the sales reps who come into their offices have the knowledge and preparation and resources to be effective. If vendor reps can simply be better prepared, this will save time for their buyers and that is the key goal. Your customers will love you if you can help save their precious time.

 This perception issue is a responsibility to be shared between marketing and sales organizations. I believe that in no small part, the root cause for "lack of preparation" on the part of the selling organization starts way back in the process, in the marketing organization. IDC research shows that the average sales rep has a lot of difficulty with locating the right and relevant marketing materials to bring to his or her customers. And so marketing's information-enablement of sales remains a key area for improvement. If marketing can better enable its sellers, they will in turn be better prepared in the eyes of their customers and prospects.

A couple of other findings to understand:

The size and complexity of buying teams is increasing. Vendor sales reps need to assess and serve all of the relevant buyer roles that are involved in the purchase process. This trend means that reps need to spend more time on obtaining and understanding and then mining the complex organization charts for their targeted selling ambitions.

Our research also shows that, more so than ever before, vendor marketers need to stay right on top of the issue of selecting the most effective communications channels, formats and sources. Do the research to understand where and how your buyers are informing their purchase decisions.

When it comes to information, the source (e.g., vendor, press, independent authority, peers, etc.) is most important to the IT buyer. Specifically, peers and independent analysts/researchers are the most trusted source used by the buyers.

There are many different kinds of vendor content, but the one valued the most by IT buyers during their IT investment decision process is product demos or proof of concepts. Also valued is product/service reviews and test results.

Finally, content delivery formats also play an important role in helping IT buyers make their decision. When asked to rate the value of different information delivery formats, online searches, vendor websites and in-person vendor-sponsored private events are most valued by the IT buyers today.

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