By Kelly J. Waffle
Last year’s pandemic made business unpredictable, uncertain, and unforgettable. It also changed the way many buyers evaluated and purchased technology and software as highlighted in Hinge Research Institute’s new Inside the Buyer’s Brain: Technology & Software Edition research study.
This third edition, which first came out in 2013, collected and analyzed the responses of over 191 buyers and 60 sellers of technology and software services. Because the buyers bought products and services from the sellers, the research studies both sides of the relationship to focus on how they see each other and identifies disconnect that can derail a professional relationship or purchase.
So, let’s dive into some insights from the study that may help you understand your potential buyers better and generate more sales opportunities.
What Are Your Buyers’ Business Challenges?
According to the Inside the Buyer’s Brain research, technology, and software sellers are fairly attuned to the issues that their buyers are facing (see Figure 1). This can give you a potential advantage when it comes to messaging the value of your products or services. The key, of course, is to understand the many different nuances of the buyers’ stated concerns so that your messages stand above the noise of other sellers saying that they can provide or solve what you can.
Figure 1.: Top challenges of technology and software buyers
How Do Buyers Feel About Their Technology Vendors And Resellers?
Somewhat troubling is the erosion of a technology or software buyer’s willingness to recommend a vendor or reseller—which is down by an alarming 23% in just two years. This is the largest decrease of any of the industries sampled in the overall Inside the Buyer’s Brain study.
There is another means of measuring how buyers feel about their sellers: relevancy. Fortunately for technology and software sellers, 42% of buyers rate sellers as “highly relevant” to their top organizational challenges—and this statistic has improved 30% over the last two years. This finding is significant since relevance impacts both willingness to recommend and client loyalty (see Figure 2).
Figure 2.: The impact of relevancy on technology and software buyers’ willingness to recommend and client loyalty
High-relevance to the buyers’ key issues not only wins new buyers—but it also helps you keep them. Vendors and resellers that are viewed as highly relevant to their buyers’ current issues are 80% more likely to be highly recommended by their existing clients. As you can see in Figure 2, high relevancy ratings are also associated with a 30% higher likelihood of having loyal clients. How relevant is your organization as seen by your buyers today?
How Do Your Potential Buyers Find You And Your Competitors?
Figure 3.: How Technology and Software Buyers Search for Work-Related Topics
When your potential buyers need to find a solution to a problem they are trying to solve, they will more likely conduct a web search than any other strategy (Figure 3). It is interesting to note that almost all the other popular search techniques require a digital presence as well. For you, this means a more deliberate focus to ensure that your website, search engine optimization (SEO), and social media strategies are optimized as much as possible. When is the last time you assessed the effectiveness of your website? Do you have an SEO strategy and how many times do you rank first or second on Google pages for specific keywords? Are you actively and consistently engaging with content on LinkedIn and Twitter?
How Do Technology And Software Buyers Evaluate Vendors And Resellers?
While technology vendors and resellers have long relied on showcasing relevant past experience to help close the deal, we saw the limits of this strategy in the Inside the Buyer’s Brain research. While still an important factor, its role in the final selection process has decreased by 30% over the last few years (as seen in Figure 4). Competitive pricing—especially perceived value—showed the biggest change, 108%, over the past few years. Expertise is becoming a more important evaluation factor, rising almost 50%, and carrying almost the same weight as competitive pricing and value. It is worth pointing out that innovation wasn’t even mentioned in previous Inside the Buyer’s Brain studies as a top deciding factor—takes the #2 slot in our latest study. Be sure your organization is aligned with these current deciding factors because, as you have seen, they do change from time to time.
Figure 4.: Top Five Deciding Factors (Scale Tippers) in Buying Technology and Software
What Does This All Mean For Your Company?
Now is a time of significant and rapid change in most businesses. It is no different for technology sellers. While no one can know for sure how this change will play out, you have to adapt to the ways that your buyers are finding and evaluating your products and services. Here are a few conclusions that seem to be clear:
- You need to continually understand your buyers’ challenges. These challenges (and buyer behavior) appear to be changing more frequently than in the past. When pricing and value figure so prominently in the final selection as they do with technology and software purchases, differentiated and relevant messaging become the paths to standing out above the noise.
- You need to focus more on the relevancy of your products or services. Don’t assume that your potential buyer fully understands what they need or how you can help them—even it seems obvious to you. Take your expertise up a notch and make sure that it is relevant to your potential buyers’ challenges.
- You need to get serious about digital communications. You may need to bring these digital skills to your organization with a new hire or a consultant contract. You will lose too much time if you try to learn digital marketing on your own. Also, you are sure to compromise or de-prioritize digital marketing steps to shortcut implementation. This will only cost you leads, opportunities, and revenue. If you have already embraced digital marketing, go to the next level of maturity. Start with a website audit with a consultant or consulting firm. Take a look at your SEO strategy. What keywords could be added? What content is missing in your marketing and sales funnel to move opportunities ahead? Are you leveraging videos? Are you hosting webinars? Do you have technology that will help you reach target audiences, nurture leads that are not sales-ready, and build your database? Do you have subject matter experts who could write more blogs, articles, guides, etc.?
You need to get started today. None of these conclusions can be met in a day or even a week. Each will take careful planning, preparation, and implementation. But, if implemented properly, the actions behind each of these conclusions will help you generate more visibility, recommendations, loyalty, and revenue. Good luck.
About The Author
Kelly Waffle is Managing Director of Hinge Research Institute. Leveraging his deep leadership experience in corporate marketing, marketing consulting and creative agency environments, Kelly drives the Hinge Research Institute’s growth and thought leadership. On any given day, he can be found helping large companies get a better understanding of the professional services market through the Institute’s custom or licensed research—or advising firms and companies how to use research to drive content strategies and campaigns.