In nearly every conversation I have with AV sales people, someone asks, “How does the IT guy really buy products?” They ask eagerly, hoping for a simple formula, a holy grail of selling. They know once they have this knowledge, they’ll surpass every sales quota, earn huge bonuses, receive framed certificates and certainly be the envy of the sales team.
While this quest may sound unattainable there really is a simple buying process for IT buyers. In fact, sales people who align their efforts to IT buying phases often realize a 10% lift in sales and reduced their sales cycle by 71%. Yet this approach is often new and elusive to AV professionals. Let’s consider a few tips to understanding how IT buyers evaluate and purchase technology products, so you too can synch your sales efforts and close more deals.
The IT buying process has three phases: Education, Evaluation and Selection.
The Education phase comes naturally to IT buyers, appealing to their inclination to seek knowledge. IT buyers spend nearly one day a week educating themselves on new products, innovative solutions and future technologies. Where do they look for this information? Online. In fact, 70% of the IT buying process takes place online – well before IT buyers engage with a live sales person. What do you do? Engage online.
Tip 1. Become part of the digital conversation
Insert yourself into the digital conversation with IT buyers. Be where they are and include yourself in the conversations. Join IT communities, read IT blogs and IT chats. Understand IT buyers’ needs and challenges and become accustomed to how they interact and converse. Then include yourself in the conversation by offering knowledge and helpful advice - when and where it makes sense. IT buyers will get to know and respect you based on your comments.
Key takeaway: Join online conversations and start a discussion.
In the Evaluation phase, the goal of the IT buyer is to winnow every possible solution to just a few. They seek product-specific information in this phase. They compare and contrast solutions, gain deeper insights into technical specifications, try online demos and read technical white papers. This is an ideal time to strengthen your online relationship and build trust.
Tip 2. Strengthen your online relationships
Offering valuable information moves you from starting a conversation to building an online relationship. It’s a way to secure your online reputation as a knowledgeable source and trusted contributor. Demonstrate your knowledge by providing information not only on your solution, but also about your competitors. Offer content on new technologies, industry research and trends. Become someone they trust and want as a vendor-partner.
Key takeaway: Build an online relationship and establish trust.
During the Selection phase, IT buyers create a “short list” of usually three solutions to send to their CIO or executive team for approval. They need particular information about those three solutions, information such as financial justification with business and financial cases, service agreements and technical support contracts. In this phase, IT buyers move from digital activities to phone calls and in-person meetings to get this information. Most important, they seek a vendor to provide that information. It’s your opportunity to be that vendor-partner and get them exactly what they need.
Tip 3. Be an ally online and in-person
This is when your comments, contributions and rapport pay off. You’ve developed a credible relationship with the IT buyer and been through every buying phase together. IT buyers will now reach out to you. They’ll e-mail or call you, trusting that you will help build a financial case for them. Be the ally the IT buyer needs to get your solution approved internally.
Key takeaway: Be the partner that gets your solution approved.
Understanding each phase of the IT buying process and aligning your sales efforts using these simple guidelines will drive sales making you the envy of your sales team.
Erin Bolton , Director of Digital Demand Solutions at MarketStar, is an award-winning marketer who creates sales and marketing programs for technology companies. Her experience building integrated, research-driven initiatives that grow sales through distribution channels has earned Erin a reputation as an ally to those selling to the IT buyer.
Sirius Decisions, Selling Power Research
IDG Enterprise, September 2012
The article originally published in AVNetwork.