If you're in the business of selling enterprise technology, a new survey from Spiceworks could help you improve your pitch game.
First of all, put down the phone: Only 8 percent of IT decision-makers (ITDMs) selected phone calls as their preferred contact method. Rather, ITDMs prefer to be contacted via email (57 percent) or through online forums and communities (26 percent). You can also feel free to hit up your leads in-person at conferences and trade shows, according to 19 percent of respondents. No matter what, don't drop in on them at the office; only 4 percent chose in-person meetings as their contact method of choice.
When it comes to discovering and researching enterprise technology, 97 percent of IT pros use online forums and communities to learn about new products, and 79 percent rely on tech news sites. Google was selected by 77 percent of respondents. However, only 24 percent said they rely on introductory emails from sales reps to find new solutions.
Each week, on average, IT buyers are contacted 13 times via email, five times via phone, two times via online forums/communities, one time via social media, and one time via physical mail.
Why is it that ITDMs hate the phone so much, especially in contrast to the bombardment of emails they receive each week? Sanjay Castelino, VP of Marketing at Spiceworks, said it's not that reps are making phone calls, it's that they're calling about things buyers don't want to discuss.
"There are a number of reasons why IT pros don't want to be contacted via phone," he said. "First of all, IT pros are trying to solve problems, but most of the calls they get are from reps trying to sell them something. Instead, sales reps should be offering a solution to a problem. Secondly, when calling IT pros, many sales reps immediately confirm if they're in the buying stage, and if not, sales reps aren't interested in talking to them. IT pros aren't getting any value from these calls, so it discourages them from taking additional phone calls from vendors. And lastly, IT pros simply have too many things on their plate and too few resources, so they can only spend so much time talking to vendors on the phone."
What Makes ITDMs Respond?
How you approach potential buyers might have less to do with your success than what you're selling and how transparent you are about the product. Seventy-seven percent of IT buyers said relevant products are what drive them to respond to vendor outreach. Detailed pricing info and detailed product specifications are also incredibly important to ITDMs, with 61 and 55 percent listing these as priorities, respectively.
"Marketers and sales reps often put too much control over the information they share with IT buyers," said Castelino. "They regularly gate the content or require a sales call before they share any pricing information or product specs. However, IT buyers want to get straight to the point and understand if a product is within their budget and if it can meet the needs of their business before they engage with a sales rep. Ultimately, IT pros have limited time to speak with vendors and they want to focus on the ones who can actually help them."
In terms of which specific technologies engender the most loyalty to vendors, IT buyers say they are most loyal to their server and virtualization vendors (75 percent each), and least loyal to mobile device vendors and cloud-based services (55 and 47 percent, respectively).
"IT infrastructure, such as servers and virtualization, must operate at a very high availability rate," Castelino explained. "If something goes wrong with your infrastructure, it can have a massive impact on the business, so IT buyers spend a lot of time researching and evaluating vendors to determine which solution will meet the needs of their business. Once IT pros find something that works, the bar to get them to switch is extremely high in terms of the price and business benefit."
Not so much for mobile device and cloud services vendors.
"Compared to infrastructure, cloud services are fairly easy to purchase and spin up or spin down. Unless they're deeply engrained in a business, it's relatively easy to switch providers. That's the double-edge sword of having a low barrier to entry," said Castelino. "Looking at mobile devices from a carrier perspective, many IT pros are just looking for the right coverage at the right price. There's a good chance they'll switch providers if a much better deal comes along. In terms of mobile hardware, many IT pros will stick to the same operating system because it can require end user training if they switch. However, it's fairly easy for them to switch mobile devices that have the same operating system if there's a lower price."
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In order to win loyalty, IT buyers need brands to provide great customer support (97 percent), consistent fair pricing (96 percent), and a history of reliable products and services (96 percent). Less important to purchasers is creative marketing efforts (21 percent), regular in-person meetings (34 percent), and a personal relationship with a rep (59 percent).
"The challenge is that many marketers treat IT pros as entities of a business instead of people," said Castelino."Companies often treat IT pros like their numbers. However, many IT pros would welcome personal relationships with their vendors, especially if it helps them get their jobs done. Unfortunately, that's not what they're getting in most cases."
The results of this survey were generated from responses from more than 500 IT purchase decision-makers across the United States and the United Kingdom.