How should IT buyers be pitched?

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Jan 31, 2018

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of articles from MarketingCharts, which provides up-to-the-minute data and research to marketers

IT buyers say they’re contacted by marketers and sales reps more than 20 times per week on average, new research from Spiceworks has found.

The survey – fielded among 535 IT professionals in the U.S. and U.K. who influence tech purchase decisions – reveals that virtually all (97 percent) use online forums and communities to learn about new tech products.

Other popular channels used by a majority include tech news sites (79 percent), Google (77 percent), word-of-mouth (73 percent) and vendor websites (67 percent).

Fewer turn to conferences/tradeshows (43 percent), e-mails from sales reps (24 percent) and social media (23 percent) when searching for information, per the report.

That said, 57 percent want to be contacted by e-mail when being pitched while fewer than half as many (26 percent) want to be pitched on online forums or communities.

Phone (eight percent) and social media (four percent) are even less favored as a method of pitching.

Overall, despite the number of pitches they say they’re fielding on a weekly basis (mostly via e-mail rather than phone), only 36 percent said they preferred seeking out information themselves when needed.

When asked what fuels a respond to a new marketer or sales rep, IT buyers were most apt to point to a relevant product/service (77 percent). Other high responses include detailed pricing information, 61 percent; detail product specs, 55 percent. Coming in lower were a free product trial, 35 percent; a recognized brand, 35 percent and peer testimonial, 24 percent.

As far as important factors that IT buyers take into account when considering their brand loyalty, the top answers were great customer support (97 percent), consistently fair pricing (96 percent), a history of reliable products and services (96 percent), access to technical experts at the company (91 percent) and access to informative content (86 percent.)

The biggest factors that defer loyalty were a poor customer support experience, 94 percent; too many sales/marketing calls and emails, 85 percent; a security issue with the vendor, 85 percent; price increases, 75 percent, and lack of innovation, 75 percent.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: From pitching to support, what advice would you have for vendors seeking to connect with retail IT buyers? What is commonly the biggest pain point in the IT staff/vendor relationship?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"The gold standard for marketing to IT professionals in the retail industry is having a personal relationship with them."
"You have to make all of this personal if you want to get your foot in the door."
"The more relevant a vendor can be in truly understanding the customer’s business problems, and aligning solutions with retail pain points, the better."

Join the Discussion!

12 Comments on "How should IT buyers be pitched?"

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Mark Ryski

Be professionally persistent, but don’t be a pain. As noted, IT managers are inundated by marketing pitches and sales reps. Vendors should do their research about the company before they start making calls to ensure they have a clear understanding of how their solution could work for the buyer. The biggest pain point in the IT staff/vendor relationship is the inability to prove efficacy. Vendors make lots of promises about how their solutions will deliver value, but more often than not, these claims go unsubstantiated. The onus should be on the vendor to prove his/her solution can deliver the value s/he purports it can.

Brandon Rael

Persistence is always welcome but, without the relationships and knowing the company culture, vendors may create some friction when they are pitching retail IT buyers. A typical vendor sales cycle could take months or significantly more depending on the complexity of the proposed work. It’s critical that the software/consulting vendors do their homework, leverage their existing relationships and absolutely be in tune to the corporate culture of the prospective client.

Retail IT organizational leaders are inundated with requests, calls and emails, so persistence could be a slippery slope. What is welcome and necessary is to know your client’s pain points, work collaboratively and in partnership with the retail IT leaders and cultivate that relationship to one that is full of trust and transparency.

If and when you win the deal with the retail organization, the most critical component is to not only meet the delivery expectations but exceed them with exceptional service.

Cathy Hotka

The gold standard for marketing to IT professionals in the retail industry is having a personal relationship with them. The smartest technology companies hire outstanding sales professionals, and let them serve as trusted advisors. If your strategy involves cold-calling, you should re-think it.

Charles Dimov

Make sure it is relevant to the IT buyer. If it is not part of their pain points, or an opportunity to step out from the competitive crowd, then it is going to fall on deaf ears. As an example from the marketing world, one famous and large marketing vendor put out plenty of content. I read two white papers that were completely fluff. I had no better idea about the area they were discussing after reading the paper. Full marks for beautiful writing. Zero marks for useful or informative content. The brand impression left is that the company does NOT have expertise in the product they are selling. The customer (me in this case), will NOT even consider doing business with them, regardless of the number of times contacted.

Moral: Make your discussions and content relevant, focused on their pain points and helpful. Make sure to give them something useful before you ask for anything!

Peter Luff

Common issues for technology vendors are to sell based on spec lists and prices. Commodity selling may have its place, but in many cases retail IT buyers want solutions to business problems. They want to work with someone they can build a trusting relationship with. This gives them confidence in the area of post-sales support, which is highlighted as a critical factor in the article. This may mean that the hope of a quick “smash-and-grab” sale is unlikely; IT vendors need to look at the first call or email as a part of a longer-term engagement approach.

It’s worth remembering the old adage: people buy from people first and foremost. Make your calls genuine and build relationships to truly understand the buyer’s needs — selling tech comes way down the list.

Michael Day

The responses on the graph probably tell the story: “A relevant product/service” leading the way at 77 percent, etc. In this time of (consumer) technology-driven transformation, retailers/retail leadership are looking for the right, relevant technology solutions to help enable many of them to still be here five years from now, etc. The more relevant a vendor can be in truly understanding the customer’s business problems, and aligning solutions with retail pain points (both strategically and tactically), the better in terms of forging those deeper relationships with retail IT buyers. This is where account-based marketing and driving optimal alignment between technology vendor marketing and sales can help.

Cristian Grossmann
When it comes to pitching IT buyers, authenticity and personalization are both crucial. If a cold email fails to convey that the provider’s BD team has done any sort of in-depth research on the company they’re reaching out to, that impersonal tone can be quite a turnoff for potential buyers. Identifying either a personal experience with the product or a specific product feature that is relevant to the solution they’re selling can help IT sales reps strike up a more substantive conversation. Additionally, if the IT product in question is white labeled/has the potential to be branded, it may be worthwhile to plug in brand colors and logos into some sample UI screens so that the potential client can really visualize how the product would function within day-to-day operations. Lastly, it’s key to make sure that your outreach is paced correctly. If you have an automated workflow turned on and the client has made it clear they won’t be interested until one or two quarters from now, it’s important for sales to remove them from… Read more »
Ralph Jacobson
Email open rates from senders that the recipient doesn’t recognize are low. So if the target executive to whom you are sending an email doesn’t know you, then you have to use a compelling subject line to even get the two to six seconds of their attention to stop them from deleting the note without even opening it. There are myriad examples of compelling subject lines on the Web. From there, keep the body of the note crisp and give a personal message, based upon your research of with what that particular executive is challenged, what the key objectives of the company are for the year and any key pain point you have heard or read in public publications. Do some research on LinkedIn/Facebook for a personal interest that perhaps you can connect in the message. You have to make all of this personal if you want to get your foot in the door. Keep your main product/service selling message short, to the point and specific to this executive.(e.g., talk marketing if the exec is… Read more »
Ricardo Belmar
Much like the relationship between retailer and customer, the relationship between retailer and technology vendor is all about relevance and how that relevance transforms the relationship into one of a trusted advisor. Retail IT managers receive so many requests from salespeople they have become essentially immune to the typical sales pitch about how great a given technology solution will be for them. A trusted advisor relationship starts with identifying the business value a given solution will provide to the retailer — what desirable business outcome will be enabled and delivered as a result of deploying that technology? Additionally, how can the individual experts at the vendor deliver value to the retailer both in deploying their technology but also in how their technology interacts with other important retail systems. If the vendor’s technology impacts store operations or enables improved associate engagement, how can this benefit be realized? Does it require more than just a technical configuration? Sometimes being the trusted advisor also means you recommend someone else’s solution — not necessarily a competitive one, but another… Read more »
Sterling Hawkins

Having a product and message that resonates just works since you’re ADDING value to the recipient. The same goes for B2C marketing — relevancy always wins the day.

Cynthia Holcomb

My advice to vendors seeking to connect with retail IT buyers, read the comments of our great RetailWire BrainTrust! Well done.

The biggest pain point: vendors not ready for “prime time” or salespeople who do not understand or only have cursory knowledge of the “pain point” they say they can solve. Vendors who hire salespeople, when they should be hiring business solution advocates. Authentic, “know the pain” business solution advocate/providers, who just happen to have access to the tech platform to solve the IT staff’s business problem.

Vahe Katros
Vahe Katros
1 year 11 months ago

To paraphrase the great enterprise salesperson at SAP, Friedrich Nietzsche: “If you give them a reason why, they will endure any how.”

Focusing on the why is to focus on relevance. Now of course, the why differs if you sell infrastructure products or applications. If it’s an infrastructure product or service, the why is heavily influenced by trust and that means relationships since retailers look for longevity there. If it’s an application, than it pays to cultivate a champion in the functional area receiving the benefit. As always, “the why” changes for each sub-vertical and all sub-verticals exist in an eco-system and that’s when things might get Byzantine so … oh, just call Cathy, she’ll hook you up. 😉

Oh, and if there is any complexity in your solution as in workflows, sell a pilot test, not the product.

"The gold standard for marketing to IT professionals in the retail industry is having a personal relationship with them."
"You have to make all of this personal if you want to get your foot in the door."
"The more relevant a vendor can be in truly understanding the customer’s business problems, and aligning solutions with retail pain points, the better."

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