by Hank Barnes
“Based on the 100+ marketing emails and 15+ cold calls I get a day, they seem to already have my contact details.”
“Vendors need to be aware of our buying cycle and process not their quarter end pressures. Also corporates are increasingly mature and will conduct research, this is not a buying sign.”
These were two of the responses to a recent survey we did at Gartner, asking technology buyers about their willingness to share contact details with providers via requests on landing pages or other Web vehicles. Aggregating the sentiment of the bulk of the responses and the message was clear. Buyers want tech providers to respect their process.
When they are visiting your Web site, they are typically exploring new ideas or evaluating. At that point, they really (and they mean really) don’t want to be sold to. It is not the right time. Most of the buyers said, “We will contact when the time is right.” For some, asking for contact too soon, or placing a sales call too early, means immediate disqualification—they will go look elsewhere. There was a strong tone of distrust in the feedback. For example:
“We have consistently seen problems with vendors swamping us, by contacting every individual possible within our organization. This disrupts our business. As a result, we wait as long as we possibly can before indicating any interest in any product/service.”
The perceived lack of respect for their time and their business hurts everyone. Buyers put up more and more walls to protect their time. They view every contact with skepticism. Its an uphill battle for providers to get back trust and respect.
At the same time, buyers understand that selling is a job and they’ll share contact details as a result. Despite figures from others that found that buyers are anywhere from 57-75% through their buying process before they will contact a provider and the “we will call you when the time is right” sentiment,” we did find a willingness to connect earlier in the process—the late in the process idea may not apply as much for technology. One respondent voiced the challenge clearly:
“When I hand over my contact details, I’m apt to get bombarded repeatedly and far too frequently by vendors. So I’m cautious about the timing, and it depends on how familiar I am already with the product or kind of technology. If I’m uncertain or need advice I might make contact earlier in the process but it varies widely from one project to another.”
They are worried that contact may cause “bombardment”, but at the same time, will reach out if they want additional information. This can happen early in the process, For a provider, this is a make or break opportunity. It starts with having enough compelling information available for the buyer to research on their own to gain interest. If they do reach out or express a willingness to be contacted, respect their process. If they are just exploring, offer insight and clarification to address their questions.Ask them about their buying process—then help it along the way. Don’t force the sale.
Finally, two more responses sum up the sentiment clearly:
“I expect a vendor’s publicly available material to provide a thorough explanation of the workings of their product. If that’s not the case, I am not likely to explore interest any further.”
“I respect the vendor’s time and their sales process. In return, I need my time and process to be respected. It’s in nobody’s best interest for conversations to take place before both parties are ready. Insofar as a vendor requests my contact details before I feel I’m ready, I’ll resist providing them and resent the vendor.”
1. Buyers expect to have ready (gate-free) access to enough information for them to assess if the provider is likely to be a good fit for their business. Think case studies, product overviews, some detailed technical information, etc. There is no magic formula of what is perfect for this, but I’d suggest you ask yourself (or your customers)—from what we share, can a potential customer effectively assess fit?
2. Buyers are conflicted. They recognize, and value, the need for quality sales interactions. But the overwheming volume of time wasting interruptions. that are about selling and raraely about them, leaves them jaded. So they avoid contact unless its necessary for them to make progress. If contact is made, then buyers want added value, not sales pitches. Providers need to be prepared, using what they know about the buyers from their Web interactions, prior history, and personal research, to quickly learn where the buyer is in their process, to understand what additional information they want (or need), and to offer a path that works for the buyer.
We all know today’s buyer is able to, and wants to, do more personal research. At the same time, technology buying requires lots of interactions with providers. This can come early in the buying process or late. What your team does when the opportunity to interact arises forms the basis for the customer experience going forward. Will it move on a path of building trust or one of frustration, skepticism, and doubt? The answer is driven by your understanding and respect for your customer’s buying process.