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Why vendors are putting growth and retention at risk by ignoring distressed buyers

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(Image credit: Image Credit: Zapp2Photo / Shutterstock)

We are at a point in time where the opportunity for certain industries has never been greater. Technology is an obvious one – whether digital workspace or videoconferencing, cloud computing or cyber security, enterprises are crying out for support, and they are prepared to put their money where their mouth is. You only have to look at the results of the likes of Zoom and Microsoft to see how many vendors are really capitalizing on the opportunities that are out there.

Yet at the same time, data suggests that not all technology providers are getting it right. In fact, as we dive into 2021, it is apparent that prospects are increasingly feeling let down by the sales and marketing teams of potential suppliers. In fact, according to the latest Customer Buying Index from Momentum, many would-be customers are struggling to acquire the support they need, with 42 percent of enterprises are finding it more difficult to make IT buying decisions.

The Index terms that cohort of customers as ‘distressed buyers’, and they are wrestling with a number of issues. Firstly, there is the challenge of shrinking budgets – technology may be critical to continuity and success, but restricted revenues and cash flow means many buyers are having to be more selective in what they invest in.

Then there is the challenge of business in a post-Covid ‘virtual first’ world, where relationship building and fact finding has to be restricted to Zoom and phone, rather than face-to-face meetings, informal lunches and in-person demonstrations. In fact, 94 percent of those distressed buyers said that informal meetings, such as lunches and events, with IT vendors are important when building relationships, something that is increasingly being lost in a virtual first world. But are sales and marketing teams adapting adequately?

It seems they are struggling to. Not being in the office is having an impact on vendors – almost two fifths of enterprises said sales team are more disconnected and having problems speaking to the same number of people as they did pre-pandemic. Little wonder then that more than half of the customers surveyed complained that technology vendors do not even share information efficiently across their own teams.

Furthermore, technology suppliers were marked down in proactivity, frequency of communications and business insights. It all points to sales and marketing teams failing to adapt their approaches to make the most of the reduced number of interactions they have. If they do not address this, they are ultimately putting business growth and customer retention at risk.

From volume to value

What then can technology vendors do to arrest this slump and avoid losing customers and prospects? It starts by moving away from volume.

Historically there has perhaps been a presumption that having access to digital marketing tools means being able to reach a huge number of contacts simultaneously, with the minimum of personalization. The thinking goes that eventually something will stick, ushering in a more detailed conversation.

The evidence from the Index suggests that this attitude has carried into our new virtual-first world, particularly if vendors have been reinvesting certain marketing budgets (such as events) into digital channels. The danger is that if face-to-face meetings have stopped, but digital communications have increased, then it is little wonder that distressed buyers are going to have the feeling that they are at the receiving end of a monologue, rather than engaged in a value-adding, meaningful dialogue.

That is why vendors need to reconsider their volume-based tactics. Buyers are not anti-digital; in fact, very much the opposite. One study from McKinsey shows how they are embracing this virtual first world, stating that “B2B decision makers globally say that online and remote selling is as effective as in-person engagement, or even more so”.

What sales and marketing teams need to be doing, however, is to make sure each interaction adds value. That covers everything, from personalizing the approach itself, to investing in the content and ensuring it delivers true, differentiated insight that articulates a clear vision, and allowing the prospect to be able to engage in a manner that goes beyond filling in a form.

There is only one way that can be achieved. It requires sales and marketing teams to take the time to understand customer needs and pain points, then use this grasp of the issues to make the clear link between the solution they are pushing and the problem the prospect has.

This might seem basic, bread-and-butter sales tactics. However, as the Index shows, it clearly is not being followed as a matter of course. Or rather, if it is, it does not bring the level of personalization that buyers, whether distressed or not, are looking for. This goes far beyond making sure you get someone’s name right at the top of an email; it means making sure the content they are receiving is customized to the overall business concerns, their specific role and how that position can help be an answer to those overarching issues. 

When it comes to B2B buying terms, that also means considering the number of decision-makers, internal influencers and stakeholders that are involved in purchasing cycles. Each piece of content or information needs to speak to those individual concerns. It is a complex process, and one that demands that technology vendor sales and marketing teams are knowledgeable, informed and customer-focused in their pursuit of delivering value.

Success in a virtual first reality

As technology vendors gear up for an unknown future, being able to secure growth and retain customers is front of mind. But our virtual first reality means that the old approaches need to be upended. With buyers increasingly distressed, a customized approach that focuses on building relationships and directly addressing how the product in question is the answer to the challenge faced is critical. Vendors must not sacrifice value for volume – the likelihood of success through the latter is only going to continue to diminish as buyers expect more tailored, nuanced discussions, and with it opportunities for future prosperity.

Alisha Lyndon, Founder & CEO, Momentum (opens in new tab)

Alisha is Founding CEO of MomentumABM, the company that designs, develops and executes ABM programmes for some of the world’s biggest brands including Oracle, Google and Amazon.