When it comes to purchase decisions, IT pros tend to look for advice to the OEMs and VARs they’ve worked with before. And as they change jobs, they’re likely to advocate for those vendors at their new organizations.
How do you cultivate the kind of relationship that turns IT buyers into tech evangelists?
Don’t be afraid to start small. As we explored in a recent post, many technology buyers (and the business stakeholders behind them) want to see what a new solutions provider can do on a small scale before leaping into a major engagement.
A project that’s narrow in scope but addresses a high-profile business need is an ideal foot in the door.
Be a resource, not just a seller. In a recent survey, 46% of Petri.com’s audience of IT buyers said they consult with OEMs before making a purchase decision, and 36.5% said they consult with VARs.
The secret to creating that sort of trust? Approach the relationship with buyers as a collaboration, not simply a transaction. That means being ready to provide insights about your buyers’ challenges and thinking beyond the short-term gratification of an immediate sale — even referring them to other vendors when appropriate.
As on U.K.-based group IT manager told us, “We have a small group of defined core IT vendors who cater to the majority of our needs. If they cannot assist directly, they generally know somebody else who can.”
Putting the customer first is more than just an inspirational sentiment — it’s the way to realize bigger, longer-lasting financial upside from buyers who trust your investment in their success.
Understand their business, not just their technology. So, can you proactively help solve your customers’ specific tech problems?
Congratulations! You’re halfway there.
To achieve full status as a trusted partner, you need to understand more than a little about the specific business challenges behind the technology questions your buyers have.
Information technology doesn’t exist in a vacuum — instead, it’s intrinsic to an organization’s store of intellectual property, its responsiveness to changing vertical markets, and even its culture. (What collaborative platforms do teams use? What’s the company’s policy about shadow IT, bring-your-own-device, and telecommuting?)
Even if you’re completely in tune with technical questions your buyer is asking, you still need to be a step ahead of the questions they haven’t even thought of yet.
Come armed with insights about best practices in their vertical, and do your homework about their organization. That means reading up on all the latest external news and internal corporate press releases and blogs. It also means staying alert (even in small talk) to hints about where the business is headed.
Finally, it means connecting the dots between that information and the potential for technology solutions to smooth the path.
If you can really listen to the specific issues of revenues, operating expenses, recent mergers and acquisitions, global expansion, and more … You’re in prime position to rise above a transactional relationship to a true partnership.