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What is the Enterprise Personality of your Customer?

by Hank Barnes  |  July 28, 2015  |  Submit a Comment

Ever experienced a situation where everything felt right in a deal? The buying team, led by a champion in the business, seemed convinced.  You had developed, with them, a strong business case for change.  The only question seemed to be how soon would the deal close.

And then nothing happens.  Your champion stops returning calls.  And when you do finally connect, you get a sheepish excuse that “we decided the timing wasn’t right” or something similar.   Your left to wonder, “what could I have done differently?”

The answer may be, “absolutely nothing.” But it might also have been the fact that you didn’t understand the enterprise personality of your prospect.

We’ve recently published some introductory work  (Gartner clients only) based on research we’ve conducted into the buying habits of enterprises over the past few years.    The core idea that we uncovered-Enterprises of all size have a distinct personality that impacts their approach to technology buying decisions.   These personalities can help predict the buying patterns that emerge for technology innovation.

It is a different, deeper look at things  from the ideas of early adopters, mainstream, and conservative buyers.   The big difference?  If you buy something early in its innovation cycle, you are an early adopter.  If you wait a while, you are mainstream.   But what if you buy one product early and one product later?  Are you an early adopter or mainstream?    Effectively, the classical terminology puts you into groups based on the decisions you have already made.  And does not serve as a predictive model for future purchases.

Enterprise Personalities look at things differently.  Gartner analyzed enterprises (of all sizes across several geographies) along 3 psychographic dimensions:

  • Control of IT Decisions
  • Approach  to Business Planning (around technology)
  • Innovative Technology Motivation



Within these options, we were able to group the enterprise population into 7 clusters, which we have given nicknames: Judicious, Business-Focused, Opportunistic, Achiever, Practical, Front Runner, Disciplined.   In each of these clusters, enterprises can be found across all sizes and all verticals.   Most importantly, they can help predict buying.

For example, in the situation that I opened this post with, let’s suppose that your solution is focused on the business buyer and uses some new technology that may not be fully standardized.  It is also fairly new on the market, so most organizations have not built it into their plans.    If your target customer was a Disciplined organization, that may have been the real reason your deal to be blocked.  Why?  Because, while Disciplined organizations can be responsive to newer technologies (as long as they feel it won’t negatively impact their infrastructure), they also exert a high degree of IT control over technology purchase decisions and have strict standardized approaches to technology planning.   As a result, the personality may have caused your deal to be blocked.  Your best bet-work to get built into the next planning cycle and encourage your business champion to build support within IT.

On the other hand, if the organization you had been selling to was Opportunistic, it is likely that your deal would have sailed through since they are business-led, open to new technologies, and accommodate new plans and opportunities. Your solution fits along all three personality dimensions.

You can use personalities to be  more proactive about planning.    It requires collaboration between marketing and sales.    Marketing needs to deepen and expand segmentation and customer profile definitions to include these psychographic elements–identifying what personalities will find your product/service most appealing.   Further, they can use Gartner forecast research to assess the number of organizations that exist within each personality/demographic (for example, the Opportunistic personality can be found in 11% of large, 13% of midsize, and 22% of small organizations). And while today, there is probably no way to buy a list of “Opportunistic and Achiever” organizations, you could start to capture that knowledge within your own systems based on client discussions and surveys.  From a sales perspective, uncovering the personality should be a key element of the discovery process.   Once determined, you can then prioritize sales efforts for specific accounts based on their likelihood to buy from a personality perspective.

At Gartner, you’ll see us continue to expand our work around Enterprise Personalities.   Over time, we’ll incorporate it into forecast analyses, as we predict adoption patterns for innovations.   We’ll continue to map enterprises around the world into personality clusters, analyzing the distribution across size, geography, and vertical.   And we’ll look to introduce tools for clients to make it easier to assess the personality of their customers.

Successful technology selling is about more than the product.  And it is about more than just fulfilling the need of your customer.  You have to understand the other elements that impact their buying approach—and the psychographic elements that make up their Enterprise Personality is a key part of that understanding.

Category: future-of-sales  go-to-market  

Tags: enterprise-personality  segmentation  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
5+ years at Gartner
30 years IT Industry

Hank Barnes provides research and advisory services on go-to-market strategies for technology providers. He focuses on issues related to positioning, storytelling, the technology customer life cycle, and customer experience. Read Full Bio

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