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How Hard Do You Make The Enterprise Buying Decision?

by Hank Barnes  |  August 16, 2016  |  3 Comments

It seems so obvious and like such a great opportunity.   A Tech Provider uncovers at issues they see in a number of accounts and decides to create a product or service to address those issues, enabling a more efficient and/or effective way of working.  But then they struggle to gain traction, despite the obvious (at least to them) value.

What is going on?

Perhaps, by providing a more comprehensive solution, they have made it a lot harder for most enterprises to buy.  Make no mistake, enterprise technology purchase decisions are team decisions, with many, many people involved and multiple decision makers throughout the buying process (we’ll have more on that soon in upcoming research from our latest technology buyer survey).

Buying Team

As you think about all those decision makers, the key question to ask is: “how many different people have to say ‘Yes’ vs. how many of them have to not say ‘No’?”

Here is what I mean:

For many functional solutions, there is usually one department (or team) that gets the primary benefit.  While we know that this can reinforce silos, the good news is that the “Yes” decision is somewhat contained.  It is one group that you have to get to say yes.  For others that are involved in the decision from other departments (e.g. IT, Finance), you basically want them to not say “no.”   Why would they say no?  If it required too many resources from their group; if it conflicted with other projects; if it introduced risks that the core group does not think of; etc.  Although, there maybe lots of reasons to say “no”, the key thing is that, in many cases, you don’t need a definitive, strong endorsement (i.e. a strong “yes”) from these groups.

Now think of those solutions that have an impact for multiple groups, for example a solution that helps sales and marketing and service.  You basically have to get all of those groups that you are projecting to get value from your product/service to to say “yes.”  They all have to buy-in.  They all have to commit resources, whether that be people or funding..  They all have to want your product/service–at a priority level that is higher than other projects they are considering.

Getting a lot of “Yes” votes can be very, very hard.  Even with senior leadership support, it is still hard, because rarely will they mandate cross-group agreement.

As you think of your solution, are you forcing lots of groups to say “yes”?  In those cases, is your solution compelling enough, across the board, to get all those “yes” votes?  If you do have a broad solution, and are new to the market, you may want tominimize the number of “yes” votes you need to obtain. Focus on one key area that appeals to one group for entry–using the other capabilities as differentiation and sources of future value.  Don’t push too hard for that broad commitment out of the gate.

Get in. Prove value. Then, grow.

There is no definite solution to this, but as you think about your current sales challenges, take a look at your solution from the customer perspective.  Is the change and impact so significant that it requires them to do something that may not be natural for them–get multiple groups to say “yes” together?  If so, maybe it is time to refine the strategy and make it easier to start.   Making the right choice is all about focusing on the customer’s situation.


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Category: go-to-market  

Tags: customer-life-cycle  go-to-market  situational-awareness  strategy  

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

Hank Barnes explores the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. Using that customer-centric lens, he advises those responsible for marketing technology products and services, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and startup CEOs on next practices to drive success for their customers and their business. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on How Hard Do You Make The Enterprise Buying Decision?

  1. Great post. I think vendors need to take your guidance into consideraton when they’re conceptualizing and spec’cing their products aka product management stage. Considering that happens much before sales, do you really think this is a sales challenge? To me, it’d seem that sales can’t shut the barn door after the horse has bolted from the product management barn.

    • Hank Barnes says:

      It certainly is linked to the entire org—sales, marketing, product–with shared responsibility. There are aspects of products being designed that are really hard for enterprises to buy. There are cases where marketing tries to make the story bigger than it is, making it harder to buy. And then sales might hear from other interested parties and try to grow their deal, making it harder to buy. But regardless, you are right, it is not just a sales problem.

      • Agreed. In fact, now that you’ve brought up Marketing, I can think of many products that are designed to be all-encompassing, thus making them harder for the Prospect to buy. Marketing can still step in and mitigate the problem by creating multiple razor-sharp offerings – what we call “Marketable Items” – each of which has an enhanced appeal to only one department of the Prospect. The sale has a higher change of going through because the Product then falls in the “easy to buy” category where it secures a Yes from one department and escapes No’s from the other departments.

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