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The B2B Technology Buying Conundrum

by Hank Barnes  |  November 28, 2017  |  5 Comments

Shouldn’t enterprise technology buying be easier by now?   With a simplistic view, the answer to this is a resounding yes.  Of course it should be.  There are plenty of reasons:

  • Technology is not new for enterprises, in fact, pretty much everyone in the organization is exposed to it and has at a minimum a basic level of familiarity.  Many have deep, deep experience.
  • Power has shifted to the buyer.  With ready access to information and a wide variety of viable options, enterprise customers are not subject to the whims and control tactics of providers.   Long ago, you trusted IBM and maybe a few others.  Now, there are many, many vendors with proven results.
  • The ability to learn the perspective of peers is easier than ever with review sites and social networks that can provide you with detailed opinions from actual users and customers.
Source: Hanna Busing on

Source: Hanna Busing on

But all of these reasons also have a negative impact:

  • With everyone familiar with technology, there are endless opinions on what should be done.  Prioritization is a challenge and building consensus is more difficult than ever.
  • With so much information and so many options, buyers may question if they have done enough research and if they have evaluated the right products.    It’s difficult to tell when enough work has been done.  And what information can be trusted.
  • Peers offer insights, but what is right for their situation, may not be right for yours.  And, like the availability of information, questions of when “enough is enough” abound.

These dichotomies create a conundrum.  An environment that seems optimized for the buyer isn’t.   And decisions take longer and longer.  Indecision is more common, to the point of organizations sticking with the status quo much longer than they would like.

There are no easy answers to this conundrum.  The best I can offer is to focus on scenarios, create a well-defined decision process, and leverage ideas that perfect information is not possible.  Above all, during your evaluation process, require vendors to paint a very clear picture not of what is possible, but what is possible easily–and the path to get there.

And for vendors (my primary audience), do everything you can do help buyers with the three things above.  Don’t act like buyers don’t get tech and don’t claim that everything is easy.


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Category: go-to-market  

Tags: b2b-marketing  b2b-sales  buyer-power  buying-process  evaluation  information-access  trust  user-reviews  

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 The B2B Technology Buying Conundrum

  1. Goron Hogg says:

    The technology, the power shift and learning from peers is all product centric and provider focused. None of this teaches buyers how to make a decision to buy anything.

    Buying is a change management problem NOT a solution choice problem. David Brock covered this in a great post yesterday!

    The next time you’re talking with a VP Sales ask him this question, “How will you know when a sales rep is getting in trouble on a deal”?

    If he/she answers with, “when they don’t call us back” or “when they’re not calling us with questions after the presentation/demo, etc” you can bet that the rep is not engaged with the buyers decision-making process or doing anything to help the buyer along their path to purchase.

    The rep has uncovered some needs, pitched their solution and is waiting for the buyer to tell them what’s next.

    Maybe all of the vendor presentations have caused the buyer to re-focus, or add new members to the decision team that has changed the business requirements and decision criteria. Or maybe they can’t get buy-in from the team members to bring in an external solution or maybe they’re stuck trying to unravel what’s holding the status quo together. Or maybe there’s policies, procedures, beliefs, history and political bias that’s they’re having trouble untangling.

    Anyone of these internal issues are enough reason to stop calling a rep. Why would they call anyone back who can’t help them with any of these issues? And there’s no reason to call a vendor back if the buying decision is stuck and going nowhere!

    IMHO, this is the point where buyers are most receptive to help and support from a provider. The 6.8 decision makers is the BEST thing that could possibly happen to your deal. The different perspectives and POV of each of the decision team members legitimizes the effort and fundamentally expands the problem from “it’s not that bad” to “we can’t continue this way”.

    It’s a conundrum because sales and marketing are stuck in their own status quo and can’t recognize that by focusing on the approval process (the beauty contest) and ignoring the buyers decision making process they’re creating their own problems. Poor marketing leads, poor qualification and premature rejection of leads that ultimately restrict the number of deals that land in the pipeline.

    • Hank Barnes says:

      Agree with much of this, Gordon (and thanks for the thorough, thoughtful response). I do think that finding ways to get to consensus without costly/value diluting compromises is a huge challenge for vendors and buyers alike.

  2. Hank, I recommend buyer organizations compile a list of desired capabilities by all users first. Some potential users will need education of what capabilities new technologies have to offer them. Great opportunity to use a Customer Hero Story!

  3. Great post. I too don’t have easy answer to resolve this conundrum. On a side note, even B2C is facing the same conundrum nowadays. Especially in airlines, hotels and other industries where variety is high, brand sensitivity is low and product differentiators are either minimal or can be known for sure only after the products are purchased and experienced.

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