Blog post

New Research: Many Enterprise Buyers Resigned to Failure

By Hank Barnes | June 04, 2019 | 3 Comments


Yesterday, I shared some of the results of our latest study on Enterprise Buying with attendees at the Gartner Tech Growth and Innovation Conference (I’ll be repeating the session in London next week).   For clients, there is a variety of research coming very soon (in editing) and over the next several months.

But there was one area of the results that should sound alarm bells for the industry.

We asked qualifying respondents to focus on the technology buying effort they were involved in that had the biggest spend.   Logically, this also would probably be the effort, and ensuing project, that had the most focus.

But many were failing.  We asked respondents the level of agreement/disagreement with a number of statements, using a 7 point scale (7-strongly agree). 46% of them gave a score of 5,6 , or 7 to the statement “The offering we ultimately purchased is failing (or failed) to meet our expectations.” That is 46% who said the thing that likely mattered most, wasn’t delivering.  We also looked at this issue for varying deal sizes (as a note, we grouped purchases under 1M together (even though we had many buckets) due to similarity of results–something sales reps who have experienced “a $1M sales process for a $100K deal can relate to).

That is alarming enough (although not surprising to many of us that observe the industry).   But there is more to the story.  We also asked the respondents about the satisfaction level with the buying experience and their lead vendor, again on a 7 point scale (7-very satisfied).

For this group, that basically say they aren’t being successful, 93% indicated that were satisfied with the buying experience and experience with the lead vendor (with 63% and 64%, respectively, providing a score of 6 or 7).

Really.  Being fine with buying and vendor experience and then having a failing project is not good.   It’s indicative of a culture of complacency.

While we can look at this with a glass half-full perspective (54% of projects are succeeding! customers love us!), this is one case where that would be foolish, particularly when you consider subscription based models and the high volume of buying efforts that occur (another aspect of the study).

Collectively, the technology ecosystem—customers, vendors, partners—need to improve.

In upcoming posts, I’ll take a look at some of the differences in buying behavior between those that are achieving success and the complacent 46%.


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  • Goron Hogg says:

    “Culture of complacency” or breakdown in proper process and risk assessment pre-purchase?

    I think it speaks volumes about the job of successful buying (where the project doesn’t fail) that it’s not as simple and straight forward as we like to imagine.

    Ultimately, it’s culture (yes) and most likely people/users that didn’t really buy-in to the changes a purchase would bring and resisted or sabotaged success.

    However, it’s the vendors problem and we should NEVER think that our stuff was okay, the customer failed.

    • Hank Barnes says:

      Gordon, Totally agree that there are process and buy-in problems—and that vendors that view this as “the customer’s fault” are missing the boat. But the “culture of complacency” comment was really driven by the idea that people seem “okay” with this. Buyers say “the purchase experience was great.” Vendors say “we can’t solve your internal issues.” And the cycle continues. Even with things like cloud where, in theory, switching costs are low, buyers who are frustrated with their vendors can be slow to change, due to their lack of confidence in their own organizations and the “next” provider. There seems like a big opportunity on all sides to be better, but inertia is a powerful force.

  • Douglas Karr says:

    As I’m consulting with clients on their enterprise selection and implementation, I’m continuing to see a focus through the sales process on results but not processes. This often creates a huge gap in expectations that doesn’t materialize until implementation. An evaluation framework really needs put in place for companies to identify those pain points pre-purchase so that the risk of failure is reduced. This data is absolutely disappointing, but not really a surprise to those of us assisting enterprise companies leverage the solutions they’ve invested in. Thanks for sharing!