In our buying research, we make a point to look for interesting differences in respondent groups, often by non-traditional factors. It’s easy to look at company size, location, industry and more–and that yields some insights. But the more interesting findings come from more advanced techniques that combine responses to create interesting clusters. One that we’ve explored for a while is the idea of a high quality deal–in layman’s tems when both the customer and the vendor should be (at least relatively) happy. There are many dimensions to the differences between high quality deals and others–ones we will explore in research and at our Tech Growth and Innovation Virtual Conference in July, but I want to explore one area here.
When we asked respondents what set the winning provider apart, there were some statistically significant differences between the two groups. For high quality deals, what stood out was that the provider understood the customer situation and brought relevant industry knowledge to the table. For those that were not high quality, factors like social responsibility policies and practices, cultural fit, and going with a provider recommended by a vendor were more common.
Now, I hope this does not get me in trouble, but I’ll say it the social responsibility stance of a company should never be the primary reason for choosing a vendor. It could (and sometimes maybe should) be a reason you disqualify them from consideration, but not the reason you choose. It could, and maybe should, be a secondary source of differentiation once primary factors are considered (like those we see for high quality deals.
Cultural fit probably falls into a similar camp
The recommended provider is an interesting one. I’d actually chalk that up to “low effort buyers” (think New Chasm) that don’t put as much effort into their buying decisions, and are frustrated later.
Let’s be clear, like we’ve discussed previously when looking at decision criteria, these factors are not unimportant. But when they become the most important factors, something is wrong. Our customers and our companies need to be focused first on the things that drive value for customers, then support that with secondary factors that make us a more appealing partner.
When it’s flipped, be prepared for frustration.
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You said, “For high-quality deals, what stood out was that the provider understood the customer situation and brought relevant industry knowledge to the table.”
And I agree, Hank, based on my own experience with pitching to senior decision-makers — domain expertise matters to discerning IT solution buyers.
Moreover, gaining this skill requires a significant investment in time — therefore, it’s a key point of differentiation that isn’t easy for vendors to merely copy and replicate (unlike many of the other typical competitor solution comparisons).
Industry domain knowledge is craved because the proven case study context matters to senior business and technology buyers — presenting examples of industry peers who have already been there, done that builds credibility for the solution provider.