Gartner Says Sales Organizations Must Upgrade Skills and Processes to Meet B2B Technology Buyer Expectations


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Changes in Customer Engagement Force Rethinking of Go-To-Market and Sales

Gartner Special Report Examines the Future for IT Sales

STAMFORD, Conn., September 11, 2013 — Despite all the attention around
digital marketing and its ability to connect with customers in new and
meaningful ways, people selling to people is still the primary way in which
business-to-business (B2B) technology purchases are made, according to a
recent survey by Gartner, Inc.

Gartner conducted a primary research study across 503 organizations in North
America, Europe and China to understand how the marketing activities of IT
providers influence organizations’ decisions to select certain technologies
and services, as well as the providers that supply them. The survey found
that 56 percent of respondents considered direct interaction with the
provider of high importance, 42 percent of medium importance, while three
percent considered it of low importance.

“Personal interactions with providers are still the most influential
activity in B2B buying decisions,” said Tiffany Bova, vice president and
distinguished analyst at Gartner. “However, buyers do not value their
interactions with salespeople as much as they did in the past. As a result,
sales teams must adjust processes and skills to learn to guide buyers
through their purchase cycle.”

During the past few years, the sales organization has lost its control of
the sales cycle.

“In the past, sales was dictating the flow of information — cold calling,
sending out corporate marketing literature, meeting with prospective
customers, conducting sales presentations and arranging high-level executive
meetings in more of a push selling model,” said Hank Barnes, research
director at Gartner. “Now customers are deciding when and where the sales
engagement will actually begin as well as how and where that interaction
will take place in more of a pull model.”

Gartner believes that this change in customer engagement should result in
providers looking closely at their go-to-market and sales models to ensure
they are providing the necessary value in the buying process. Marketing and
sales leaders need to understand the importance of continuing to invest in
improving sales enablement, sales training and sales processes as buyers
look to the quality of their direct interactions as a primary influence on
their decisions during their technology buying cycles.

“Providers have been fairly consistent in how they train their sales force
for decades,” said Ms. Bova. “However, these practices are now at odds with
the way customers actually explore, evaluate, engage and experience a
provider along their buying journey. The sales force of the future will need
to intimately understand the customers’ environment with a greater sense of
the decision levers across IT and the business units. It will also need to
translate technology into industry solutions and value propositions, and
guide the customers to use cases they may not have considered. The
sales force should therefore be viewed not as a source of technology
products, but as a strategic partner helping the business evolve to meet
their strategic objectives.”

Gartner has identified four key changes the sales organization should make
to improve the customer’s purchase experience:

Shadow Your Customers and Prospects Across Multiple Mediums
With widely available access to information and peers, the customer gains a
tremendous power of choice. As a result, a variety of activities, used in
combination, are required to address all of the buyers’ questions and
concerns, and lead to a purchase decision. As the Gartner survey revealed,
buyers rated a variety of activities from direct interaction with the
provider to social media as the most influential marketing activities.
Gartner expects the multichannel approach to continue and sales teams need
to be aware of all these activities.

Reorient Sales as a Knowledgeable Guide
Given the importance that buyers place on direct interaction, it is
essential to understand who they want to interact with. The survey found
that the most valued interactions are with technical and industry experts,
not with sales staff. Although this may not be surprising, the gap between
them is substantial. When exploring and evaluating options, 81 percent of
respondents most valued interaction is with a technical expert whereas only
38 percent said their most valued interaction is with a member of the sales
team. Similar results were recorded at other stages in the buying cycle.

Clearly, customers do not feel that their sales representatives are adding
value to their buying process.

“To deliver what customers want, salespeople need to become more
knowledgeable about what is happening in the customer buying process and
offer insightful information that customers can’t find on their own,” said
Mr. Barnes. “The best sales reps will coordinate a range of activities and
interactions to touch various members of the buying teams and guide the
customer along their buying journey versus forcing them to follow the
internally preferred process to address their questions and concerns.”

Make Sales Presentations About the Customers and Their Needs, Not About You
Sales presentations rank fifth on the list of most influential marketing
activities according to the survey. Gartner research shows that sales
presentations have the biggest impact when buyers are focused on evaluating
and engaging, or when buyers are looking to deepen engagement and
experience. Typically, buyers want to hear more detail from providers after
they have done their own initial information gathering. This means that in
the future, sales presentations should not be used as the primary tool by
sales to educate the buyer, but rather as way to develop a custom
interaction above and beyond what they can find on their own. This can
become a competitive weapon as sales organizations look to separate
themselves from the competition. If they take the extra time to really home
in on the uniqueness of each opportunity, there is tremendous value that can
be added to the buying cycle — especially in the eyes of the customer.

Plan for Change
To address the increased expectations of today’s buyer, sales needs to lead
change efforts in their organizations, in partnership with marketing, and in
the way they sell.

“Sales matters as much now as it always has; however, it appears to have
lost some of its customer influence,” said Ms. Bova. “Creating a strong
sales team that can orchestrate technical and industry resources is
critical. These teams need to develop methods, both by questioning and
through the use of technology, to understand the work buyers have done on
their own and add value to that work to guide them toward a successful
purchase. Sales teams that do this will help themselves and the providers
they work for stand apart from their competition.”

More detailed analysis is available in the reports “Tech Go-to-Market: Sales
Organizations Need to Upgrade Skills and Processes to Meet Buyer
Expectations” and “Tech Go-to-Market: The B2B Customer Buying Cycle for
Technology Products and Services.” The reports are available on Gartner’s
website at and

Additional information is available in the Gartner Special Report “The
Future of IT Sales.” This special report provides tools and best practices
for making go-to-market choices a source of differentiation and competitive
advantage, instead of an afterthought. The special report can be viewed at and includes
links to reports and video commentary that examine the future of IT sales
and factors driving this evolution.

Ms. Bova will also examine the future of IT sales in more detail at Gartner

About Gartner Symposium/ITxpo
Gartner Symposium/ITxpo is the world’s most important gathering of CIOs and
senior IT executives. This event delivers independent and objective content
with the authority and weight of the world’s leading IT research and
advisory organization, and provides access to the latest solutions from key
technology providers. Gartner’s annual Symposium/ITxpo events are key
components of attendees’ annual planning efforts. IT executives rely on
Gartner Symposium/ITxpo to gain insight into how their organizations can use
IT to address business challenges and improve operational efficiency.

Additional information for Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando, October 6-10,
is available at Members of the media can
register for the event by contacting Christy Pettey at
[email protected].

Additional information from the event will be shared on Twitter at and using #GartnerSym.

Upcoming dates and locations for Gartner Symposium/ITxpo include:
September 16-18, Cape Town, South Africa:
October 6-10, Orlando, Florida:
October 15-17, Tokyo, Japan:
October 21-24, Goa, India:
October 28-31, Gold Coast, Australia:
November 4-7, Sao Paulo, Brazil:
November 10-14, Barcelona, Spain:

About Gartner
Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) is the world’s leading information technology
research and advisory company. Gartner delivers the technology-related
insight necessary for its clients to make the right decisions, every day.
From CIOs and senior IT leaders in corporations and government agencies, to
business leaders in high-tech and telecom enterprises and professional
services firms, to technology investors, Gartner is a valuable partner in
more than 13,000 distinct organizations. Through the resources of Gartner
Research, Gartner Executive Programs, Gartner Consulting and Gartner Events,
Gartner works with every client to research, analyze and interpret the
business of IT within the context of their individual role. Founded in 1979,
Gartner is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, USA, and has 5,500
associates, including 1,402 research analysts and consultants, and clients
in 85 countries. For more information, visit
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