Six Ways to Gain Influence With B2B Buyers

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In an earlier post, I discussed some of the major survey findings reported in The 2018 B2B Buying Disconnect by TrustRadius. This report is based on two surveys. One survey included 438 individuals who played a key role in a significant business technology purchase during the previous year, and the second was a survey of 240 individuals who worked for business technology vendors in a marketing or sales capacity.

One objective of this research was to identify what sources of information buyers are using to support purchase decisions, and what sources they deem to be influential and trustworthy. As I discussed in the earlier post, the sources of information that buyers think are most influential and trustworthy include their own prior experience with a product, free trials, product demos, and referrals from a friend, colleague, or peer. Surveyed buyers ranked all types of vendor-provided information (except product demos) as least influential and trustworthy.

TrustRadius also asked buyers about the overall influence that vendors have on their purchase decisions. Only 23% of the surveyed buyers said their vendors are very influential. TrustRadius then sought to identify what attributes and behaviors separated very influential vendors from less influential vendors in the eyes of buyers.

One of the most striking attributes of very influential vendors is that they are open and transparent about the limitations of their product or solution. Fifty-one percent of surveyed buyers who said their vendors are very influential also said their vendors are very forthcoming about product limitations. Only 31% of the buyers with less influential vendors said their vendors are open about product limitations.

In the survey of vendor marketing and sales professionals, 85% of the respondents said they “aim to be clear about where the product works well and where something else might be a better fit.” So there is a significant gap between vendors and buyers on this aspect of transparency.

Buyers who said their vendors are very influential were also more likely than other buyers to say that their vendors:

  • Provided customer evidence like reviews and case studies
  • Connected them with customer references
  • Helped them strategize the best approach for their use case
  • Helped them understand potential ROI
  • Provided learning opportunities (events, workshops, etc.)
Collectively, these survey findings provide a clear picture of what buyers really want from their vendors. And these findings are consistent with research from other firms. For example, in a 2017 survey of B2B buyers by the Aberdeen Group, survey participants were asked to select two factors (from a list of nine) that play a role in their buying decisions. The three most frequently chosen factors were:
  • Total cost of ownership
  • How the vendor/solution supports our company’s goals
  • Efficiency gains (ROI)

However, when survey participants were asked what other factors they consider when they make buying decisions, 68.2% of respondents said the vendor can help sharpen our competitive differentiation, and over half (55.7%) said the vendor can help me identify new possibilities and avenues for revenue.

Clearly, today’s buyers are looking for vendors who are completely transparent about the capabilities and limitations of their solutions, and vendors who can help them improve business performance. That’s not particularly surprising, but it’s important to remember.

Illustration courtesy of Amtec Staffing via Flickr CC.

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