• May 24, 2005
  • By Colin Beasty, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

IT Providers Must Change How They Sell

Customer-driven trends within the marketplace are forcing IT services and solutions companies to invest in new sales and marketing strategies, according to the IT Services Marketing Association (ITSMA). The study revealed that customers who desire an IT service or solution contact vendors 67 percent of the time, leaving little opportunity for traditional sales and marketing tactics. ITSMA interviewed and surveyed executives at 29 participating companies. "Raising the Bar: Selling Technology Services in a Competitive Market," focused on the purchase of technology services by U.S. companies and government entities. "Today's buyers are far too proactive to wait around for sales or marketing to contact them," says Julie Schwartz, senior vice president and chief research officer, ITSMA. "They know what they want and pay little attention to generic pitches from service and solution providers." Schwartz has found that a changing market and the way customers are purchasing services and solutions to be the driving factor. She maintains that sales teams need to take a more collaborative, "problem solving" approach if IT service providers are to continue find success. "Today, potential customers are much more skeptical, sophisticated, and don't need somebody to explain the products and solutions to them, they can do all that legwork," she says. "They need a sales person who can deliver value. It's no longer a one-way broadcast of information, it has to be more of a dialogue." Accordingly, IT providers must do a better job of understanding what a customer's business issues are, what they're implementation goals are, and must work with partners within the customer's organization as well as other vendors to make the solution solve the problem. The study also found that while sales teams spend 60 percent of their time with customers, that percentage needs to increase to enable teams to take a more collaborative, problem-solving approach. The study found, for example, that sales reps from IT service providers spend an average of 53 percent of their time selling as part of teams. As more IT companies introduce more comprehensive solutions, ITSMA predicts that team selling will become more important. Advantages to team selling include better opportunity management since the right specialists are accessible at the right time, improved cross-selling, and enabling sales and marketing teams to develop custom solution that appeal to smaller companies. "While IT providers have made substantial changes in understanding the skills their sales and marketing teams need, and their hiring and training reflect this," Schwartz says. "They still need to do a better job of aligning their sales and marketing teams and realizing that traditional sales approaches aren't working when given the buyer reality." Related articles: Exceptional Service Spurs Exceptional Sales
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