Who Do Your Prospects Trust?

by Britton Manasco | Aug 20, 2006 | Sales Intelligence

Technology buyers don't trust sellers. In a recent study of business technology buyers, SiriusDecisions found that the most trusted sources are analysts, peers and trade publications. Vendors and their partners/resellers, by contrast, finished low in the ranking.

"There is a significant trust gap between you and your prospects," explains Tom Juros, vice president of research at Sirius. "This makes pairing with more trusted sources mandatory. Third party sources can bridge the trust gap betweeen vendor and prospect."

This is an interesting finding. It suggests that sellers should invest more diligently -- and perhaps, invest more money altogether -- in activities such as analyst relations, media relations and customer reference intitiatives. These are the credible sources who will frame the thinking and whisper in the ears of your prospective buyers.

But that isn't to suggest that there isn't more that sellers could be doing to build trust. In fact, I suspect that the research is somewhat skewed by the stark choices that the survey respondents are forced to make. Sure, you are going to trust an executive peer more than a vendor sales person. But the seller can develop extraordinary trust by guiding the buyer through an effective decision that creates heroes all around.

Sirius even notes the value and successful impact of certain approaches at certain stages of the buying cycle. In the early stage (when there's a "loosening of the status quo and a commitment to change"), white papers are ranked as the single most effective single tactic that business technology companies can employ -- followed by demos, analyst reports and webinars.

Later in the buying cycle, other tactics become more important. Consultants, for instance, play a key role in the middle stage (which involves "an exploration of possible solutions and a commitment to solving the problem") by helping the buyer to develop a vision, while industry analysts are rated high in the late stage (which involves "a justification of the decision and a vendor selection") by providing confirmation of the decision.

Unfortunately, an ongoing war between marketing and sales seems to be standing in the way of greater customer success. When it looked at the vendor's perspective of the situation, Sirus found that 58% of technology executives consider their  marketing department's lead development capabilities to be "fair" or "poor" (and only 6% consider it "excellent'). According to the research firm, more than 90% of leads are not followed up on by field sales.

One problem: marketers tend to ignore leads once they've been initially generated -- not only failing to nurture prospects that are not yet prepared to decide, but failing to support prospective buyers and sales people in the later stages of the buying cycle. The key is to enable sales people through every stage of the cycle with "appropriate sales tools and collateral."

The research suggests there are ways to address this coordination problem. If marketing and sales are to come into alignment, marketing must send only its most advanced leads to sales, while carefully nurturing the rest over time. It's also going to have involve itself more actively in the later stages of the buying cycle. The end of the war is the beginning of prosperity.