Question: Are you a glass half-full or half-empty type?
The reason I ask is simple: by the time you’re done reading this, you’re likely to have strong feelings one way or another. Here’s why.
A forthcoming study of line of business buyers (LOBs) from CompTIA reveals that just 8 percent of respondents said they tapped the resources of an outside firm to implement, integrate or manage their Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in the past year. That compares with roughly a third that said they rely on either their IT departments, their own business unit or a collaborative effort between those two groups to help them achieve their aims.
Considering that Gartner, IDC and others forecast the bulk of ICT spending to be led by LOBs who work in functions (human resources, legal, finance, etc.) or verticals (healthcare, manufacturing, educations, etc.), this news should come as a shock—or an opportunity, depending on your point of view.
“If the future of the channel is managed services and ongoing consulting for recurring revenue—versus product sales—solution providers had better do a better job making themselves known to non-IT, LOB execs, who are increasingly doing the buying,” says CompTIA Senior Director and Penton Xpert Carolyn April. She oversees business research and analysis and says the findings from her association’s forthcoming study on LOB buying can be read two ways.
“First, the bad news: LOB buyers of ICT clearly lack familiarity with outside providers, perhaps because they are new to the ICT buying and management process, or worse, that they could have had a negative prior experience… The good news is this is an opportunity for channel firms to acquaint themselves with non-IT buyers, educate them to benefits of using a third party, and in turn learn about their business. The result should build a new pipeline of business.”
Despite the upside, very few of the solution providers, technology consultants and trusted advisors I talk to say they have a solid plan for getting to know LOBs. They focus on unfamiliar objectives, some say, have different if not perplexing buying habits or are simply unavailable to meet with any predictability. As a result, far too many solution providers fall on old, familiar ways and continue to work purchasing departments and tech professionals over and over. But solid research suggests this is game of diminishing returns.
Consider the following: a recent Gartner survey showed that more than half of the respondents from functional areas outside of IT departments are involved in technology purchase decisions. What is more, the rate of involvement is on the rise. Meanwhile, IDC forecasts that “worldwide corporate IT spending funded by non-IT business units will reach $609 billion in 2017, an increase of 5.9 percent over 2016. By 2020, IDC expects LOB technology spending to be nearly equal to that of the IT organization.”
Writing for Gartner last December, Susan Moore said, “Targeting new buyers of IT requires a complete rethink of how to take IT products and services to market.”
“Whether navigating the shift from selling to IT people to business people, or selling to business people and meeting IT as a roadblock, one thing is certain: meeting the needs of these new buyers is critical,” she concluded.
Which brings me to you: are you selling to buyers outside of data and telecom departments? If not, you should. First and foremost, they need you more than ever. With compliance. Privacy. And Security.
After years of rogue spending, they now realize that they may have put their companies, customers and business partners at risk. They also know that they have overbought and are thus using one of every online storage service, collaboration tool and marketing application available. They also realize how difficult it is to manage apps, services and tools bought with credit cards and discretionary budget dollars.
You have the opportunity to simplify their portfolios, rationalize their monthly spending and protect their data, apps and infrastructures.
So I ask you once more, “Do You Have What It Takes to Sell to Tech’s New Buyers?”
For the sake of you and your employees, the answer should be “yes.”
Editors note: The text was adjusted after publishing to spell out the acronym "ICT" per the note below.