A vendor can't be a trusted adviser. But it can show you someone who is.

James Anderson, Senior News Editor

May 10, 2018

4 Min Read

A new business technology-purchasing study shows that customers distrust their vendors’ sales pitches.

The TrustRadius B2B Buying Disconnect study interviewed 438 buyers and 240 vendors to see how each side approaches a sale. One of the broad takeaways is that buyers are feeling “more empowered” to do their own research apart from what vendors tell them.

“But buyers recognize that even outside sources have their limitations and biases,” TrustRadius wrote in the lengthy report. “Many buyers said that using distributed information from a range of sources is more trustworthy and influential than any one source in particular, especially when the sources show consensus.”

The main conclusions for the study are threefold. First, vendors “focus on providing material that buyers don’t find very useful or trustworthy.” The second is that buyers don’t even expect vendor claims to be trustworthy. Lastly, vendors pepper potential customers with unhelpful informational material because they “see their role as strategic.” But according to the study, buyers said see the buyer’s role as “pragmatic.”

In other words, the manufacturers of technology products are failing to understand how little control they have in influencing the decision of a potential customer. They may want to be a trusted adviser, but they can’t be.

The internet is one of the factors allowing customers to find unbiased anecdotes about how a product fared. The first graph below shows product demonstrations as the most frequently used source of information, with user reviews in second.


Graphic courtesy of TrustRadius

Meantime, product demos trail behind product trials, persona experiences and referrals from other people when it comes to trustworthiness. Notice how vendor-produced informational and marketing content falls flat on the trust scale.


Graphic courtesy of TrustRadius

Scott Rosen, who serves as vice president of technology at Guardian Credit Union and participated in the survey, says the internet has significantly changed the buying process. User reviews had the biggest influence on his company’s latest IT infrastructure purchase.

And one of the selling points for Rosen was that a vendor didn’t patronize him and his buying team. Rather, the vendor “was very forthcoming about the product’s limitations.” Instead, Rosen spoke with customers that had already tried the product.

“I have no problem with account reps, and our sales person was top notch, but they drink the Kool-Aid; they are always going to sell the product and talk it up,” Rosen said.

Another important facet of the Buying Disconnect Study is age. The plurality of the buyers responding to the survey – 45 percent – were between 25 and 34 years old. Thirty percent were between 35 and 44. This fits well with other studies in the channel that say millennials will dominate the purchasing force within the next 10 years.

And as a Spiceworks IT buying study indicated last month, the younger generation approaches vendors much differently. For millennials, personal experiences with the supplier are more influential than …

… well-known brand names, and personal technology preferences have a bigger influence on what they’d like to see in their workplaces.

TrustRadius found that that Generation Y’s most frequent step taken to buy products was to do independent research (67 percent). Conducting a trial or “evaluating options” was second most common, at 58 percent, and talking to a vendor representative was third, at 55 percent.

“Numerous studies have shown that millennials are less trusting of brands and advertising, and more likely to turn to their peers for buying recommendations,” the report said. “Customer insights that are not controlled by the vendor are particularly relevant to this influential age group.”

Although internet user reviews are holding more sway with buyers, TrustRadius CEO Vinay Bhagat says many popular websites “are plagued with fake and shallow reviews.”

“The results of this study highlight why we are defining the next generation of reviews with a focus on authenticity and quality — every reviewer is verified, every review is vetted, the average review is over 400 words, and we don’t sell ads or leads,” Bhagat said. “Buyers need a trusted partner in the buying process, especially when vendors are not stepping up. Perhaps one day consumer-facing review sites will follow in our footsteps.”

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About the Author(s)

James Anderson

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.

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