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Can the Channel Sell to the New Tech Buying Team?

The tech sales game has changed with the rise of the line-of-business buyer, more voices in the buying process, and lots of self-styled online research.

Tom Kaneshige

May 24, 2018

3 Min Read
Pure Storage's Aimee Catalano at Accelerate 2018

(Pictured above: Pure Storage’s Aimee Catalano on stage at Pure Accelerate, May 22.)

PURE ACCELERATE — Who makes the decision to buy technology? How do they go about it? Answers to these questions have changed dramatically over the years. For Pure Storage, a data-storage vendor relying solely on the channel to sell its wares, much depends on its partners pivoting to the new buying model.

“Buying teams are changing, and there’s more empowerment by the line of business (LOB),” said Aimee Catalano, vice president of corporate and global partner marketing at Pure Storage, during the company’s Pure//Accelerate 2018 conference in San Francisco.

There’s no question Pure Storage has put the LOB executive – the new shot-caller in tech – squarely in its sights. At Pure//Accelerate, company executives repeatedly asked channel partners to push business outcomes rather than tech specs in their sales pitches. Pure Storage even unveiled a new two-tiered partner program, because partners wanted greater differentiation in the market.

With its new AIRI machines tuned for artificial-intelligence (AI) workloads, Pure Storage also aims to climb into the strategic spheres of an enterprise. Speaker after speaker took the stage to hammer away at AI’s game-changing impact on businesses.

Here are four ways tech buying has changed:

  1. Rise of the LOB: Only a few years ago, tech purchasing decisions were made entirely by the IT department and the CIO. But digitally transformative technologies such as AI, internet of things, mobile, big data and others have disrupted stalwart companies. Technology’s impact on business has led to a shift in buying power from the IT department to the LOB.

  2. Sea of Voices: Catalano says that a buying team used to consist of seven to nine individuals, but today a typical buying team has 15 cross-functional members. They have varying levels of purchasing influence. For instance, a buying team evaluating an analytics tool might have a vice president of engineering as a major influencer, a data architect as a key decision maker, and the IT storage champion as the actual buyer.

  3. Just Google It: Members of a buying team are also researching products online on their own. They’re searching for information, reading product reviews on websites, scanning articles and opinions on social networks, running into native ads, downloading whitepapers and watching webinars. Catalano says buying teams are self-educating, with 80 percent of buyers using digital information at each stage of the buyer’s journey.

  4. A Chaotic Journey: With so many people at different points in their research, the traditional view of a single, linear buyer’s journey doesn’t make much sense anymore. Increasingly, a buying decision is already made before contact with a salesperson.

Many channel partners, however, remain stuck selling to the IT department in a linear way. Pure Storage needs them to embrace the changes. To this end, Catalano and her marketing team have developed a program to help Pure Storage partners.

They’ve analyzed buyer personas, including the LOB, and created hundreds of content-marketing assets. These assets target personas in vertical industries at various stages of the buyer’s journey and can take the form of a banner, social post, email, whitepaper, analyst report, webinar, sales-enablement collateral, among others.

Content-marketing assets tie into Pure Storage’s marketing automation software and are available for partners to download via the partner portal. The idea is to give partners “air cover” when buyers are engaged in self-research, Catalano says. A piece of content can also help a partner become a “trusted adviser” in the eyes of the LOB and other influencers.

“In this new ‘age of the customer’ era, our goal is to create meaningful engagements with customers and prospects, and then nurture them until we are able to convert it into a sales opportunity,” Catalano says. “Given the growing size of today’s buying teams, we need to be relevant and visible along all stages of the buyer’s journey.”

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About the Author(s)

Tom Kaneshige

Writer, Channel Futures

Tom Kaneshige writes the Zero One blog covering digital transformation, AI, marketing tech and the Internet of Things for line-of-business executives. He is based in Silicon Valley. You can reach him at [email protected]

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