Strong-arm sales, empty spiel, repel IT buyers

Research company Ovum has discovered that IT managers are put off by software companies that use “pushy” sales techniques and meaningless sales speak.

Ovum’s survey of the software sales process provoked “a litany of emotional responses about sales tactics and how they had been used for revenue extraction,” according to Ovum analyst David Mitchell.

That response to the survey, Software sales: crossroads blues or wonderful life, then prompted Ovum to look deeper into the matter.

“We decided that further research was needed with end-user customers, but focusing on the question: ‘what should vendors do to make a better job of selling to you?,'” said Mitchell.

The result was ‘War of the Worlds: advice from end-user buyers to software vendors’, in which analysts concluded that “Vendors must change their pushy sales techniques as users need a more open attitude.”

It concludes that vendors should adopt an approach based on helping end-user organizations to buy and to create simple, clear and fair pricing.

After interviewing senior ‘Technical buyers’ within 40 end-user organizations in North America, EMEA and Australia, it was apparent that end-user organizations are becoming immune to the sales tactics of vendors, the adoption of sales methodologies, and the introduction of ‘solution sales speak’ in their organizations.

Vendors and sales gurus develop ever more sophisticated sales approaches, while end-users and procurement gurus develop stronger and stronger defense mechanisms.

“It has become akin to an arms race, in a process of mutually assured destruction,” commented Mitchell.

Ovum found that several phrases commonly used by vendor organizations cause immediate and adverse reaction within some end-user organizations – “sales cycle”, “owning the customer”, “solution selling” and “value proposition” are among the trigger phrases.

One surprisingly common complaint was that the sales staff from vendor organizations did not understand the functionality of the products that they were selling. In some cases, the technical staff in customer/prospects were more aware of the latest product features and functions than the sales staff.

Vendors also had a tendency to be “economical with the truth” regarding the ability of their products to deliver specific functionality. Finally, respect for ethical standards was an important factor in how vendors were viewed by the majority of the end users that were interviewed.

“In conclusion, many organizations held the view that they would prefer not to do business with a vendor that they knew would adopt sharp commercial practice,” said Mitchell.

That said, the money is in the buyers’ hands — and if they stopped buying from those who adopt over-pushy techniques or didn’t understand the product, they would soon change their ways.

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