To be successful in today’s market, a solution provider must be able to understand the buyer’s journey and provide value at every step. Learn more about the 17 steps that a customer must go through and the roles tech vendors, distributors, as well as solution providers, play in each of these steps. Although the technology buyer’s journey is complex and confusing, it can make all the difference between keeping a customer satisfied and losing them to a competitor.
According to CompTIA Channel Development Advisory Council members Jason Bystrak, and Ryan Walsh, understanding the journey is crucial for a solution provider to succeed in today’s market.
CompTIA’s Industry Advisory Councils created a map of the journey of the tech buyer. They then refined the concept by adding more detail about each step. This includes what’s changed from traditional roles as well as how each member (vendor distributor, solution provider) can add value and maximize success.
Their efforts are now available in the Technology Buyer’s Journey interactive flipping guide.
“There is still a lot to be unclear about what everyone does, but the differentiation of roles and the new ways in which technologies are being bought in the subscription economy demand that everyone knows where they can contribute value and where they should let others do so,” stated Bystrak, vice-president, Cloud Business Unit at D&H Distributing, Harrisburg. “A vendor might believe they can do it all. Solution providers can help vendors in all phases. Some people might believe that distribution is no longer intermediated in the new economy. No. They can do things better than vendors and solution providers.
Walsh, chief channel officer at Pax8, which is a cloud services distributor, said that it is crucial to align up and down the supply chains to provide a positive customer experience.
“There are many changes on the buyer’s end. There are many buyers involved. Walsh stated that sales and marketing are now more education-driven than ever before. “The channel must work together to educate LOB leaders, and other decision makers, rather than sell them,” Walsh said.
The buyer’s journey was broken down by the councils into four phases: sales, marketing, technical, customer success, and technical. Walsh and Bystrak said that each phase is made up of several steps to help the customer move forward.
Marketing is the first phase of the buyer’s journey. It involves identifying and describing a problem, getting the customer on board, and making sure they know that you have a solution. The customer can also review possible solutions. This includes leveraging education events, business discussions, and other tactics to get the customer to the next stage.
Bystrak stated that customers process information in new ways and that an online presence is essential to increase pain awareness. They might use Facebook, LinkedIn or other social media to find the information. Education should be about compliance and policy, not technology. Information and education should be linked to the line of business, and not IT.
Assessment and evaluation, competitive review and legal/SLA/contract are just a few of the steps in the buyer’s sales journey. Negotiation, quote, and acceptance are the others. Walsh explained that there is a lot to do here and that customers have changed their minds at each step.
He said that the channel is conducting more trials and more proof of concept because the decision was moved down to the LOB or department level. People are looking for an Amazon experience. They want to compare solutions side by side and they don’t want you to come in with a vendor logo. It’s a shared delivery model between channel partners and end users, but vendors and distributors must also provide support and resources along the way.
Deliver. Implementation. Support. There are three important steps that buyers and sellers must take to ensure a positive customer experience. However, a lot has changed and vendors, distributors, and solution providers need be prepared to handle each step in a new manner.
It’s API-enabled and more SLA-driven. Training can be consumed online or on-demand in many ways. He stated that support needs to be immediate and that more automation is required.
Customer Success
Walsh said that the final four steps, including support, billing/paying and adoption, will determine if you have a customer or a transaction. Distributors can provide aggregate billing and solutions provi, while vendors can share data and trends to facilitate reviews.