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Technical Buyer: Why There is no Such Thing as an Unbiased Tech Evaluation

“We have seen a significant increase in the need for consensus in order to get deals done. Because the payoff of buying a complex solution is so uncertain, even C-Level executives with significant decision-making authority are unwilling to go out on a limb to make a large purchase decision without the support of their teams.”

Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, The Challenger Sale

Technical Buyers play an important role in a buying decision process, depending on the culture of an organization sometimes even bigger than the Economical Buyer. Especially in complex sales we often face multiple Technical Buyers coming from different parts of the organization impacted by the decision and tech domains required for its implementation.

As a reflection of departmental and personal agendas there can be significant levels of political friction between Technical Buyers, and it is not unusual for larger organizations to engage a 3rd party as a neutral instance to help with moderation.

As a result, the relationship between Technical Buyers and their influence on the solution design and architecture, requirements and weighing factors can be highly complex and ambiguous. If a vendor cannot analyze the situation correctly, they become passive objects in a game they don’t control.

Technical Buyers’ primary vendor contacts are Technology and Delivery Managers who are usually not educated and experienced in analyzing the political dimension of a customer organization (lucky the sales guy who works with a politically savvy tech guy!). I came across a lot of tech guys that even viciously declined “getting involved in politics”.

The problem is: You are, whether you like it or not.

And here is why.

Starting with the design and architecture of a solution to a business problem, the consequential requirements, the weight they are assigned with, and the parameters reflected in the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) calculation: everything is subject to organizational and personal agendas. To understand what drove their definition a vendor needs to exactly understand these agendas.

Let’s look at the following example: The sales organization requested a new business solution supporting the internet as a new sales channel and Technical Buyers from Sales, IT infrastructure, IT solutions, IT Security and data management are asked to contribute to the buying decision.

In defining the design and architecture the Technical Buyers come across two fundamentally different designs, one in the public cloud, the other in the private cloud. The public cloud solution comes without upfront investment, virtually unlimited scale, and geographic proximity to customers on a global scale. The private cloud solution comes with built-in compliance with corporate standards, leverages already made investments in infrastructure and SW and plugs into already established IT operations.

It’s not difficult to imagine that Sales will prefer the public cloud for its low investment, pay-as-you-go, scalability, and low latency for customers while the IT organization will push for the in-house solution to leverage their infrastructure, SW, and IT operations standards.

If your job is to sell a SW that runs both in the public and the private cloud, you won’t mind and just focus on the functional requirements, but if you sell a public cloud solution you will have to engage in the discussions about the design and its consequential requirements. You will lean towards Sales and try to increase the weight the respective requirements are assigned with which will bring you into opposition to the IT organization.

But can you win against them?

Your key to success is to promote Sales’ agenda by increasing the weight assigned to requirements your public cloud solution perfectly plays to and making sure this is reflected in the TCO calculation while at the same time reducing the weight of requirements the private cloud plays to. But you don’t want to do this in confrontation.

To win IT over you must abstract from the decision at hand and lift the discussion to a higher level in the IT organization, maybe even the CIO. Can IT really close the door on a public cloud solution by using standards and already established structures and processes as higher priorities? Or don’t they have to combine the best of both worlds. Isn’t there a hybrid architecture where certain data is held centrally in the private cloud while spiky workloads, use cases with low latency and large-scale run in the public cloud?

If you can find the middle ground where all agendas are satisfied the customer will be happy to modify their requirements and define a TCO that still provides a positive business case. And you will win against both pureplay private and public cloud competitors.

Having said that: If IT isn’t willing to compromise you will have to go against them and fight their arguments. Or leave the sales cycle alltogether.

For additional information on dealing with Technical Buyers have a look at this newly published narrative.

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