Data Forensics of The Technical Buyer

Reading Time: 16 minutes

Overview: Rick Tolman the VP of Global Demand Gen at Pluralsight goes through new buying scenarios as well as three phases that each buyer goes through.

About the speaker: Senior demand generation leader spanning 20+ years of progressive experience building top-performing, revenue driven, global demand programs. For high-growth SaaS technology companies including Sony, Adobe,, Pluralsight, Domo, and Oracle. An expert in building scalable revenue engines driven by integrated demand strategies, programmatic modeling, demand funnel optimization, lead management operations, and sales and marketing alignment.

Rick is a proud Maori from the Ngāti Toa tribe of New Zealand. A husband and father of 4 daughters. A tech investor, a board member, and a philanthropic cultural leader building pathway programs for Black, Indigenous, People of Color to enter and develop careers in technology.

Welcome, everyone to RevTech Summit 2021. My name is Rick Tolman, and I’ll be leading this session entitled data forensics of the technology buyer. I’m grateful for ChatFunnels for putting on this summit today and grateful for all those who are participating as well. Again, I’m excited to be able to speak a little bit about something that over my 20 year career as a demand gen leader is understanding. The buyer profile of who we’re trying to target, attract, acquire, retain, upsell, and essentially prove and our mettle in terms of what we’re delivering in terms of value to our prospects and buyers. As I found this over the course of working with many companies, such as Sony, Adobe, B2B SaaS, like Domo.

Pluralsight, it’s been really about understanding both the qualitative data and the quantitative data. And marrying those two together to really focus on what is our buyer? How do we attract those buyers and give them something that that will resonate with them. At every stage of that buyer journey. So what I’d like to share with you today is based on some recent Publishing’s by Serious Decisions. That did some studies with specific technology buyers. And their roles in the company to help us understand what’s more effective for them. In terms of not only how do we interact with them, is it them individually? Are they part of a buying committee. But also what forms of offer and content have been most relevant to them.

And then this is what I would encourage you is to marry that with your internal data and insights that you have on your own buyers as well. Keeping this serious data as an asterix to understand kind of a general markets, b2b SaaS buyers. And what I love about this, again, it’s distilling a profile or a forensic about the average technology buyer. Whether that technology buyer is a C-level for small to medium sized business. Or their champion with technology that then they have to go. And prove out to a buying committee that they need this technology piece.

What I found very interesting in this research is. Is being able to internalize it to the our own findings of our buyers that we’re currently looking to attract and retain. And upsell, and essentially engage across their entire lifecycle. So with that, we’ll go ahead and jump into the presentation. And to establish first and foremost, we’ll be looking at this data that is presented from serious decisions. It’s broken down into three different kind of compartments. These are the buying scenarios, what have you. So these represent the kind of the complexity of the purchase process in the companies. That your average b2b SaaS provider or any technology provider is looking to engage with.

These processes can determine the roles of the individuals play as well as their level of engagement. For example, on the left, here. We have a committee. Which this obviously is a highly complex purchasing process. Usually represented by an expensive offering, in your enterprise level segments where multiple people and decision makers across the organization need to be involved. The decision has to be brought to some sort of Executive Leadership Committee. Whether that’s senior leadership, a CFO or board and the process for that decision. It’s phased, and it’s structured, it’s hierarchical.

So it takes it as essence as demand marketers use the term this is our, our typical buying center that we need to go after, although we’ve captured a lead from a champion. In order for us to help accelerate that purchase decision, we have to go and target the entire buying committee. 

The next one is very straightforward as well, that’s the consensus there. This is not necessarily a committee. But it’s still a team based buying scenario for which an organization. Where multiple people are involved. This can be the initial champion that’s looking for your product or offering and then their manager. But the decision has to be reached by gaining agreement. At the buying center department or the functional level as well.

Possibly this could even involve multiple buying centers in the organization. But it’s less encumbered than the normal committee, but it still involves multiple people to make the decision. And you’ll see this across your small to medium sized business as well. And then the last one is an independent buying scenario. This is where you’re able to get the either that’s a C level, or it’s a senior director, but they have all the buying power.

So that buying scenario encompasses maybe one to two people, typically one person that are involved in decision to purchase. And that decision is easy to facilitate. So as we think about those three different scenarios and these and the categories that we’re going after serious decisions, well now we’re going to share some data that looks at how each of these technology buyers that we’re looking to attract fit into these categories.

But also what their unique responses are in terms of how they were engaged, how much they were involved in the decision making process, what content offers or engagements worked best for them. It’ll be really important to kind of see look at this through the lens of: was it them with the committee, then with a consensus, or them as just an individual decision makers. So the data that we’ll be sharing will segment it across that. 

Jumping into the first one here, it’s understanding again, the of the data that’s been pulled here, this is a reflection of the buyer roles that reflect the level of responsibility that this persona typically has during a buying decision. Now, the roles can vary based on the buying scenario, the purchase price, the company size, and other factors. But it’s really about understanding the roles and the dynamic of these buying groups.

You can see this is a great one to look at. And see that we as marketers are looking at it in a perspective of understanding. How much are these champions, or these technology buyers part of the decision making process. And you’ll see here for this particular survey. This holds true in a lot of data that’s that’s out there in the market that looks at this. You’ve got anywhere from the ultimate decision maker, influencer and champion. They represent a vast majority of the role of the decision makers.

Even from a marketing perspective, looking at an understanding of buyer persona. If you were to tailor or targets according to a decision maker and influencer or champion. You’ll see it across the committee’s that consensus on independence. You’re going to cover a large spread of what you’re looking for in that organization. This one is key because especially in consensus or committee making scenarios. They’re likely to be potentially an influencer and the champion. They can play both of those roles, or the CIO may assign that these buyers gather and analyze information. So that we should give them the proof points along the way that they need to be able to feed back to the decision makers.

I love this one, because it kind of clearly shows in terms of us trying to put our best foot forward and really be able to understand the buyer, you’ve got these kind of three hierarchical roles where you got champion influence or decision maker that comprise a vast majority of the the role that was made in the decision making process for b2b Technologies.  

But this is where it gets really interesting. So you can see here that you’ve got education solution, and basically the buyers education solution and selection, the three phases that our buyers go through making that buying decision. And the engagement levels vary by persona across various decision phases and different buying scenarios. Here we have, you see the the gray charts, the gray dots here, they indicate a weighted score, which represents the respondents average level of involvement during each phase. It’s then calculated by taking a weighted average using under these assumptions that are listed below. They’re fully significantly moderately slightly.

And what’s really interesting. If you take a minute to pause and look at this is it’s understanding again. During each of these phases that says making process and will high level summarize those. Again, is the education, solution, selection phase. You’ll see the role of how much these these are these are involved in that. Whether they’re someone that’s independent or consensus or the committee side. You’ll see there’s still a pretty significant active involvement there. But there’s some really, really tangible nuances to each of those. In terms of what are they looking at from the solution phase forward.

To summarize that quickly, then as well. With roughly 85% of these buyers fully or significantly engaged in the independent scenarios 88%. Which is striking where we’re part of the committee scenarios as well. So the engagement level is fairly consistent. But it drops slightly in the selection phase for the independent committee scenarios. So the highest percentage of technology buyers have decision making authority in independent scenarios there. Especially when these buyers show the highest level of full engagement. There’s that’s the summary points.

On average, though, we’ll see that these buyers have the strongest influence across multiple scenarios. Also, what are the implications for this? We see very clearly and this is something that we’ve known for some time. As demand marketers that engaging the technology buyers early in the process is key. They have a strong presence not only as the internal influencers and champions. But also across various departments.

We must engage them as early in the process. We can answer the specific questions to enable them to influence other members of that buying group. Whether or not even if they’re members of the buying group. The technology buyers are influential in independent scenarios. So you can see here that in many of these cases. They’re acting as the voice of the departments with its marketing it. And sales and performing the purchase related tasks for the CIO or the CTO as well. So we as marketers must provide and ensure technology buyers have the information. They need to influence both small, medium and large purchases there.

Okay, our next slide this one’s really interesting as well. As it shows us, the question we ask on this slide is, “what was the most significant driver of the decision to select the vendor of choice.” And you see some of the responses we have here. Previous experience with the company. Price is in there. Obviously, the influence or the influence of customer references or testimonials. Probably see, they’re even being able to source those. Whether they’re given by the vendor. Or whether they’re back channeled, or they’re sourced independently.

Those buyer customer testimonials are key, even the promise of offering to meet the buyer needs, you can see where these rank here too. And what I find really interesting, as you look at this is obviously previous experience with the company has one of the highest weighted factors. Now, as we’re trying to go attract net new logos, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll have that that advantage, even though in this particular case, that’s where the data skews heavily in terms of the decision making process. Some things that we’ve all known for quite some time.

And this is where it gets, it gets really kind of muddy the water in attribution is we’re looking at your viewership for marketing and sales is price has a huge impact on determining what progresses from a lead to pipelines. Ultimately, close Billings over price is rarely reflected in attribution modeling. So again it is really important to understand the role that pricing has early in that decision making process. But also as it makes towards the end as well. And one of the as we can kind of summarize the key findings there.

Number one, it’s on the data side there, we see that these technology buyers. They place a premium on the companies that they’ve worked with before. There’s a significant driver of both the influence and the committee and consensus scenarios that give the most weight. To having worked with companies before. So why because we have these these professionals value that previous experience so highly. We have to deliver a positive first experience to boost that likelihood of them engaging with us. And then upselling and cross selling purchases. So if what’s key for me here is we have to be able to understand as marketers. But tying that relationship into known commodity having worked with them before or having great references.

Now, on the application side again. This also means that if we do have a premium on having worked this before. This really means that marketing. We have to be conscious of the post sale customer experience. Noting that they’re they’re experienced. Having worked with us in any vein before realize and skew so heavily in terms of how they’ll purchase again. That gives a great area of focus for marketers not to be blind to is your customer success. How they’re working with those customers as well. Too often do I find in some team settings where we’re focused on driving new net logos, or upsells.

But we’re not really plugged in to the customer success story to understand how is this company doing overall. Should we be hitting him for upsells versus taking care of them first. This is where again, it rolls back into kind of encapsulating this whole slide. Here is understanding it is the strong references and the our professionals tendency to get involved in these purchases. That we would advise the decision makers to have more better customer case studies. Better references, have those readily accessible to meet the needs of both net new and existing customers as well. 

This is another one that’s really interesting to me as well. As you have here the contents impacted during the buyers decision. So the question to be asked here is what content pieces. Did you and your colleagues consider meaningful or impactful during each phase? Select all that apply in this phase here. You’ll see some of these notes here too. As you look across both all three phases, analysts reports are striking.

When that kind of stands out, they’re typically where we we tend to focus a lot on our own home produced content. This is where the buyer is going to do their research. They’re going to look at what you’re giving them. But they’re also going to look what the space is giving them. And what some outside influences are similar to how they would hire. They’re going to take your direct references. They’re also going to go back towards see what those references look like.

I can’t understate those analyst reports. It creates a sense of both the reputation and the brand building but also a sense of legitimacy as well. And you’ll see that kind of carry across their articles, publications from specific sources great as well. You’ll see ebooks kind of factor in the middle there case studies factors towards the middle there as well. And then surprising in this study. For me, especially and this is something we have to address moving forward in the COVID world, is our webinar replays.

Now, webinars from a first first publishing perspective are actually great on this side as well. But we are seeing the usage of being able to replay those webinars, especially now the COVID world will that face to face elements of marketing is taken away. This is where I see this actually increasing this year is us being able to produce relevant content even if that’s a weapon. 

That’s been replayed, throwing those in the nurture streams to see where they factor in. But you can see it’s still within striking distance on this in terms of overall constant impact. So in summary there again, from the data side, where it’s clear to see again, technology buyers find analysts reports, case studies, articles and publications to be very meaningful content assets. The overall importance of these we’ve seen increased drastically over the last five years even. Now, although sales presentations rank lower than external content types, they’re still important.

They maintain the importance throughout that entire buyers journey as well, where they’re close in value to these external assets in the solution and selection phase. Now, the applications, our providers should make sure that analyst reports and articles and publications are easily accessible. And during every phase of the buyers journey. Whether that’s in a form or that’s in a nurture stream. Those should be made accessible very early on. These buyers also need to rely on the sales presentations all the way through the selection phase. This is where something where marketing, typically, outside of the enablement piece doesn’t necessarily have a close tie there.

So this is where I would encourage making sure us as marketing the demand side are still not just passing off the baton. For sales to do their own internal presentations. But really making sure that’s a relevant experience all the way through that buyers journey. For example, focus on initiating a change in the organization in the education phase. Then influencing the choice of providing the solution phase and supporting the purchase decision. That type of content needs to be relevant and accessible across the entire buyers journey.

Interactions impact, The question here is which of the following self guided non-human interactions. Did you or your colleagues consider meaningful or impactful during each phase? This is really interesting. If you look here, too, this is where you’ll see the Self Service segment pop up here as well. Where you’ve got access to free trial, you’ll see that kind of hold through pretty strongly. Through all of the buying phases as well. But you also see things like looking at the the website that as we it’s not. It’s not a statistically necessary need to know. But you can see the relevance and the importance of the website for sourcing information. All the way through that buyers journey as well.

What I found key here is, I’ll pause here. I’m going to share this link in the in the presentation afterwards as well. So you can go through this. But really looking at your tactics married to this as well. These are these are your kind of statistical tactics that look across all demandgen efforts. What I love about this. Is placing those, stacked by rank in terms of what these technology buyers really consider as helpful at each phase of the funnel. So this is a slide to explore in deeper detail. And I’ll provide the link to do so later.

Summarizing quickly there that we also have the second part to that which is. There’s also the human interactions involving different providers as well. This this one is interesting, because it also includes now your traditional field marketing. Or face to face events. This is again, something that we have to solve for in new world with COVID. How do we take and replace what were the face to face conversations and or events. To be able to see the significance they have in the buyers journey. As you’ll see here, attended a live webinar. Dinners those are those are top in the education phase. And they’re fairly sizable in the solution phase as well.

So for us as marketers, we have to be able to address those to really understand again. These tactics, not only what is working at each phase of that buyer journey. But also we’re establishing now a new world cadence. Where a significant amount of our marketing is done digitally. Given the work from home environment we have with COVID. So very critical components that helped accelerate and educate deals. Such as field marketing, dinners, events, face to face, that are no longer part of the equation. We have to very quickly pivot to understand what can we replace with that? Is there a virtual version of that that actually works better?

Through through my experience, we’ve seen some pretty good promise in those areas and transitioning to face to face events. What I’ll say it’s the impact doesn’t necessarily come close to where it was before. That is our task at hand. Looking again, across all these tactics and really understanding now in the work from home environment. How do these decisions factor in? 

So in quick summary there, again, our buyers have a strong preference for the orchestrated human interactions. Such as attending those vendor hosted conferences. Or having dialogues with the provider reps. Meaningful non human actions include accessing the free trials, exploring our websites. And the virtual online demos and tours. Our buyers also find value in having the direct conversations with various use cases and provider reps. Being able to actually have direct conversations with even previous customers as well.

Key to me in that data is understanding and being able to have. How do we make sure we can do those direct conversations in this virtual world and COVID as well. Implications are, we have for IT professionals. Whether it’s business buyers. They understand the dress the interactions at each phase of the buying cycle. They seek meaningful conversations with experts with influencers and a wide variety of representation.

So as a technical resource for the organization, as the champion of someone that’s trying to purchase your technology. The customer is prepared to supply that information. So they want to have those customer references experts brought in. And delivered to them easy enough. So they don’t have to do that research themselves. And that is our decision that helps us be able to truly leverage at the speed. We need to to help make sure that our buyers are going through the funnel. Progressing well, all the way through to close billings. 

This last one’s interesting as well, here too. There’s two questions it’s Did you or anyone from your organization meet with a representative of the winning provider organization during each phase of the decision making process? And the second question was, what was the impact of having interaction with a representative from the winning provider? So you’ll see here through that buyers journey.

Who do they meet with you’ll see very largely their vendor sales representative makes sense. You’ll see kind of on the lower spectrum is was it an engineer. Or was there a marketing representative there very low and across that entire journey. But you’ll just see the different levels of the sales or guide. A customer has success. That’s what’s being manifested here. 

With that, you’ll see that the first meetings from the technology buyers with the sales reps with customer service reps. And even the product reps as well. They have a relatively low percentage interaction with all the other roles other than the sales reps. But unlike average b2b buyers. These buyers don’t necessarily rank sales reps interaction higher than other ones. But they’re but they are the ones that have the most impact across that buyers journey.

So the implications here is making sure we have a diverse group of representation during the education phase. That’s giving them the insights all the way through to the customer success. Or what their roles gonna look like coming in. And helping stand up and then ongoing lifecycle of your product or service. But then also enabling if you’re working with resellers, or you’re working with outside representation, partner marketing. To also represent the company effectively as well as their their ability to be able to have the direct connection is significant. 

And that is the end of our presentation there. And overall, I’ll say the great thing about seeing this data. Is number one is being able to marry that qualitative information with the quantitative. So taking these buyer insights and marrying it with your own internal data around your buyer perspective. Keeping an Asterix on one of these are kind of the general things we can see in the industry with b2b.

What I love is it gives a great sense understand not only just who our buyers are, what roles that they play in that decision making process based on company size, and then also the impact that our offers in every interaction we have across that buyers journey. So feel free to reach out to me I’d be happy to share I’m sharing this link in the presentation as well. So you can go download this research document from siriusdecisions. Find me on LinkedIn, I’m happy to connect, and enjoy RevTech Summit 2021.