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Mid-market buyers want shorter sales cycles

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FRAMINGHAM, USA: The midmarket is the fastest-growing segment of the IT industry, yet midmarket buyers are being poorly served. A new study from IDC's Sales Advisory Service, which surveyed more than 4,500 members of its business to business panel, quantified the level of satisfaction of midmarket customers with the sales engagement practices employed by their IT products and services vendors.

"The standard assumptions regarding midmarket buyer engagements are no longer valid. These buyers are more savvy, more technical, and more impatient than most sales organizations realize. Not only do they want a shorter sales cycle, they want more contact with technical resources, not more time with sales reps.

To profitably serve this segment, vendors must balance investments between outbound sales reps and phone-based and online resources, without giving up the relationship management that both reps and marketing automation systems can provide," said Lee Levitt, director, IDC's Sales Advisory Service. "The good news is that this strategy will support better territory and individual account coverage."

The IDC survey shows that many of the shortcomings midmarket buyers see revolve around poor communication, which can be easily corrected with training, coaching, and effort. Every buying organization has different expectations, and too often field sales fails to ask customers what they want or make an effort to truly understand their needs. Buyers also give sales representatives poor marks on follow-up and follow-through, finding that responses to their inquires are often incomplete or inaccurate.

Nearly nothing is of greater concern to sales management than the skills their people possess and apply every day in the field. "The reality is that midmarket buyers see sales too frequently with incomplete information and a general lack of technical skills," added Levitt. "In looking for strengths, buyers are very clear about what they want. Many of those desires are based on simply having sales take responsibility for providing not just any answer, but the right answer that meets the buyer's needs. Building sales representative skills is paramount in achieving better performance in the midmarket, and these skills transfer readily to the pursuit of enterprise customers as well."

To succeed in the midmarket, optimizing processes to reach buyers and engage them is critical. Taking stock of what already exists within an organization and what processes are well defined, and making that known to customers, will result in buyers knowing what to expect during the buying process.

With a growth rate significantly higher than the enterprise market, midmarket competition will only become fiercer. Organizations that work smarter and focus on turning every point of contact into a meaningful point of value will thrive. Others, during tougher economic times, will see opportunities stall, or go away, won by those who listen and match their communication, sales skills, and processes to the needs of the midmarket buyer.

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