IDC's 2012 Buyer Experience Study reveals that CIO's making enterprise-level technology purchases report that their buying cycle is now longer than five months when multiple vendors are competing for their business.
I find several things interesting about this fact.
1. The length of the B2B tech buying cycle continues to increase. In 2009, the buying cycle was about 4.5 months and is now 5.4 months. It has increased more than 20% in three years.
2. IT executives have consistently told IDC that they would like their buying cycle to be shorter. Three months seems to feel about right to them – which is 40% less than what they currently experience. The CIO's readily admit that their own companies are to blame for most of the delays – 60.8% of the delay they attribute to their own buying process complexity. More people are now involved in each decision, for example. However, 35.6% of the delay, IT leaders say is caused by poor marketing and sales processes on the part of the vendors.
Clare Gillan, IDC Senior Vice President of Executive and Go-to-Market Programs, told the audience at the recent IDC CMO Advisory client meeting that survey participants were very clear on how vendors could help them speed up the buying cycle. Here is advice from the IT leaders along with just a few quotes:
- Listen: "Listen to what we are asking and what we want before presenting a cookie-cutter one-size-fits-all solution."
- Justify: "Help us write the business case."
- Honesty: "Put everything about your product on the table, including the short-comings."
- Pricing: "Provide all available options with associated pricing up-front."
3. One more thing I find interesting about the reported length of the buying cycle: Does five-plus months seem short to you? In contrast, marketing and sales leaders reported that 19 months is their average sales cycle for enterprise-type deals according to IDC's 2011 Tech Marketing and Sales Productivity Benchmark studies. I don't think I have ever heard a B2B tech marketer or sales leader report a sales cycle of just a couple months - except for small ticket items, repeat purchases (which would not be included in this survey question's category) or the occasional purveyor of some super-hot-can't-wait solution.
My guess is that buyers have a different definition of when the buying cycle starts than do marketers and sales people. What does this mean to marketers who are engaged with buyers in very early stage conversations? Something to think about.