The commodity IT market has always been challenging for procurement professionals, not least because it is one of the largest indirect spend categories and many purchases fall into tail spend. Couple that with the scale and pace of change – where up to 30,000 product prices move every day, while thousands of new products are introduced and stock changes – and it’s easy to see how buyers may struggle to get a grip on this complex landscape. Without real-time data, procurement teams must do their best with what they have.
As if this isn’t enough, we’ve seen that political and economic events that may seem far removed can have a significant impact. The political uncertainty of the past 18 months has caused exchange rates to fluctuate wildly, influencing the IT supply chain and ultimately affecting end-product prices.
This volatility was highlighted as one of IT buyers’ biggest frustrations, according to a recent survey carried out by IT procurement specialists Probrand. Buyers agreed that spending an average of one hour each day researching various sites and calling suppliers was not the best use of their time. Almost half of the respondents (48%) said this is the biggest barrier to them getting what they want quickly at the right price.
Traditionally, this is where a value-added reseller (VAR) would earn their stripes as a trusted adviser, helping to guide buyers through the complexities of the IT market. However, Probrand’s research found IT buyers see resellers as becoming more of a hindrance than a help due to a barrage of interruptive sales calls. More than 60% of respondents said they receive between nine and 40 unsolicited and unhelpful IT supplier calls a day. Some 90% of those calls, on average, last for between one and five minutes, which means some buyers are burning up to three each day fielding unwanted calls.
This is more than a mild bugbear. Procurement professionals said they were so irritated by this that one-third see IT resellers as a problem, and 45% of respondents said they would like to cut them out of the process altogether.
It is clear buyer behaviour is evolving to allow more independent decision-making in the IT market. More than half (53%) of the buyers said they want to research and purchase IT products online and only want to speak to a sales representative when they need help. In simple terms, interruptive sales calls are out; the freedom of self-service is in.
Of course, this desire has been largely influenced by consumer purchasing patterns. People no longer want to browse four or five different car insurance sites, for example, manually researching prices and product specifications, when they can use a comparison site. So why should this be any different in B2B technology?
This doesn’t mean, however, that procurement professionals don’t want to build relationships with IT suppliers. Far from it. Four in five buyers said they value the technical advice made available by suppliers. When it comes to more complex purchases such as IT services, 73% of respondents said it would be desirable to talk with a salesperson.
So, while buyers still want access to technical or sector specialist expertise, there will always be a requirement for a trusted adviser. However, VARs also need to realise buyers want greater transparency and less hassle. This, in all likelihood, will mean greater self-service and fewer interruptive sales calls.
Ian Nethercot, MCIPS, is supply chain director at Probrand
This contributed article has been written by a guest writer at the invitation of Procurement Leaders. Procurement Leaders received no payment directly connected with the publishing of this content.