Know your customer, IT vendors told

A GHK survey discovers that vendors generally communicate well with IT managers, but they need to learn more about their client's industry and appear less keen to sell.

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By  David Ingham Published  June 4, 2002

Make the effort to understand your client’s business before you try to sell him something. That’s the message to IT vendors coming out of a new report commissioned by public relations consultancy, Gulf Hill & Knowlton (GHK.)

The survey, entitled ‘GHK/IT director’s communications survey’, camvassed the views of 61 IT managers in the Gulf states and Jordan. The goal was to help GHK, a PR consultancy, advise its IT clients on their communications strategies.

“There were two major criticisms: vendors didn’t have a good understanding of their [IT managers’] business and were too often in sales mode,” James Mullan, head of the technology group at Gulf Hill & Knowlton (GHK), told “IT managers often felt that they knew better than the vendor how products fitted into their business.”

The report wasn’t all grim reading for IT vendors, however. Asked how well vendors communicate with them overall, 70% of respondents said ‘reasonably well,’ whilst 15% answered ‘very well’ and only 15% answered ‘poorly.’

It was certain aspects of vendors’ communications strategies that caused IT managers concern. For example, 58% of respondents said that vendors did not respond to requests for information in a timely manner. Cold calls or impromptu visits to their premises by salespeople were something that IT managers particularly didn’t like.

IT managers said they prefer to be approached by salespeople through an e-mail followed by a telephone call. They said that they also welcome efforts by vendors to provide regular updates on new products and services appropriate to their industry.

Mullan says that IT managers were generally very keen to share their views with GHK, provided anonymity was guaranteed. They were particularly forthright about vendors Web strategies. 75% of IT managers said they use the Web as their primary source of information on new products and services. However, they are less than impressed with vendors’ efforts to produce ‘localised’ Web sites, which they say lack information on regional product specifications, availability and pricing.

“The pages of the region’s newspapers and trade media are full of vendors talking about the impact of the digital revolution and the importance of e-business,” explains Mullan. “At the same time, however, very few of them are acting on their own words. The irony is not lost on their customers in the Middle East.”

Local IT solutions companies will be cheered by the fact that they came out of the survey fairly well. Asked who communicates most effectively, 51% of respondents said ‘large international vendors’, 41% said ‘smaller regional vendors’, whilst 8% said ‘both equally well.’

From the report’s findings, GHK has put together a ‘photo fit’ of the successful communicator. Amongst several recommendations, it advises IT vendors to better understand their client or potential client’s industry, avoid coming across as in permanent sales mode and to make their local Web sites more useful and informative.

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