SalesTech Star

As client loyalty and referrals hit historic lows, relevant expertise soars 33% in importance

According to Hinge Research Institute’s Inside the Buyer’s Brain Study, over the past two years alone, relevancy of services as a key selection factor rose 33%. Relevant expertise also made a growing impact on client satisfaction, loyalty, and referrals, all of which either plunged to historic lows or stagnated over the same period. Add to this the now urgent move towards digital, there is little doubt B2B service providers will have to redraw their buyer journey maps. The study monitored changes in professional services buyer and seller behaviors at a time of unprecedented marketplace shifts and uncertainty.

“Well before 2020, digital transformation and staying relevant in a fast-changing environment have both been on professional service firms’ to-do lists,” said Lee Frederiksen Ph.D., Managing Partner at Hinge. “This year’s health and economic crises have accelerated these trends and eliminated the option to wait it out. If sellers don’t keep up with buyers’ evolving needs, buyers will simply search online for alternatives. The rise of relevant expertise combined with the drop in client loyalty tells us that this is already happening.”

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Inside the Buyer’s Brain throws light on the forces that are reshaping the buyer journey map. First, digital marketing capability will determine a firm’s likelihood of survival and success in a world where few if any interactions are face to face. This will require building up a responsive digital content marketing program. Second, specialized expertise is key to remaining relevant and competitive. Third, managing the firm’s talent bench is now key to the success of business development.

Inside the Buyer’s Brain uncovers key opportunities sellers often miss. Sellers underestimate the need for services that address strategic planning, the demand for which climbed 44% over two years. Similar patterns are found with technology and data issues and regulatory compliance. Moreover, they misperceive the importance of key selection criteria including competitive pricing and better terms, talent caliber, and cultural fit. These misses represent areas of improvement that, if addressed, will strengthen client relations and help win new business in today’s foreboding environment.

Respondents to the study, the largest of its kind on professional services, include more than 1,900 buyers of B2B professional services and 1,600 of their sellers. This rare look at both sides of the relationship provides insights into how expectations have changed, where they are met and missed, and how to close the gaps. Respondents were segmented by industry, namely accounting and financial services, consulting, architecture/engineering/ construction, technology and software, and government contracting.

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