Lines of Business Selling: Insights for MSPs and VARs

You’ve been hearing about it for a while: Lines of business (LOB) buyers will soon overtake IT in buying decisions. According to IDC, that day is now here. If you haven’t already, it’s time to restructure your technology solutions and sales process to court lines of business buyers. Here’s why:

Lines of Business IT Buyers

 

  • Have control of their own IT budgets: 60 percent of the spending on IT services and hardware in the U.S. will come from LOB. Worldwide LOB will spend 49.5 percent.  (IDC)

  • Come up with their own ideas on how to spend IT budgets: LOB buyers are initiating technology investment ideas say 45 percent of CompTIA members. (CompTIA)

  • Have emerging buying power: LOB spending will grow by 6.9 percent between 2016 and 2021, whereas IT spending will grow by 3.3 percent during the same period. (IDC)

  • Are looking for insights: 54 percent of LOB buyers seek information about technology from third parties such as vendors and service providers. (CompTIA)

Let’s take a deeper dive and look at which industries have the most LOB buying opportunities. IDC has some industry-specific insights about which industries have the most LOB IT buying activity.

Industries with the Most LOB Activity

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There’s great opportunity in focusing on LOB IT buying, especially when you key in on the industries with the most LOB activity. Though signs are indicating the shift long-promised shift to LOB IT buying dominance is finally here, it’s an incremental shift. MSP or VAR firms that tailor sales and solutions now to meet the needs of the LOB buyer will position themselves for future growth.

Here are the industries with LOB dominance in IT solutions buying, according to IDC:

  • Discrete manufacturing: 53 percent LOB spending

  • Process manufacturing: 52 percent of technology purchases will be through LOB

  • Professional services: 51 percent of IT budget spending will be done by LOB

If these industries aren’t on your radar at the moment, consider continuing to focus on LOB spending for your target industries. Watch for trends and, when appropriate, explore connections with executives and others with budget authority in departments outside of IT with your clients.

In some instances, IT leads the charge for LOB spending. Your best leads may come from the IT manager or CIO at the companies you currently serve. Here’s why: 40 percent of LOB buyers stated they collaborate with IT when making buying decisions in a recent survey by Sungard and CompTIA. The key here is to:

  1. Develop relationships with LOB decision makers.
  2. Listen for the pain points and requirements of the LOB leaders.
  3. Continue to cultivate solid relationships with IT leaders within the firms on your existing client list.

As the shift to LOB spending gets into full gear, there are certain types of technology LOB buyers are more comfortable with than others.

The Most Popular Technology with LOB Buyers: Cloud Applications

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LOBs appear to lean towards cloud-based solutions when looking for technology solutions that help them reach their goals. Business functions (such as marketing, finance, HR, and other departments) will fund 70 percent of applications purchases in 2018, according to IDC.

SaaS solutions directed at addressing a specific pain point for business functions provide a profitable option for selling to LOBs. A few examples:

  • Marketing: A custom Salesforce CRM add-on to track social media results.

  • Finance: SaaS software to track compliance with SEC guidelines or industry-specific regulations.
    (Note: Finance is beginning to hire IT pros dedicated to their departments: 21 percent of CFOs now have a dedicated IT person to address their needs on staff, based on recent findings by CompTIA.)

  • HR: Custom software to track and update job candidates of their status in the hiring process.

Sales is also ripe for custom, cloud-based solutions to solve the administrative pain point many reps suffer when converting leads into customers. You may have noticed your own reps mentioning how much the administrative side of sales slows the overall process and the lead-to-sale pipeline.

Courting the LOB Buyer: Key Insights

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As you make the shift to focusing on lines of business spenders and their needs, keep in mind many decision makers in this area have never interacted with the IT channel. Only eight percent of LOB buyers have interacted with the IT channel, says CompTIA. Some may see this as a challenge when it’s actually an opportunity. A few ways to influence non-IT execs with technology buying power:

Educate: Growth-oriented MSPs and VARs can educate LOB buyers, when necessary, about the IT channel and technology, how it works, and why they need certain solutions but they don’t need others.

Dispel myths: LOB buyers may not have a deep pool of IT knowledge to draw on and could come to conclusions about certain solutions that aren’t necessarily accurate. As you discuss technology solutions with them, keep in mind that some of their knowledge about IT comes from the consumer market/consumer media.

Further the sales conversation: Once you’ve developed relationships with LOB buyers, be sure to remain in communication with them. Focus marketing communications around clear explanations of technology relevant to their departments. A weekly or monthly roundup of tech trends in marketing, finance, or HR would be a good place to start.

The key is to become a trusted advisor for LOB buyers. This way they’ll turn to you when they need solutions to the challenges they’re facing in reaching their goals. Presh Marketing Solutions can assist you in developing a strategy for communicating with potential and existing LOB decision makers. Let’s start a discussion on the best ways to approach marketing to this growing segment of technology buyers.

 

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