Selling to Telcos in the Age of Digital Transformation

A playbook for vendors in a changing sales and marketing environment

Vendors must help operators navigate uncharted waters

Telecom operators of all stripes are driving mass-scale digital transformation initiatives – 86% in this survey are either underway or planning their journeys. These are uncharted waters, with the ‘hoped for’ destination, a leaner, more agile and customer-centric organization, better able to profit from digital services. The clear majority (84%) are adamant that in five years’ time, they will have evolved into completely different type of businesses.

Telcos are leaning on the vendor community to help them transform. 78% say they are more demanding of vendors as the landscape becomes more complex. In many respects, that’s good news for suppliers, as a staggering 98% of telcos are looking to vendors to play a bigger role in driving innovation to support digital transformation. However, engaging with telcos is becoming increasingly difficult and complex. Operator organizations are in near-constant flux, their purchasing processes are changing, and many telcos are frustrated by the failure of vendors to demonstrate they can meet their evolving needs.

Operators are in a state of flux:

In the last three years:

  • 52% of telcos surveyed have changed leadership, and 72% have introduced new Board or senior management roles
  • 77% have restructured at least once, while almost half have restructured at least twice in the same timeframe
  • Almost two thirds (61%) have rebranded or changed market positioning

This points to a continually changing set of senior decision makers and purchasing influencers working in organizations whose ‘final destination’ is subject to sporadic reorientation.

The telco purchasing process is increasingly convoluted and complex:

  • 74% of operators see ‘consensus buying’ as the new normal in telco businesses
  • Purchasing decisions now involve more people (the mean is 38, but can be more than 100 in some cases) and take longer (up to 45 weeks) to complete
  • 40% admit that purchases can often be abandoned completely if consensus isn’t reached
  • 70% of operators believe the number of people involved in decision making will increase over the next two years

Vendors face a difficult sales and marketing journey, having to meet the needs of dozens of influencers over increasingly long purchasing cycles. If they fail to do this, they are likely to end up with nothing in return for their investment. And with the number of decision makers expected to rise in seven out of ten operators, this is a challenge that must be met head on.

Vendor positioning and messaging important, alongside marketing channel selection:

  • Vendor reputation and standing in the industry is the most important selection criterion for telcos; demonstrating understanding of operator challenges and patience with processes is next, and strong differentiation from other suppliers is the third-ranked trait that drives selection
  • However, the biggest frustrations with vendors are a lack of subject matter expertise, over persistence, lack of flexibility, failing to acknowledge consensus buying behavior by engaging with multiple stakeholders, and a lack of understanding of the complexity of contemporary operator businesses
  • 73% believe that the IT or trade media is the most helpful source of information when shortlisting vendors, 56% favour industry analysts

Successful vendors must evolve their sales and marketing strategies to capitalize on the opportunity presented by telco digital transformation. Deep understanding of the audience must come to the fore to help drive the tailoring of messaging to numerous decision-makers. It is vital that vendors demonstrate subject matter expertise and an understanding of the operator’s plight through their sales discussions and marketing communications in order to drive selection. And the key to reach telcos and compete for their attention – and wallets – is through industry media and the analyst community, viewed by telcos as the most important sources of information.

CC Group Whitepaper Feb 2018

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