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Those statistics about how much of the purchase journey is complete before a buyer connects with a vendor? Perhaps vendors shouldn’t take them too much to heart. Recent research [download page] from the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research finds that buyers prefer to hear from vendors earlier than later in the buying process.

The report surveyed 488 buyers across regions, industries and job titles, responsible for a combined $4.2 billion in purchases. Fully 71% said they want to hear from vendors when they’re looking for new ideas and possibilities to drive stronger results to improve their business.

Likewise, a majority (62%) said they want to hear from vendors when they’re actively looking for a solution to fix what’s broken or solve a problem.

Buyers were more intent on hearing from vendors in both of those cases than when they’re identifying and evaluating possible providers (54%).

And few (30%) wanted to wait until after an RFP has been completed to initially hear from a vendor.

Previous research has found that vendor presentations are among the more critical resources used by tech buyers during the consideration phase, and that sales presentations are buyers’ most important content asset. This new data adds to that research on sales representatives’ importance, suggesting that vendors can have success when reaching out early on in the buying process, too.

Why Buyers Connect With Vendors

Buyers reported a range of reasons for connecting with a vendor, but the most important is a need for the product or service either now or in the future (75%). This was one of several reasons given that the RAIN Group believes are not outside the vendor’s control. As they write, “buyers may not perceive the need for your offering, but they may want the results your offering can bring.”

Other reasons given for meeting with a vendor that are susceptible to the vendor’s influence include having budget, having heard of the vendor, and the vendor being referred by someone inside the company.

Meanwhile, content marketing has a role to play: more than 6 in 10 buyers say they connect with vendors who offer to share something of value. Almost as many say they connect with vendors on the basis of having received information from them (56%) or due to the provider having posted valuable content online (55%).

Interestingly, half of the buyers surveyed said they meet with vendors who don’t make them feel like they’re being sold to. This is echoed by research showing that B2B buyers want partners, not vendors – and that buyers’ primary frustration is with vendors who are more interested in selling than in listening to their needs.

That doesn’t mean that vendors should avoid talking about their products and services, though. In fact, among the content types that buyers say influence them to accept a meeting or otherwise connect, a description of the provider’s capabilities (67%) figures prominently. A recent study likewise found that detailed product information helps fuel IT buyers to respond to a sales representative or marketer.

Meanwhile, in this latest study buyers also say that insight on the use of products or services to solve business problems (66%) helps influence them to connect.

The content that proves influential for the most buyers (69%), though, is primary research data relevant to their business.

That was closely followed by content 100% customized to the buyer’s situation (67%). Both customized content and ROI justifications prove more influential to C-level and VP buyers than to directors and managers, per the report.

The full study is available for download here.

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