Understanding sales processes - A survey of tech sellers

Ideal Customer Profiles for Seller Enablement

Understanding sales processes - A survey of tech sellers

Understanding sales processes - A survey of tech sellers

Together with the Data and AI outbound team, me and my team launched an internal survey among the IBM sales representatives that gave us insight into the state of seller enablement related to IBMs Data Fabric offering. Our goal was to provide data-driven insights and recommendations to the IBM enablement team that empowers sellers to have effective client engagements. Through this widespread survey with different types of IBM sellers, we wanted to understand the sales process and different customer roles involved in it.

APRIL 2023 | 5 MIN. READ

AUTHOR: Robin Auer, User Reasearch Lead, IBM Data and AI
TEAM: Robin Langerak, Leah Yoon, Kathy Alvero, and Robin Auer


As mentioned earlier, this study was the second phase of a larger study. Our process was based on the concept of a grounded theory which tries to answer a research question through several studies. 

But let's start from the beginning. In phase one, we had discussions with various stakeholders and decision-makers at IBM. They resulted in the questions for our seller survey in phase two. The survey gave us a lot of insights into the sales process and helped us to select the right participants for the customer interviews in phase three. The interviews are available in my portfolio as well.

“Fantastic work, team! Very clear, actionable findings.”

IBM General Manager for Design


But back to the second phase and our survey. With our sales team, we developed a survey to research the sales process. In addition to the classic questions about socio-demographic characteristics, we asked questions about the following areas: Knowledge questions around our product area, an assessment of the existing enablement material as well as questions about sequence, duration and difficulties of a sales process including the different contact persons on the customer as well as IBM side.

The survey grew over time. In the end we had a whole questionnaire of 38 questions. These were prepared and sent out via Alchemer. Thanks to our Vice President for Sales in Data & AI, we received 244 responses to our survey and were able to achieve very strong and clear results.

“[…] your findings are to the point, especially where we overcomplicate the message; I would like other IBM products to also learn from your study.”

CTO, IBM Global Chief Data Office

Key Insights

Our learnings from the survey spanned the following three clusters: 


I do not want to write much about these individual points. But I will elaborate on a few of the key insights. Our sellers rated themselves as knowledgeable of the product use cases and the value propositions. Small knowledge quizzes showed, the level of knowledge was lower than expected. Outdated material was probably the most frequently cited pain point. As I said, we had much more results, which I will not mention because they are confidential.

“The enablement materials created for Data Fabric is great. It is comprehensive, focused, effective and easy to absorb. What I think is exemplary is the research the team did to understand the voice of the client. They used all the primary and secondary research resources […] to dive deeper, learn more and uncover greater opportunities to improve the messaging, enhance product pairing, and deliver meaningful materials to take the customer experience to a new level. All future projects should incorporate this approach. Well done team!”

General Manager, IBM Data, AI and Automation


This study was special because we collaborated with many executive stakeholders in order to make it successful. We also had to work very accurately under time pressure. The outcome of this study was relevant for our offering and helped the enablement team to prepare better materials for sales teams across IBM Software.

Our products are only as good as the user experience. If we neglect the distribution and sales materials, our tools won't be bought and used anyway. The fact that all materials were revised and updated was a result of this study. We learned that our offering was somehow misunderstood. So, together with the enablement team, we developed consistent taxonomies that helped eliminate misunderstandings.

We needed to make sure that sellers weren't sharing outdated documents. So we identified old material in our system and deleted it or replaced it with more accurate content. We were cleaning up. But there were positives to report as well. Many of our vendors understood the key solution areas. They are eager to learn, and the changes we made were right, we just needed to refine them.

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