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In IT Together blog: The importance of speaking the same language in the B2B tech space

27 Aug 2021

The power of language in commercial conversations

Framed by true knowledge & understanding

So, we‘ve all been working in the tech space for quite a while. We all know what we’re talking about, right? Well you’d like to think so, and in broad terms, we probably do. But, how often have you been in a client or prospect meeting when the language, phraseology or root understanding of a certain product proposition, or topic area, has been out of kilter with others? In our experience, more than you might think.

Does, deep down, this dissonance in understanding fundamentally matter though? In our view, absolutely. Ultimately, how can you truly promote or sell an offering if your understanding of need and/or application differs markedly from your customer/prospect? Equally, the associated language employed can be an incredibly powerful catalyst or inhibitor to gaining commercial traction. So, yes, ensuring commonality of understanding and accuracy of language, within the tech space, is critically important.

Speaking the same language - perception vs. reality

Is there really a problem?

Such an issue of ‘looseness’ in the understanding of core areas of the technology landscape - as well as the associated language employed - are surely isolated incidences though, are they not? Well, the Vanson Bourne team felt it would be of value to the establish the degree of dissonance between actual and perceived understanding, rather than purely drawing upon anecdotal experiences.

We constructed a survey to establish the levels of true cognition - as well as organisational embeddedness - across the areas of hybrid, multi cloud and zero trust network access (ZTNA). Doing so amongst a sample of US and UK businesses.

The outputs were certainly of note, particularly once geographical dimensions were drilled-down into…

Taking the figures below, the immediate ‘grabber’ is that amongst this universe of IT decision makers (ITDMs), self-reported levels of knowledge are far from ‘excellent’ for all - particularly in relation to ZTNA (with only 38% of respondents having an outstanding command of the territory). Okay, it’s important to acknowledge that a sizeable minority of responses fall into the ‘good bucket’ - as these areas may not be true specialisms for all participants - but, within a rapidly evolving, highly competitive, B2B tech vendor environment, is ‘good’ truly good enough?

Let’s also take a glimpse across the Atlantic, the UK continues to lag significantly behind The States in the knowledge base of its ITDM workforce. Whilst this in itself is no great epiphany, the stats reemphasise the scale of the challenge for the UK, as well as the degree of potentially missed commercial opportunities - given the deficit in skills and expertise.

The limited levels of ‘true’ expertise directly bleeds-through into respective adoption of such technologies. In total, whilst some 56% of firms have adopted hybrid cloud, this drops to 40% in relation to multi cloud and plummets to 24% for ZTNA.

Clearly, if the organisational knowledge and understanding is not in place, no-one is championing the respective efficiency/flexibility/security benefits - as there is a blind spot to the commercial advantages, as well as a lack of the inherent capabilities and will to drive tech implementation.

Furthermore, as trailblazed in the opening paragraphs of this article, the fragmented language and definitions of these technologies is evidenced below. With the exception of hybrid cloud, no one descriptor really stands-out. Even in this instance, over two-fifths of participants have selected an alternative descriptive outline.

Whilst, once again, it is important we acknowledge the extenuating circumstances of the comparative newness of these technologies and in truly understanding their capabilities and flex. That said, this does further underline our central thesis that the levels of expert understanding are often not where they should be, hampering organisations’ abilities to innovate, implement and ultimately drive commercial success.

Overcoming the language barrier

Some learnings and observations

In our view, such findings, rather hammer-home the point that true understanding of certain areas of the B2B tech world - particularly elements which are rapidly evolving - is, for a sizeable minority of businesses, not at the level it should be. Potentially resulting in missed, or misinterpreted, commercial and/or strategic opportunities.

Observationally, it is clear that businesses need to ask themselves a number of key questions, if they are to deepen the embedded knowledge base and ensure language and phraseology is employed correctly - fully unlocking its associated communicative power. Such areas of organisational introspection include:

  • Not necessarily assuming your business knows best - breaking out of this siloed thinking. Are competitors employing alternative language and/or definitions in relation to their offerings? That is not to say ape their approach but being conscious of the competitive language whilst shaping your own positioning
  • Being mindful that the landscape is constantly evolving. Is your organisational understanding evolving in parallel? Ask yourself the hard question: ‘Are we truly up-to-speed on the latest developments?’ - and by extension knowledge, definitions, and phraseology
  • Learning from other territories (or verticals). As we’ve seen, in the data, certain markets are more mature and comfortable with certain technologies than others. Are there geographical - or for that matter cross-sectoral - approaches which can inform your thinking and appreciation of certain technologies or technological trends?


300 IT decision makers from across the US and UK were interviewed in July 2021. All respondents were from organisations in the private sector, with 1,000 or more employees.

Discover more technology research insights and inspiration on our blog and explore the work we do for our clients via our Project Portal. Talk to us about your next research project - get in touch with Scott or Pippa to discuss your ideas further.

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