The Psychology of Your Corporate Research Client


By Peter Zollo, Collaborata

The following insights come from “Corporate Researchers Speak: How to Engage and Sell Us,” the first-ever qualitative deep dive into research clients’ path to purchase. This study, which will be released next month, was conducted by David Harris from Insight & Measurement, together with partners from Aha, Reality Check, and Inqui. The study was successfully funded on Collaborata, where it is now available for purchase.


If you’re like most research suppliers, you think you already “get” how to be help your clients and what matters to them. After all, your company is already successfully serving clients. But, as the learnings from “Corporate Researchers Speak” show, clients rarely share with you what really drives them. (And, what drives them crazy!)

As a researcher, you strive to gain an empathetic understanding of your clients’ consumers. By being an empathetic research partner, you’ll solve more problems and, in turn, develop trusted, lasting client relationships that serve to grow your own business.

Real empathy comes from a deep understanding of your clients’ biggest drivers and pain points. Ultimately, to be successful as a research seller, it’s critical to understand the psychology of the buyer.

So, slip into their shoes. Immerse yourself in their day-to-day pressures and priorities. Recognize what really motivates them. Understand how they think and feel.

Uncovering all this and more is the essence of “Corporate Researchers Speak: How to Engage and Sell Us,” the first qualitative deep dive into how to best “sell” corporate researchers in today’s environment. This exploration has led to unexpected discoveries: strategic, tactical, and human.

Corporate-research buyers face demands coming from above — constant deadlines paired with near-impossible expectations, and oftentimes shrinking resources.

So, where do clients place their trust to help them navigate their seemingly treacherous world of trying to please internal clients, to not only to “live another day,” but to shine, excel, and live the life of a research hero? They place their trust in you. They rely on you.

Corporate researchers often feel caught between two worlds: being on their brand or business team, to whom they’re responsible, and being a “co-captain” of your project team. In the former scenario, their teammates are also their internal clients, whose budgets they’re entrusted to smartly spend on winning insights, while meeting their deadlines and priorities. In the latter scenario, they’re ultimately responsible for the success of the work that they commission. Sometimes they play a key role in shaping the work and its outcomes, while at other times, they’re simply along for the ride.

They rely on you to not only meet their top-down demands, but also to help build their own personal record of success within their organization. Although research buyers often hold the keys to your next project, they might not have the authority within their own organization that you might think or expect. Not only is their budget typically stretched to an uncomfortable degree, so is their bandwidth. What a great opportunity for you to step in and be a research hero!

No question: Clients are overwhelmed with outreach coming from suppliers. They receive dozens of sales emails and LinkedIn messages a week, often from research sellers who didn’t take the time to learn about a client’s business before reaching out. How do you feel when your inbox is flooded from people you don’t know and who didn’t take the time to find out who you are or what you might need? Your future clients want and need your help, but they also need you to build trust.

Clients may win awards, accolades, and promotions based on the work they do with you or to which your work leads. Their own sense of professional value depends in part upon the quality of work they get from you. As a result, they need more than your expertise; they need to trust you personally. In fact, the research buyers who participated in this study said they often trust their insights partners more than people in their own company!

So if you want to earn a new client’s business or retain that of a current client, learn to build trust. Bring clients your best thinking, not your best selling. Guide them in their path to purchase with you, working together to make the choices that lead to great work. Don’t simply supply the research; become their research consultant and guide them to success. And to do this, you need to do your due diligence.

With you leading the project and the relationship, your clients shouldn’t ever worry about the quality of your work and the detail that it encompasses. By being a thorough, proactive, and responsive communicator, your client should sleep better knowing that they have a trusted partner at the helm.  Yes, you’re a researcher. But don’t ever forget that you’re in the business of client service.

Learn about your clients and their business. Learn how each individual client wants to engage with you. So, listen closely to the corporate-research buyers who played the role of respondents in this study.

Understand that your clients rely on you at a level that perhaps you hadn’t before realized. Yes, they need your advice, skills, tools, and expertise. But they also need your personal, unwavering support from start to finish and in between.  All this begins with empathy.

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Jimmy Zollo is the Co-Founder and CEO of Collaborata -- a Chicago-based tech startup serving the insights and marketing research world. Collaborata is the first-ever platform that enables organizations to share research costs and insights. Collaborata was a finalist for the 2017 Midwest Digital Startup of the Year, the 2016 Insight Innovation Award and has been featured on Business Insider, BuiltInChicago, Greenbook, Quirks, Research Live, MRWeb, and Market Research World. For more information, please visit: Jimmy developed his passion and enthusiasm for the Chicago tech community, while driving growth at GrubHub for four years. He helped develop GrubHub's industry-leading restaurant network, traveling across the country to launch new markets and grow existing ones. Following GrubHub's IPO and merger with Seamless, Jimmy transitioned to the corporate team, leading partnerships between GrubHub and many of Chicago's leading law, consulting, tech, and marketing firms.