Savvy sellers are recognizing this shift and adapting to these new buyer expectations in five key areas:
- How they generate opportunities and define a sales “lead”.
- How they market their solution
- An end-to-end solution and offering their website as a generous repository of clear messaging and materials for buyers to anonymously learn about the company.
- Enabling prospects to self-identify their interest through an email inquiry or web form to initiate a sales conversation after identifying their need, looking at the vendor as an effective solution to explore, and preparing internally to engage the solution and vendor as a potential initiative
- Actively lead buyers’ buying initiatives by focusing on individual stakeholders’ personalities, biases and fears, driving them through surprising insights about their business problem, and clearly communicating the negative and/or personal implications for inaction or support, overcoming the strong temptation to stick to the status quo.
Two years later, how have enterprise technology sales organizations adjusted to meet these new buyer expectations?
I recently had the opportunity to go undercover to see current solution sales from the perspective of SaaS buyers as I switch hats to evaluate and recommend SaaS platforms for a start-up. I learned that technology vendors still have work to do to meet the expectations of modern buyers.
These are the top sins that still exist in the buyer’s journey, followed by my recommendations for improving the experience and sales results.
Sin #1 – Forgetting to sell the end-to-end buyer’s journey
Many professionals are active in local social and peer networks, where they source information and form opinions about prospective partners. However, potential buyers are all but warranted to visit vendor websites seeking product information in the form of videos, blogs, price lists, case studies, testimonials, white papers, and demos to gauge the viability of a prospective solution.
I did the same and found that no high-level end-to-end tours, explainer videos or infographics were clear enough to effectively familiarize me with the various configurations of each platform’s process flow to assemble a well-thought-out sales journey for my clients. This led me to choose through a matrix of functionality packages, try to imagine how the solution would change my processes compared to its competitors, and if I wanted to recommend a solution, I tried to pitch a brief presentation and justification. C-suite and board members.
Pro tip: Remember, most enterprise organizations employ a seasoned executive to lead the technology assessment, make recommendations to executives and board members at the risk of their reputation, and oversee the implementation process. As such, treat your website and every piece of content as a pull-through sales and marketing resource to help stakeholders understand, convince and demonstrate how your solution can make money, save money or reduce risk. , fits in with other platforms throughout their business process lifecycle and differentiates them from competing solutions. By providing easily accessible, presentation-ready product information and validation, you’ll stand out from your competitors and potential buyers.
Sin #2 – Starving or chasing buyers
A website is arguably the most powerful repository of information about your solution, your credibility, your tribe and your values. It’s the #1 tool for converting buyers from an anonymous tire kicker to an active shopper. Therefore, when content and advertising drive potential buyers to your website and they discover a smorgasbord of product information and verification, you equip them to become a high-intent buyer by identifying their needs and seeing your product and company as potentially viable. solution, and prepare themselves to continue the conversation with your sales team. But what if they arrive at your website and encounter confusing messaging, educating themselves, or content locked behind a web form?
Speaking for a wide range of buyers, no one likes to get stuck on a web form for basic product information. The secret is that within moments of completing your web form, the SDR or BDR will be hot on their trail with spam emails, calls, and LinkedIn InMail messages.
Pro tip: No, your website won’t attract potential buyers and close sales, but if you fail to stock it with compelling content that your buyers can meaningfully evaluate your solution on their own time, or if you lock your content behind forms, it creates a disadvantage. A taste that lasts well through the sales process. Even worse, they may skip your solution altogether in the evaluation. Also, turn your website into a generous library and ditch the web form. Once you’ve established the feasibility and credibility of your solution, don’t worry, prospective buyers will willingly enter the conversation as a high-intent buyer.
Sin #3 – Breaking the Golden Rule
Rightfully so, I felt like a doe on the opening day of hunting season as I grudgingly completed web forms to get my hands on any level of detailed content to study and compare. I was immediately bombarded with multiple calls and emails. In the case of one vendor, not one but three different people contacted me three times a day until I emailed an executive to stop contacting me altogether.
Pro tip: Now is a good time to do some honest thinking. In his book Sell the way you buyDavid Primer It shows how normal people behave completely differently when behind the wheel of a car. He added, “Unfortunately, many traditional sellers believe that the tactics they use to engage (and often annoy) prospective buyers are perfectly acceptable when they’re doing it under the banner of ‘selling.’ It invites solution pitches and simple cold calls that they aren’t prepared for. However, when most people find themselves at the buying table, their awareness and resistance to these tactics is strong. If you can fog the mirror, you’ve experienced it yourself, so be honest. Put yourself in your buyers’ shoes. Keep it up and ask yourself if the tactics you use will actually get you or your product bought.
Sin #4 – Under equipping buyers to offer & recommend your solution
Choosing published resources and lacking clarity about the end-to-end user experience, I scheduled demos.
Everything is clear now, right?
Well… sort of. I gained a greater understanding of specific platforms, but struggled to connect the dots of how they compared, overlapped, or matched the functionality of adjacent platforms to know what I needed and didn’t need to achieve the end-to-end marketing, business development and sales journey I wanted to create.
Pro tip: If you’re a student of effective presentations or public speaking, you know that every speech starts with thinking about your audience. Who are they, what do they care about, need to know, and how can you best serve them? Just showing your platform is not enough. Think of your buyers as sales agents for your solution that you convince and equip them to sell back into their organization. This means they should come out of calls and demos with a high level of understanding of the solution, how it translates into the entire lifecycle of their business, unique insights into the problems it solves, and the materials needed to present and recommend a painless platform with decision makers. I suggest leaving a well-thought-out flowchart or infographic, key points to remember about the platform vs. competitors, and a brief business case and argument for your solution.
Sin #5 – Losing Decision Making Motives
If you’ve been recruited to participate with an acquisition committee in recent history, chances are you’ve seen tight purse strings, a growing number of shareholders that include corporate board members, and long stakes to support an unexecuted initiative. Well, gets poor reception or delivers less than promised results.
Adding to stakeholder fear and bias, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and virtual and augmented reality are quickly becoming core components of many SaaS solutions to automate low-value functions. Depending on a given stakeholder’s role, supporting these emerging technologies can be considered career suicide. Each stakeholder has their own internal motivations and risk analysis that may support or oppose the initiative. Statistics show that about 2/3 of all sales engagements end with a safe decision: do nothing and stick with the status quo.
Pro tip: It could be argued that today’s battle to sell technology rivals the dot-com bust of 2008 that crashed the stock market, real estate market and financial markets. On a golf course in New York, a depressed stockbroker complains that he’s the last man standing. Individual investors want to be associated with losing fortunes overnight. His wise friend suggested otherwise, “How is your stockbroker working for you, may I help?” He suggests now is the time to call every investor in New York to ask.
Each stakeholder has the opportunity to serve them by making individual decisions. What are their core job responsibilities, fears, and biases that internally motivate them to reject or buy your solution? Appeal to that insider early on by showing how you can help them get what they want without risk. Was it an annual bonus for reducing operating expenses by 15%, meeting EBITA numbers and demonstrating efficiency for the board? Being credited with increasing operational productivity or profits? Is the department willingly embracing a digital transformation initiative that will result in a 20% increase in production with the same resources? Appeal to that inner person. Partner and collaborate with a motivated internal champion to help colleagues achieve consensus in support of initiatives that best address organizational deficiencies and improve their workplace.