Cooking a gourmet meal and buying software have a lot in common. Both are more complicated than they may seem.
Let’s say you have a detailed and detailed recipe for making your own Beef Wellington at home. You may have all the ingredients and a step-by-step recipe to guide you, but that doesn’t mean you have the equipment or cooking skills needed to make a good dish.
Buying software seems simple on paper. The reality is that it’s a complex and nuanced process for modern shoppers. Consider that buyers should also be more careful when spending in a market with tighter budgets.
The good news is that companies still need software. While the buying journey isn’t what it used to be, it’s important to understand what they expect and what challenges they face.
Why do buyers experience choice paralysis?
There’s no doubt that the B2B software landscape is drastically different than it used to be. Plus, it’s constantly evolving and changing.
But consider for a moment what it was like to buy software in the 1990s. If you’ve been in the industry as long as I have, you’ll remember that magazines were one of your best resources for researching vendors. In fact, there have been several other distinct differences when buying software since then.
- Very little choice in vendors
- No demo inquiry forms (or specially designed websites)
- You would have to wait for a physical display of the CD in the mail
- Once you made a purchase, you had to wait again for a physical copy
Fast forward to today and it’s clear that buying software doesn’t look like it used to. The problem has become freedom of choice. When you have so many options, choosing software means short-listing the offerings that best suit your needs.
Let’s say you’re looking for a new CRM. Did you know that G2 currently lists over 845 different software products and services in this category? Narrowing down your options is a challenge in itself.
The battle of software vendor research
The challenges of buying software go beyond selection. The following provides just a few hurdles buyers must overcome to get the green light.
Right content source
Assuming a buyer has an initial list of sellers to research, many find that finding the right content can be difficult. Of course, G2 is where many buyers will do content research, but they’re more likely to use other content in their research as well.
Everyone claims they are the best. Each site has an interactive demo and stories of their work. But without trusted content, buyers are left to ask themselves how they know who to trust and how to learn more before making a decision.
More internal stakeholders
Software procurement involves more stakeholders than ever before. This can compare items for both sellers and buyers.
On top of the conversations between decision makers, add the countless others who will be affected and how their opinions and needs factor into the software evaluation. Adding new stakeholders during the buying process increases complexity as each stakeholder comes with their own individual expectations.
Changing decision makers
Not only are more stakeholders involved in the evaluation, but decision makers are more likely to change throughout the process.
Buyers also need to convince the final decision maker about their project. But if there’s a strong possibility that this person might change in the near future, that can add an extra layer of uncertainty and difficulty.
Risk reduction with shorter timeframes
Software is often a big decision that affects many stakeholders. Also, cost is another consideration that buyers should keep in mind. Many management teams look to shorter contracts to help minimize risk if the project doesn’t pan out.
More than half of software contracts are six months or shorter. In India alone, that percentage jumps to 69%.
Where to shop?
Typically, companies prefer to buy directly from vendors, but are now exploring purchasing from third-party marketplaces. However, we are now seeing the rise of third-party marketplaces such as AWS Marketplace and Azure Marketplace. These marketplaces provide buyers with more options and in some cases a more B2C-like experience.
Value-added resellers (VARs) are also on the rise, but they are different from the VARs of the past. Instead of implementing software, many VARs are now focused on delivering services in conjunction with SaaS applications to better serve their customers.
Top considerations for software buyers
As the market expands, buyer behavior continues to change along with it. From longer sales cycles to the prevalence of buying commissions, salespeople must constantly evaluate the path to purchase and understand how to win more deals.
What shoppers want most today
Every buyer is unique in what they want, but it’s important to recognize which factors become more important in their decision making. According to data from the 2022 G2 Buyer Behavior Report, let’s explore the three most common things software buyers are looking for.
- Ease of implementation. 93% of buyers say that the quality of the implementation process is important or very important when deciding to upgrade a software product. This makes sense because buyers are looking for as little friction as possible when adding a solution to their technology stack.
- Time to ROI in six months. It’s no mystery why buyers want to achieve ROI quickly, and a good onboarding process and easy-to-use product will help them get there.
- Ease of use. As the third most important factor for software buyers in this study, buyers are increasingly seeing ease of use as part of their decision making.
4 Ways Software Vendors Can Help the Buying Journey
Buyers still need software, so it’s important to develop what we understand about their journey and take the right steps to mitigate these challenges. Your goal is to provide assistance and help make their decision much clearer.
1. Stand out with great content
Great content helps you stand out, communicate your value, and convey why you’re unique. The challenges buyers face almost always come back to content. It’s either hard to find, doesn’t answer their questions, or doesn’t go deep enough into their needs.
It’s important to note that much of this content won’t be found on your website, but can be just as important in helping buyers make informed decisions. This can include expert content from analysts and thought leaders, as well as customer content from review platforms and social media.
To overcome these challenges, you need to deeply understand customer pain points and have a content strategy that addresses them. Consider using a combination of content for each stage of the funnel, and take the time to understand how your buyers are using content throughout their purchase journey.
2. Provide ease and speed
As mentioned earlier, ease of implementation and use is very important. However, there is a growing trend in the importance of ROI, and buyers are increasingly looking to achieve ROI in six months or less. Unfortunately, this step is often overlooked. Measuring ROI and effectively communicating its value to prospects is essential to ensure success.
3. Explore financial flexibility and process optimization
As businesses look for ways to stay competitive, your finance team can play a key role in driving growth by exploring new ways to increase customer acquisition. One area where finance can have a significant impact is in offering flexible contracts that meet the needs of today’s buyers.
Another way finance can help drive growth is by streamlining the procurement process. By streamlining the contracting process and offering more payment options, merchants can make it easier for customers to do business with them.
Today’s buyers demand more flexibility in their purchasing decisions, but it’s important to balance this with your financial goals. To maximize your success, consider a long-term approach. Take advantage of flexibility to increase acquisition, build customer trust, and ultimately convert them into longer-term contracts.
4. Use global markets
We see buyers making SaaS purchases through global marketplaces. While most sellers have focused primarily on direct sales, it’s becoming increasingly clear that partnerships to access new customers can help sellers grow faster. Exploring alternative channels allows SaaS providers to tap into previously untapped markets and unlock new revenue streams.
As you consider your third-party SaaS distribution strategy, it’s important to evaluate whether these side markets are the right fit for your product. Additionally, it’s worth noting that VARs are making a comeback by offering value-added services alongside your solution.
Tracking trends in buyer behavior
While we may never go back to physical demo CDs or trade magazines for research, software buyers face the daunting challenge of finding the right software. The good news is that you can take appropriate steps to help them on their buying journey.
The main points of this article
Understand the challenges your buyers need to overcome in your favor to build trust, provide valuable insights and win more deals.
- SaaS is still catching on. However, the market is incredibly competitive.
- Most buyers can’t find the right content. Step up to fill that gap and build confidence.
- Focus on measuring ROI. It sounds simple, but most sellers don’t.
- Buyers want less friction. Discover ways to reduce friction in the buying process.
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