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  • Sarah Frazier

Redefining SaaS selling and your buyer experience

Buyer experience is how your prospect perceives your brand interactions. SaaS buyers are frustrated; get tips for adjusting your sales process.

Want to succeed in SaaS sales in 2021? Your sales process might look a little different than it has in the past. 

Before the pandemic, 61% of B2B companies were using traditional sales models. During the pandemic, organizations were thrust into digital tactics to keep business continuity. Now, effective SaaS selling has become a delicate balance of buyer self-exploration and sales rep interactions. In other words, your buyer will likely assess your software’s value in their own research, and your sales interactions need to communicate the competitive advantages and compel them to buy. 

And a significant influencer in the entire process? Enter buyer experience. With over 8,000 MarTech solutions available in the marketplace, your buyer experience can be the difference between closing a sale— or losing it to a competitor.

The importance of a positive buyer experience

A buyer’s experience is how your prospect perceives your brand across touchpoints, beginning when your prospect becomes aware of their need and carries throughout their journey. A buyer’s decision is influenced by their brand experience, and if your buyer experience is lacking, you’re likely losing sales, too.

From our 2021 Buyer Experience Study, buyers told us these friction items slow down the sales cycle and create a negative buyer experience:

  • A lack of product information
  • A process that’s too complicated or has too many steps
  • Sales collateral isn’t easy to share with others involved in the decision
  • Proposals that aren’t updated as the deal progresses and information changes
  • Back and forth negotiations – the buyer prefers to select features, options and see the impact on pricing

Overall, 8 out of 10 software buyers said they’re frustrated with their purchasing experience. Use this data as an opportunity to rethink how you sell, create a better buyer experience, and gain an advantage over your competitors.

Rethinking your sales process

Gartner predicts that by 2025, 80% of B2B sales interactions will be digital, and sales reps will become one of the many sales channels a prospect can learn about and buy your software. Our Buyer Experience Study confirms buyers are already showing preferences for self-serve digital options:

  • 36% want to research products on their own
  • 32% want to make their own product comparisons
  • 40% prefer self-demos

How and when buyers engage also depends on what stage of purchasing journey they are in.

Awareness stage

The awareness stage is the top of the funnel when buyers are just becoming aware of a problem they need to solve or an opportunity they want to pursue. Becoming mindful of the need kicks off their search for a solution, often using high-level words like:

  • Troubleshoot
  • Issue
  • Resolve
  • Risk
  • Upgrade
  • Improve
  • Optimize
  • Prevent

As a solution provider, it’s your job to “get inside the head” of your buyer and understand their objectives. By understanding their questions and goals, you can create content and sales collateral to capture their search and provide the answers, demonstrating you understand their situation.

Objectives buyers are outlining at this stage:

Image courtesy of Hubspot

Consideration stage

Now aware of a problem or opportunity and having done some preliminary research, the buyer becomes more visible and is more apt to conduct a Google search or reach out to a salesperson. 

In this stage, your buyer is building their list of options, qualifying you as a contender (or not), and uses solution-oriented search terms like:

  • Provider
  • Service
  • Supplier
  • Tool
  • Device
  • Software
  • Solution

The buyer is also asking specific questions in this stage:

Image courtesy of Hubspot

What influences buyers at this stage? Per the Buyer Experience Study:

  • Responsiveness of the sales team 
  • Variety of informational content (website, videos, testimonials, etc.)
  • The usefulness of the company website
  • The quality of sales materials

Once their solution research is complete, the buyer enters the final stage of their purchasing journey, the decision stage.

Decision stage

Game on, sellers— in this stage, buyers are narrowing their long list of options to a shortlist and ultimately deciding which solution best meets their needs. Sales interaction is high at this stage, and how well your sales team understands the buyer’s needs and preferences is paramount to winning the deal. 

At this stage, buyers are now using qualifying terms like:

  • Compare
  • Versus
  • Comparison
  • Pros and cons
  • Benchmarks
  • Review
  • Test

Information your buyer is seeking:

Image courtesy of Hubspot

Keep in mind; your buyer is likely requesting information from several vendors. If your sales materials look the same as everyone else’s or your materials aren’t specific for the buyer, it will be hard for buyers to distinguish what makes your product different. Additionally, how you interact with buyers (especially at this stage!) could indicate how you may treat them post-sale.

Buyers made their preferences clear in our Buyer Experience Study: generic, stock materials won’t cut it. 64% of buyers expect customized materials, and 25% of buyers dismiss materials that aren’t personalized.

Crafting a winning buyer experience

As we talk about the different buyer stages, know that buyers may interact with your brand at any stage of the purchasing journey. You need to be prepared whenever and however they engage. Let’s review the buyer preferences and how they translate into a buyer experience that wins the business.

A simpler, less complicated process

 59% of buyers want a simplified and faster process. Buyer perception is everything— if you send multiple attachments with sales collateral, proposals, pricing, etc., it’s overwhelming. No one likes searching an email inbox to find the exact document they need; it makes buyers feel unorganized and less in control. 

A better approach: send one web-based sales document containing all information— video demos, testimonials, pricing, links to case studies—  so the buyer has one frame of reference. As discussions progress, contracts, e-signatures, and payment options can also be added. A web-based document is much simpler, less complicated, and communicates innovation.

Sales materials reflect current discussions 

One in three buyers are frustrated when materials don’t contain up-to-date information as the deal progresses. With static documents, like PDFs and PowerPoint, this is entirely understandable. After all, it’s not always time-efficient to update after every change and resend (again) to the buyer. Which version is current-?

A better approach: again, a web-based sales document solves this problem and more. Because a web-based document is “live,” changes can easily be made to existing copy, or new content can be added, too. Imagine making changes while on the phone with your buyer and asking them to refresh, and the document instantly updates on their end. You’re also communicating you are responsive to their requests— a HUGE buyer confidence builder!

The experience is personalized

It’s a basic human need to feel important and valued, and 64% of our study respondents agree. Personalizing the sales experience shows that a buyer’s business is important to you— they matter. But personalization extends far beyond slugging in a buyer’s name, company name, and logo into your document. Personalization means:

  • Product information is tailored for your customer, per their expressed interests.
  • Rich media is incorporated: a personal video message from the sales rep or even a product executive.
  • Value, as your buyer defines it, is clear. 
  • Pricing is interactive, allowing the buyer to choose add-on features and services and see the resulting price impact.

John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Marketing, says, “Personalization happens when a marketer or salesperson can take a piece of content and make it more useful for a specific prospect or customer.” And our Buyer Experience Study respondents will tell you, too— don’t personalize your materials, and they will get discarded. In other words, if you can’t invest time in tailoring your materials, buyers won’t invest in your software.

Building buyer confidence

Especially post-pandemic, budgets are tighter, and buyers can’t afford to make a purchasing mistake. Throughout your buyer experience, it’s important to exude confidence with every interaction. 

  • Responsiveness— 45% of buyers are influenced by how quickly a sales rep replies to them.
  • Sales materials— 36% of buyers are judging you based on your image. 
  • Customer satisfaction— 42% of buyers are influenced by reviews— they want that assurance about your company, and your product works as you say it does.
  • Software ROI— 28% of buyers are influenced by ROI, but many need help calculating it.

Every buyer wants the same thing: help to make the best decision possible and reassurance of their direction. Understanding buyer anxieties and confidence gaps can give a brand a competitive advantage, earn the buyer’s trust, and win their business.

Summary

Today’s software buyer has options— many of them. Aside from your product itself, the experience you create may be your brand differentiator. Michael Brenner, best selling author and a top CMO influencer, sums it up well, “If you want to cut through the fat and emerge as a brand your buyers want to engage with, your marketing has to seamlessly resonate with your buyer’s goals, interest, and preferences.” Enough said.

For more on post-pandemic buyer behaviors and preferences, read the 2021 SaaS Buyer Experience Study in its entirety.

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