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Connecting with Customers: How to Improve Your Software Sales

Solving-the-B2B-Buyer-Disconnect
Let's face it, every B2B customer sales transaction is just a little different. A good sales team is skilled at reading the customer, understanding their needs and the problem they are trying to solve, as well as communicating how your software or service is what they need – and need immediately. Connecting with your customers is vitally important for not only making that first sale, but up-selling and cross-selling opportunities, and ultimately, ensuring a long-term customer relationship.

Setting Out on the Customer Journey

First, let's take a step back to consider how you connect and build relationships with customers in a B2B sales process. The Customer Experience starts at the very first touch point along the customer journey – in the Awareness stage. As the customer becomes more aware of your company through ads, emails and word of mouth, they move into the Consideration phase. This is where social media, reviews, and thought leadership through blogs move them forward toward the Purchase phase and towards direct interactions with your company.
B2B-Customer-Journey
Diagram source: webtexttool.com

If your customer has made it to the Purchase phase, then they like what they have seen so far. They are responding positively and want to learn more. This is where your sales team has a chance to shine and build that customer experience. You have made the right moves, they like what they've heard so far, and at some level, you have connected. At this juncture, it is critical to avoid any disconnects in the buying process.

Avoiding Disconnects in the Buying Phase

The vendor and the buyer have entered a critical stage in the sales process. A misalignment, misunderstanding, or trust issue now can lead this process astray so it's important to understand where the disconnects exist to gain alignment.

TrustRadius™, a B2B technology research and customer voice platform serving both buyersand vendors, recently released a white paper on the B2B Buying Disconnect. The study covers the gaps, opportunities, and changing dynamics between technology buyers and vendors. Importantly, the study pinpoints triggers that can cause a disruption in the Purchase phase and help vendors address new opportunities gained from these business insights.

At a high level, the three disconnects that exist between B2B buyers and vendors are:
  1. Vendors focus on providing material that buyers don't find very useful or trustworthy
  2. Buyers don’t trust all vendor claims, nor do they expect to
  3. Vendors see their role as strategic, yet most buyers said the vendor played a pragmatic role
When viewing product capabilities that were important to buyers – and perceived importance of those factors by vendors – the survey clearly showed the disconnects. Price and strength of feature set were closely aligned, yet as an overall rating, price and feature set were rated as first and second in importance by buyers. Vendors had the same two factors in the third and fourth spot. Vendors tended to overemphasize ease of use for end-users and ease of set up as the most important factors which ranked third and fourth for buyers.
TrustRadius-Buyer-Survey-2017
As in any relationship, once you understand what and where the issue is, you need to work on making changes. This may be changes to the way you approach or think about an issue, changing the way you communicate, or building trust which fosters a closer bond. The same is true for the buyer-vendor relationship. The question is: how do you get started?

Keeping up With Changes in Buyer Behavior

Software buyers in B2B transactions have changed over time. The purchasing process itself has also changed. It has become more of a journey with customer experience playing a significant part of the process. B2B customers have become more like consumers in their approach and vendors are well served to recognize and address the evolution of customer expectations. Change creates opportunities, so B2B vendors that understand the current disconnect in the market and how to adapt will be successful.

The findings from TrustRadius showed three key opportunities for vendors:
  1. Buyers want hands-on experience with the product and insights from customers
  2. Vendors have an arsenal of satisfied customers they are not leveraging
  3. Strategic vendors are in the best position to influence buyers
When a buyer enters the purchasing process phase, a vendor needs to deliver the customer experience that will close the sale. Based on the findings above, one area that a vendor should focus on is product demos and free trials – the road test. This hands-on experience allows the buyer the opportunity to see and use the product which builds trust and helps to validate the purchase.

During this period, the buyer will undoubtedly be looking for references. Vendors should actively reach out to their customers and seek testimonials or request their service as a reference account. In the TrustRadius survey, nearly half of surveyed buyers were net promoters of the product being used – giving a 9 or 10 on the satisfaction scale. Leveraging this built-in reference resource goes a long way toward closing a sale.

Closing the sale is important – but building the relationship is the key to success. When a vendor can be viewed as a strategic partner and advisor, they will not only influence the sale but will be positioned to build a long-term relationship. Vendors can leap beyond being a practical resource to being a strategic partner through activities such the demos and extended trials, providing customization, and being able to demonstrate ROI.

Remove the disconnect between buyer and vendor. Understand how technology buyers research products, where vendors are falling short, and what you can do to have a greater impact on purchasing decisions. By listening carefully to what your customer needs, earning their trust, and becoming a strategic vendor, you will remove the disconnect gap and improve your software sales.

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