There’s a myth that corporate buyers hold all the power over vendors – that vendors struggle to sell.
However, perhaps it’s the other way around: buyers struggle to buy.
“As hard as it has become to sell in today’s world, it has become that much more difficult to buy,” notes Brent Adamson, Distinguished VP, Advisory, Gartner. “The single biggest challenge of selling today is not selling, it is actually our customers’ struggle to buy.”
Indeed, more than 75% of the customers Gartner surveyed described their purchase as very complex or difficult.
That said, it’s never a bad idea to exercise a bit of empathy, and put yourself in the shoes of your target customer. Understanding their processes and struggles can help you and your team tweak your approach, messaging, timelines, and even product to ease the stress on the part of the buyer.
Let’s have a look.
3 reasons it’s become more difficult for buyers to buy
Below are three trends or experiences that have made the job of buying IT or B2B corporate services more and more painful.
1. The best possible price
Corporate buyers have long known that they hold the upper hand, but the pandemic has thrown a wrench into things.
Managers, individual contributors, purchasing influencers, and others involved in the buying process are now even more laser-focused on cost, wishing to demonstrate to senior management that they have attained the best possible price for the organization. With no slowdown in sight, the current pandemic-related price analysis will be here for the foreseeable future.
2. Everyone’s a buyer or influencer
The matrixed, collaborative nature of work means that the group of decision-makers and even evaluators of a potential piece of technology or service can grow rapidly.
With the ease of access to content to evaluate such vendors, including case studies, testimonials, product sheets, and the like, there are simply too many people with varying degrees of purchasing influence reviewing varying pieces of content at varying stages of the buying journey in order for the organization to come to a clear, swift decision.
3. Too many solutions
Simply put, there are too many solutions that can easily be evaluated by a corporate team.
According to a list of SaaS companies obtained from Crunchbase in June 2020, there are over 15,000 SaaS companies in the world. The set of options and solutions buying groups available to consider keeps expanding, as new technologies, products, suppliers and services emerge.
Access to low-cost cloud computing resources and development tools has enabled the explosion in new providers, who can be located anywhere in the world and provide access to clients of all sizes.
6 things vendors can do to ease the pain of buying
There are a few things that B2B sales leaders can do to fashion a friendlier, more transparent image of their company and its products. (What does transparent even mean these days? Many things, now that you asked…)
1. Admit that competitors exist
You may have noticed some vendors pushing the envelope and creating landing pages or sales pages that pit them against a competitor – or several. These are usually at the bottom of a webpage, with titles such as, “Vendor vs. Competitor 1” and “Vendor vs. Competitor 2.”
This might not have been considered fair practice just a few years ago, but in an increasingly shrinking market for buyer’s attention. B2B buyers spend only 17% of their total evaluation time actually meeting with potential suppliers; it can cut to the chase.
Further, it doesn’t have to be mudslinging: a fair comparison of features between your solution and those of a competitor will go a long way with prospective buyers. First, you acknowledge that you have competitors. Gone are the days of no one compares to us. Prospects see right through that. Second, you’re doing some of your prospect’s homework for them.
Work on this
- Select three of your biggest competitors. Any more than three will be too overwhelming for your prospects.
- Select a list of about 10 features of which your solution is stronger than those competitors
- Work with marketing to create landing pages that display these features in chart form, with checkmarks or radio buttons, and publish them.
- Promote these links in your email signature or in outreach to prospects as you see fit.
- If you are fearful about retribution from competitors, as they can find the landing pages on the Internet, consider making PDF versions and simply mail to your prospects as appropriate.
2. Involve as many team members upfront as possible
The length of the sales cycle increases as the number of evaluators and purchasing influencers grows. Rather than being blindsided with news of yet another team member involved, try to include as many people at the prospective company as possible.
Even when someone from the prospective company first reaches out to your company, be candid and ask who else should be included in communications and the sharing of content. Indeed, catering to the needs of even less senior team members can speak volumes about your willingness to work with all potential users of your service.
Work on this
- Besides asking for the name of other team members on the prospect’s side, use LinkedIn Sales Navigator to identify relevant employees at the company who you feel might be part of the buying process.
- Gently reach out to these other employees and explain that you want to involve them early on in their buying process. Err on the side of caution, as they may be early in the journey.
3. Focus on features
Further on transparency, explain everything you can about your product and what features or services are currently available and which might soon be coming into production in the near future.
One of the biggest challenges buyers have with selecting software or services is that there is usually never a perfect fit. Oftentimes, a solution is great, but it’s lacking one or two features that the prospect really needs in order for them to say yes.
On the flip side, sometimes the solution has too many features, and buyers might be hesitant to move forward because they do not want to pay for options they do not need.
If your solution lacks certain key features, find a clever flix, such as white-labeling from or even partnering with another vendor. The sooner you can map your solution to all of your prospect’s needs, the easier their buying decision.
Work on this
- To seek feedback as early as possible on the suite of features or services that your prospects need and do not, set up a simple two to four question survey with radio buttons listing out these features and services. Send to all team members on the prospect’s side who are involved in the purchasing decision.
- Once you receive feedback, work internally to determine if pricing or delivery should be altered based on these preferences, and create a customized proposal indicating as such.
4. Be transparent about pricing
Gone are the days of the haggle. Thanks to the transparency of pricing pages and user comments left on social media and community sites, prospective buyers can usually expect a magic number long before reviewing the final proposal.
Not only might they expect a particular number from a vendor, but by the time a proposal is produced, that number most likely has already been discussed because it must fit into the company’s budget.
This is still tricky. Overcharge and you risk alienation; undercharge and you’re leaving money on the table. Sales leaders advise to not budge on price. Instead, add and subtract incremental services until you find the right fit.
Work on this
- Hire an analyst, either externally or from within your sales enablement team, to figure out how much companies have paid for products and services similar to yours.
- Publicly traded companies must report their revenues; customer or partner press releases might hint at a contract amount.
- Alternatively, conduct a price sensitivity customer survey, even anonymously with past prospects and clients. In this way, sales leaders can better understand which features are perceived the most and least valuable to their customers.
5. Create and manage your review site pages
G2, SoftwareReviews.com, TrustRadius, and other software and services review sites have become stronger than ever. Their listings command the first page of Google and vendors can no longer afford to be blind to their role in the buyer’s journey.
While these sites may play a top-of-the-funnel role, they not only neatly categorize any SaaS product but also serve to standardize the suite of features, including Starting Price, Free Trial, Deployment, Training, and Support. This helps buyers compare providers toe to toe.
Of course, these sites are still pay-to-play, and vendors who pay do receive a premium position in site searches. Still, a user-friendly, transparent vendor page, with up-to-date screenshots and descriptions, will go a long way in easing buyers’ pain.
Work on this
- Work with marketing to ensure that your company’s profile pages on these sites are as correct and informative as they can be.
- Ask your best customers to leave a review on these sites; consider offering them an incentive for their participation. (This is 100% permitted, as the sites themselves do this regularly in the form of gift cards or charitable donations.)
- Consider allocating some sales enablement budget for sponsorship on one or more of these sites, to determine if lead volume and quality increase accordingly.
When in doubt, use the human connection. Referrals and suggestions from your network can often be the best way to get the word out about your unique product, solution, or service. Even if it doesn’t lead to a paid engagement, such feedback from your network can be valuable market research that can help you adjust your product marketing strategy and your sales and marketing alignment.
Work on this
- Set up a sales referral program, which might include using a third-party vendor for sourcing, management, and reporting.
- Integrate with your current CRM.
- Personalize the introductions as best you can, as prospects can spot a canned letter a mile away.
The final say
While it might seem unusual to consider the pain points of prospective buyers, they very much do exist. The good news is that companies of all sizes realize that they need to rely on outside vendors and service providers in order to get the job done: you’ll rarely battle internal resources.
Exercise empathy and reposition your approach, and you’ll make your prospects’ struggle less painful.