by Cate Gutowski

Wake-up call: today’s B2B software buyer has completely changed

Feb 06, 2018
Digital TransformationTechnology Industry

To win tomorrow, it’s time for software companies to recognize how today’s buyers have transformed.

customer experience
Credit: Thinkstock

[This post was cowritten with Chad Quinn, President and Co-Founder of Ecosystems]

We are living in the age of Disruption.  Change continues to come in fast and furious waves, and as the Fourth Industrial Revolution plows ahead, we are witnessing the disruption of entire industries, companies, institutions, and functions at a pace never seen before.

Sales is not isolated from this change. The Sales Function will change more in the next 3 years than it has in the past 50 years.  What most companies don’t realize is that this change is happening right now.  Companies are growing tired of their current Chief Revenue Officers and replacing them at a faster pace. Industry reports confirm that in 2017, there were more hired and fired than in the past 5 years combined. Yikes.

But— is changing out your existing Head Sales the right answer?  Or, is there something bigger at play?

To solve your revenue problem, start with the Customer

As we’ve navigated our Digital Sales Transformation, I’ve had many software sales professionals calling on me, all seeking to sell software to cure whatever ails us.  Need more pipeline?  Buy this!   Need to accelerate your win rates?  Buy this!    As a long-time Sales Leader, I get grumpy when I see mediocre selling techniques, so it is likely that I am one of the more difficult customers to call on.  What I’ve noticed is that most of these software sellers are feverishly following a prescriptive sales process that requires them to document their activities and push me to make a decision faster than I’m comfortable doing… “or else”.  The result?   All these behaviors communicate the sellers lack of sincerity and partnership, which leads to me running in the opposite direction.

How do software decisions really get made today?  Surprise – it’s not a linear process anymore

I’ve seen the fancy charts that describe the Customer’s Buying Process, and how these connect to the Seller Process. But- when I see them, I shudder.  Why?  Because they feel circa 2015, and in the Age of the Customer, that is so yesterday.  Those might work to reflect how software pilots are executed today, but there is a difference between a full-scale buying decision and a pilot. The challenge with the classical Sales Funnel is that traditional software sellers assume that purchasing software today is still a linear, continual process that can be documented, mandated, and executed.  The challenge is that the reality inside companies today is much different.  Companies are changing every day, and with this change comes significant complexity. For example, the number of Decision Makers continues to grow.  In just 1 year, I’ve seen our average number of Decision Makers in a software purchase decision grow from 4 to 9… that’s more than double

To win, modernize your selling approach- and deliver a contemporary seller to today’s modern buyer

The companies we prefer buying from have a few things in common that represent the future of Sales. First, the sales professionals don’t even consider themselves to be in sales. Instead, they are thought leaders who are experts in their industry.  They are strategic thinkers who are sought out, and speak regularly at industry conferences. They are social ninjas, sharing well timed, insightful content that creates value. Most importantly, they consistently bring new ideas, and interesting content that has been personalized to benefit the buyer. They understand that time is precious, and they never, ever waste it.  They are proactively bringing new insights, and they make thoughtful connections that they know will help me achieve my goals.  They give more than they receive. And of course, they always follow up instantly after our meetings, because they know that in 2018, execution with speed matters. The seller of the future is one-part business partner, one-part industry consultant, one-part trusted advisor.

Companies of the future will align with how the customer wants to buy, not how sales wants to sell

It’s time for a new way to sell software, one that is aligned with how customers actually want to buy. We need to rethink how B2B software is purchased, consumed, and delivered.  Chad Quinn, President of Ecosystems, is one of these visionaries.  Ecosystems offers strategic customer experience solutions, all tied to delivering mutually beneficial outcomes. In this new outcomes-based business model, Ecosystems earns revenue only when the customer outcomes are delivered. This is a great example of a modern software company: they’ve declared that they will only be rewarded when the customer’s objectives are achieved.  As a result, EcoSystems is well positioned for future growth… because they are aligning their business model to reflect the changing needs of their customers.  As technology continues to accelerate and disrupt, the only arena left for companies to differentiate on is the Customer Experience.  Thus, I expect that we will see more software companies in the future following Chad as an early pioneer.