The Golden Key to Modern Sales Success
- Customer trust. Buyers demand tangible ROI and aligned vendor expectations.
- Consumer behavior. Digital natives expect info access and peer verification.
- Customer feedback. Critical for shaping brand narratives and building trust.
Contrary to popular belief — and our economy — buyer technology spending hasn’t halted. However, buyers are more risk-averse than ever. Their heightened cautiousness, driven by budget and head-count cuts, means buyers scrutinize their purchasing decisions more thoroughly and seek greater assurance of value earlier in the decision-making process.
Add that to the fact that the buying committee continues to grow and the C-suite is now becoming more vocal in decisions, and technology providers have an uphill battle in front of them. To keep up, vendors must prove their product will deliver a tangible return on investment through the use of customer proof points that align with the modern buyer’s expectations.
Let’s take a look at consumer behavior and how to win customer trust.
Customer Trust: Buyer Expectations for Today’s Technology Vendors
Back in 2012, I started TrustRadius because when I was in the market for both a coffee machine and HR software. I soon realized I could find more readily available information about coffee machines than any kind of HR software. This was and still is a huge disservice to the buyer. From our research, we know 65% of buyers are millennials and Gen Zers, and, therefore, digital natives. They are accustomed to having information at their fingertips, verifying that information with their peers, and connecting with vendors on their terms, aka self-service, similar to what you see with B2C purchases.
Related Article: Building a Gold Standard for Consumer Trust
How GTM Leaders Can Adapt to the Self-Serve Economy
Last year our research showed virtually 100% of buyers want to self-serve all or part of the buying journey. This year, we learned they not only want to self-serve, but 97% stated it would be somewhat or very helpful to have all of their research and resources in one place. In this information age of instant access to product information and peer feedback, it’s imperative Go-to-Market (GTM) leaders adapt by controlling their brand narrative in more places than their owned website or social properties.
Here are seven ways GTM leaders can adapt to the “prove it or lose it” mindset and make a buyer’s short-list early in the decision-making process:
1. Meet Your Buyers Where They Are With the Content They Want
To effectively engage with buyers, GTM leaders must meet them where they spend their time. Instead of relying solely on traditional marketing-led content, such as blogs and marketing collateral, it’s essential to identify and prioritize the channels buyers actively engage with and lead with: testimonials, quotes, use cases and proof points. Consumer behavior has changed. Only 15% of buyers report consulting vendor-driven marketing materials when making a technology purchase. Instead, buyers stated that product demos, free trials and pricing information were the most influential resources in the buying journey.
2. Enable Buyers to ‘Try Before They Buy’
One of the most effective ways to win over skeptical buyers and build customer trust is by offering hands-on access to the product. In fact, 74% of buyers said it was among the top three most influential resources when making a purchase decision. Offering free trials/accounts or product demos (video or interactive) lets potential customers experience your product’s features, benefits and value firsthand. This approach builds trust and bridges the gap between the vendor’s marketing tactics and the buyer’s desire for “try before you buy.”
Related Article: Conquering the Customer Feedback Gap
3. Leverage Customer Voice in All Channels
Today’s technology buyers increasingly rely on customer feedback to validate marketing claims. Yet, many vendors still don’t leverage this powerful resource to differentiate themselves. GTM leaders must incorporate customer voice into all their marketing channels to build brand preference and customer trust with potential buyers and their customer base.
Encourage your customers to share their experiences in all forums — online, communities, events, reviews, etc. Your buyers want in-depth customer feedback — the good, the bad and the ugly. Customer feedback is the perfect opportunity to shape a cohesive brand narrative with critical social proof.
4. Make Your Product Information Readily Available
Buyers expect easy access to information about a product. This includes details about security documentation, pricing, technical specifications, features and integrations. GTM leaders must ensure that this information is readily available and easily discoverable.
Use third-party channels like communities/forums, industry directories or platforms, to showcase your product information. Establish transparency and build trust by proactively addressing buyer questions and concerns.
Related Article: How to Understand What Your Customers Do and Why They Do It
5. Cultivate Advocates and Re-Engage Previous Customers
Risk-averse buyers place significant importance on prior experience with a product. Compared to last year, 20% more buyers emphasized the factor, making it one of the top decisioning factors in the buying process. This goes back to buyers wanting to make confident product purchase decisions and craving to understand a current customer’s experience with the product.
Invest in your marketing and customer advocacy programs, then when your champions move to other companies be sure to re-engage them, leading to faster sales cycles. Additionally, customer proof points are the best way to provide tangible proof that your product will solve the buyer’s problem and deliver a solid ROI.
We know that buyers are seeking customer proof that is relatable to them. So when you are building your bank of customer testimonials, solicit feedback from a variety of job titles and companies that use your product. It’s a quality play, not quantity.
6. Understand the Buying Committees
Due to economic uncertainties, buying committees have increased in size and scrutiny. According to our research, 100% of buyers reported an increase in the number of stakeholders involved in the decision-making process year over year.
Plus, there is increased participation from C-suite executives (14% more than last year). The chief financial officer (CFO) holds the purse strings, significantly influencing the final decision. Consequently, buyers need to provide more extensive justification for their spending choices with an emphasis placed on return on investment (ROI) measures that buyers care about.
7. Proving Value Early in the Decision-Making Process
Showing a real ROI has become critical in winning over today’s risk-averse buyers. Individuals and committees now require more profound insights into the value a product or service can deliver, and they want this information early in the decision-making process.
It’s important to note that buyers have a vastly different interpretation of what’s important in terms of ROI than vendors. We found that vendors place the most emphasis on cost savings (63%), revenue impact (61%), time savings (60%) and time-to-value (57%). In general, buyers placed less emphasis on revenue impact while prioritizing time savings (51%), cost savings (41%), time-to-value (39%) and impact on team collaboration (36%).
During times of economic instability, GTM teams are challenged to do more with less headcount and budget. That’s why it comes as no surprise that 50% of buyers have prioritized purchases that enhance automation or save time, and an additional 15% are looking at new tech purchases to compensate for head count loss.
Don’t Fall Behind Your Competition on Customer Trust
GTM leaders must adapt their strategies to align with the “prove it or lose it” mentality of modern buyers and build customer trust. By focusing on the channels buyers frequent, providing hands-on access, positioning value up front, validating marketing claims with social proof, making information readily available and prioritizing previous customer experiences, GTM leaders can successfully navigate this shifting landscape.
Embracing these approaches will improve buyer engagement, increase trust and credibility and drive business growth in the self-serve economy.
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