What do today’s B2B buyers want? It’s a complicated question. But getting to the heart of buyer preferences is essential for selling software today. Unless you understand what the buyer really wants—and the type of purchasing experience they prefer—you’re going to continually struggle to carve a niche in the market.
During Tackle’s Cloud GTM XP event, Anna Baird, CRO at Outreach; Dai Vu, Managing Director of Cloud Marketplaces and ISV GTM Initiatives at Google Cloud; and Godard Abel, CEO at G2, explored some of the nuances around B2B software buyer preferences. Here are some of the panel’s insights into what motivates software buyers in 2022, and what they expect from the purchasing experience.
Buyers lack trust in software vendors
Today’s software buyers say that “trust” is the most crucial element when making a purchase. Buyers want to know that they can trust that the software will perform as advertised, that the company stands behind its product, and that the company will address any issues that arise. They also want to know that they can trust the accuracy of software reviews and recommendations.
However, contemporary software buyers approach software purchasing with a bit of skepticism, particularly when it comes to the aforementioned reviews and recommendations. In fact, according to a 2021 survey conducted by G2, only 4% of buyers trust traditional market research firms and analysts the most when making major software purchase decisions. Instead, most software buyers rely on word-of-mouth recommendations from peers, and prefer to “self-educate” about the software (more on that below) when it comes time to make a purchasing decision.
One important step toward restoring trust between software companies and buyers is examining the culture of the company itself. Anna, Dai, and Godard were in unanimous agreement that it’s incumbent upon software companies to build trust from the ground up: A “values-driven” company will more successfully build trust with buyers by adopting a code of ethics and integrity that’s baked into its mission—reiterated and fully supported from the top down.
Read More: The New Rules of B2B Software Marketing
Today’s buyers make collaborative decisions, crave simplicity, and want a consumer-based approach
A growing segment of today’s software buyers are millennials, “digital natives” who have grown up with the internet and the ability to quickly and easily make online purchases. What’s more, millennials view digital purchasing as the “default” and have come to expect sellers to facilitate online purchasing—and to engage with them digitally at every step of the buying process. “[Millennials] buy differently, they’re more collaborative, often with multiple stakeholders involved creating much larger buying committees,” said Anna. “So you have to understand how to engage all of those multiple stakeholders in the buying process and collaborate with them.”
Software buyer personas have evolved as well. In previous years, the CIO might be the primary decision-maker for software purchases, but nowadays that decision can be made at many other levels within the company, according to the 2021 Software Buyer Report from G2. “It’s no longer executives making decisions on cloud services,” said Godard. The upshot of this is that software companies must be more keenly tuned-in to the particular pain points and desires of the decision maker.
“The gross dollar value of transactions flowing through Google Cloud Marketplace has grown by greater than 500% year over year.”
Godard noted that software purchasing decisions are often made by large, technical teams, rather than an individual from the C-suite. These technical teams value hands-on experience, and they want to try products before committing to a purchase. In order to appeal to these technical buyers, Godard urges software companies to consider offering trials. “Technical experts really want to get their hands on the product,” he said. “I also think the Marketplace has now made it easier to provision trials. Without that, it’s going to be really hard to close any deal.”
The software buying experience is also trending toward a more consumer-based approach, where the buyer conducts their own research before making a purchase, similar to the way consumers read reviews and compare products on Amazon. “Consumers want to collect their own information, and I think if you try to gate white papers and other things like we did 10 or 20 years ago, that’s really not going to work because you’re just going to turn off the buyer,” said Godard.
One way for software companies to optimize sales efforts is to employ “hubs” for buyers to access information such as demo videos and security documents about products as they progress through the buying journey. “Inviting CIOs, procurement, revenue operations, and whomever else is involved in the buying cycle into that environment helps them self-educate,” said Anna.
Marketplaces are meeting the challenge
Marketplaces have continued to grow significantly, with Tackle’s 2021 State of Cloud Marketplaces Report predicting that Cloud Marketplaces will exceed $50 billion by 2025.
The growth of Google Cloud mirrors that trend. Specifically over the last 12 to 18 months, Dai noted the gross dollar value of transactions flowing through Google Cloud Marketplace has grown by greater than 500% year over year.
Read More: 3 Reasons Buyers Are Flocking to Cloud Marketplaces in 2022
“If you’re procuring software through an existing cloud provider where the customer is already spending, it can really speed up the process significantly.” – Dai Vu, Google
Cloud Marketplaces can greatly simplify software procurement through access to existing relationships and cloud budgets. “If you’re procuring software through an existing Cloud Provider where the customer is already spending, it can really speed up the process significantly,” said Dai. “You’re basically just integrating that software procurement into a growing cloud budget.”
For example, if Google Cloud is already an approved customer preferred vendor, a buyer can purchase third-party software on the Marketplace without the need to conduct an additional vendor review. This creates a scalable and repeatable procurement process, with assurance that the deployment is vetted and integrated with Google Cloud.
How ISVs are addressing and understanding buyer preferences
Software companies are becoming more adept at employing technologies to track and analyze buying signals and knowing when it’s appropriate to take certain actions (directing potential buyers to a video, rather than scheduling a meeting, for example). Armed with this kind of data, software companies have improved how (and when) to engage buyers.
Engaging modern buyers also requires a more proactive approach to selling. “How are you understanding not just the customer journey of the initial buying cycle, but their journey on that next phase of the expansion and renewal cycle?” said Anna.
“Getting a system where you can track your customer’s engagement across stakeholders is super critical.” – Godard Abel, G2
In essence, driving adoption, retention, and expansion comes down to a thorough understanding of who your buyers are, and when they want to buy—which means metrics are absolutely essential. “I think the nice thing with most of us selling cloud solutions, is that we can measure that,” said Godard. “We can measure it digitally pre- and post-sale. Getting a system where you can track your customer’s engagement across stakeholders is super critical.”
Read More: Organizing for Marketplace Success
Bringing in different business functions early on in the journey can also help you to reach today’s buyer. In the past, security and legal teams might join the process toward the end, but that’s no longer adequate. The business case for your software needs to be presented to an ever-larger group of stakeholders, with whom you’ll be working collaboratively.
It’s always difficult to make predictions, but one thing is clear: buyer preferences are constantly evolving. Engaging and attracting buyers will always require a degree of flexibility, along with a better understanding of the experiences those buyers are looking for.
Despite the transformation of the buying journey, some challenges remain. “Today, if you look at these procurement, sourcing, and vendor management functions that are still in a large number of companies, they act like the gatekeepers. These functions need to evolve,” said Dai.
“I think there’s a revolution happening for go-to-market teams, with the insights and technology that is available to help those teams really change the customer experience,” said Anna. “I think it’s an exciting time to be part of a good market organization.”
For more insights into B2B buyer preferences and Cloud Marketplaces, check out the full slate of recordings from Tackle’s Cloud GTM XP event.