The buyer’s experience matters. When customers have a favorable purchase experience, they are more willing to buy your product and tell their friends.
I learned this during my time at Lattice, where I was the third employee and VP of Marketing. In that role, I partnered with the sales team to build a buyer experience that generated tens of millions in revenue.
I took what I learned at Lattice and started my own company, Dock, which helps companies build a personalized buying experience at scale.
So what is the buying experience?
The buying experience is how the customer feels when evaluating a product throughout the buying process. It starts from the first time a potential customer hears about the company to the moment they sign a contract. Every touchpoint in between makes up the buyer's experience.
When we talk about buyer enablement, we often talk about the 6 distinct stages of the B2B buyer’s journey:
It’s the job of modern sales teams to support the buyer in each stage of the customer journey. Adding to the complexity, customers will now often move freely back and forth through the stages during their time with your company.
How has the B2B buying experience changed?
The buying experience is a lot less transactional and linear than it was in years past. Especially when it comes to more complex B2B products, selling is much more about buyer enablement than the traditional style of selling.
That is, supporting the buyer’s decision of which product to purchase, rather than trying to convince them to buy what you are selling.
Now, with product-led growth (PLG) on the rise, the buying experience extends to when the buyer is actually using the product. It’s the goal of PLG companies to design a buying experience that drives product adoption.
In a very real sense, the purchase period never really ends and the line between a buyer and a customer is blurred. In a crowded and competitive marketplace where many alternatives exist, it’s never been harder to gain new customers, and it’s become increasingly easy to lose them. Instead of winning customers over once, modern B2B companies, especially those using the SaaS model, need to win their customer’s loyalty each and every day.
The sales responsibility is no longer just the sole purview of the sales team or salespeople. Instead, customer experience managers and support representatives are charged with maintaining a positive customer experience, reducing churn, and ensuring clients are fully onboarded and using your product to its fullest potential.
This is all really an extension of the modern sales lifecycle. These teams help to provide a positive experience post-sale.
The best companies focus on building an experience that creates end-user evangelists and upsell opportunities. By optimizing the buyer experience end-to-end, companies differentiate from the competition, which leads to higher close rates and more revenue.
Take this study from Gartner that shows, “that delivering a great experience to prospective buyers has the biggest impact on whether or not they will buy something. The overall buying experience actually outranks product and price.”
A positive buyer experience also builds brand love and accelerates word of mouth. There’s no downside to investing in customer satisfaction.
In this post, I share recommendations for how to optimize the buying experience. I focus on the middle part of the funnel when a customer is ready to learn more about the product—the consideration and decision phases.
Here are eight ways to improve your buyer’s experience.
1. Support the different ways customers want to buy
Every buyer has a preference for how they want to evaluate software. There are a number of different ways that companies can support a customer to reach a buying decision while providing a great buying experience overall.
Some buyers want to talk to a human in a product demo. Other buyers want to watch a video on their own time. More often, buyers want access to a free trial to play around with the product themselves.
The best software companies in the world provide ways to support these different purchase processes. For example, Hubspot gives companies both a free trial or demo option.
Enterprise buyers (or anyone with heavy implementation) will always eventually need to talk with the sales team. However, enterprise buyers are increasingly wanting to learn about the product ahead of time.
For example, Workday gives buyers the option to watch a video or read a datasheet before talking to sales.
Marketo gives companies the opportunity to experience the product via a guided tour.
For companies that don’t have a free trial, tools like Reprise are a great way to give buyers a taste of the product experience.
2. Reduce Friction From Your Website
Every software company should streamline their website experience. Start with the website’s forms. Too many companies make the buyer put in a bunch of information before getting to sign up for a demo or use the product.
But that’s designed to make for a better selling experience—not a better buyer experience. There are better ways to get the data you need for your CRM.
The less fields, the higher the conversion rate.
To get that missing customer data, companies can use enrichment tools like Clearbit and Zoominfo on the form’s backend. These tools provide all the ancillary information based on the signup’s email address.
Another option is to use multi-step forms. These forms make sure you’re capturing at least some of the information in case a buyer abandons the form.
Companies that operate around a product demo model need to make it easy to schedule time with sales reps. We’ve used ChiliPiper’s embedded scheduler both at Lattice and Dock and saw a huge jump in conversation rate from demo request to meeting scheduled.
On the backend, we’re able to seamlessly route the leads to the correct sales rep every time. This ensures our leads are always talking to the right expert.
3. Create content that answers every buyer question
The marketing team needs to work with the sales team to figure out the common questions in the sales process from different buyer personas. From there, the marketing team creates content that helps the sales team expertly answer the buyer’s questions.
Created for specific points in the buying journey, this content can be internal or external.
Internal content never gets shared with the buyer, but enables the sales team to do their job. For example, a competitor battle card helps the sales rep answer the buyer’s questions about the differences between the two products.
External content, on the other hand, gets shared with a buyer. An example of this type of content is the Lattice Economic Impact Report that answers the buyer’s question around return on investment.
A couple of the standard questions that every company needs to answer in the sales process:
- How much does it cost? What’s the difference between package A and B?
- What’s the ROI?
- What are the best practices to do XYZ?
- What makes your product different?
- How do you approach security?
- How do other companies use your product?
- What’s the functionality of Product ABC?
For each of these questions, the marketing team should create a piece of content. The format can vary from a PDF to a video to blog post to a webpage.
4. Guide buyers through the decision process
For enterprise sales cycles and technical products, it’s not always straightforward to purchase a product. There are many stakeholders involved, different approval processes, complex pain points, technical requirements, and a procurement process that involves everything from security to legal.
The leading software companies today use a mutual action plan (MAPs) to guide buyers through the process. MAPs keep the buying team aligned with a shared to-do list.
The typical mutual action plan includes some of the following phases and steps:
- Discovery: Intro meetings and product demos
- Validation: Stakeholder meetings, executive buy-in, and scope plus budget
- Free Trial / Pilot: Pilot kickoff, training, feedback meeting
- Procurement: Legal review, security evaluation, budget and contract Finalization
- Implementation: Company kickoff, admin and end-user trainings, check-in meetings
For each step, there’s a clear owner, timeline, and associated resources.
Of course, MAPs are not a one-size fits all approach. Mutual action plans should be adapted based on the product, customer needs and company size.
Enterprise companies might need a multi-phase plan, whereas an SMB might just need clear next steps. Sales organizations need to customize the MAP based on the buyer’s needs.
5. Weave in social proof throughout the experience
Robert Cialdini, the famous psychologist, popularized the concept of social proof. It’s the simple idea that people are more willing to buy something when they’ve seen someone else buy it.
Companies need to focus on turning customer love into case studies. I’d recommend both written case studies and short video interviews. Online reviews from websites like G2 are also helpful in showing that a wide range of users love the product—especially end users.
Short videos also make great content for social media platforms like LinkedIn or Instagram. Consider using a video editor to make your content more engaging by adding captions and a bit of visual flair.
When it comes to closing the deal, revenue teams should have a strong referral program. Access to references will make buyers feel comfortable with their decision.
Lastly, buyers want to see that the product works for companies like them. For example, if you’re selling to a law firm, they want to see case studies of other law firms—not that a tech company used your product.
By investing in different case studies—company size, product utilization, industry, and geography—you’ll be ready to provide social proof to a large number of buyers.
6. Provide a personalized buying experience
Buyers want to feel like you understand their problems and that the product will solve their unique challenges. The modern buyer demands personalization.
Sales reps need to provide a personalized experience to the customer. When the experience feels cookie-cutter, buyers will have less willingness to buy the product.
Personalization starts with a strong qualification process. By asking questions, sales reps start to understand the buyer’s challenges. From there, reps can share a customized solution that will fit the buyer’s needs.
One of the best ways to provide a personalized buying experience is by sharing notes with the buyer. This shows that you’re listening and working to solve their unique problems.
Here are some examples of what’s typically shared back with the buyer:
- Objectives: What does success look like?
- Challenges: What are the problems with the current solution?
- Opportunities: What are you looking for in a new solution?
- Buying team: Who are the key stakeholders?
- Process: What does the decision process look like?
- Resources: What kind of budget, time and team are available?
By sharing this information, a sales rep builds trust with the buyer and shows that everyone is aligned. Most sales reps will share this information back in email or in a Powerpoint presentation, but increasingly, sales reps are using workspaces like Dock or Notion to collaborate with buyers.
Subtle touches also help to create a personalized experience. Simply showing your buyer’s logo in presentation slides can go a long way. On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve met enterprise reps who build custom websites for buyers.
The challenge is making personalization scalable for the sales team. I typically follow the 80/20 rule: 80% of the content is the same across buyers, and 20% is personalized. Generally, the bigger the contract, the more time and effort you’re able to invest in to provide a personalization experience.
7. Show you’re human and build rapport
Nobody wants to buy from a sleezy sales rep. People want to buy from people they like.
The best sales reps are collaborative and consultative. They help to guide the buyer through the process in a friendly and honest manner. They work to understand the customer’s problems and provide a recommendation on the best solution.
Building rapport starts on an introduction or demo call and then extends throughout the process as the conversation goes back and forth between email and more Zoom calls.
One of the best ways we built human connections with buyers at Lattice was through dinners. There’s no better way to create a relationship with someone than over food and drinks. We would invite a bunch of prospects and customers to a fancy dinner. The conversation was not about Lattice. It was about getting to know other people in the industry and learning from each other.
Naturally, this helped build brand love, contributed to an exceptional buyer experience, and allowed buyers to get to know the Lattice team as a group of friendly people—not just a piece of software.
8. Collaborate with champions to prepare for stakeholder conversations
In every B2B sales cycle, there’s a point of contact who is the champion for the deal.
They are typically the person who is leading the evaluation for the buying team. This deal champion may or may not be the ultimate decision maker, but their opinion is extremely important in making a purchase decision.
The best sales reps work with champions to prepare for internal conversations. This can mean sending over a piece of collateral like an ROI analysis or security FAQ to address specific concerns. In enterprise sales cycles, it might mean collaborating on a presentation to the executive team.
Increasingly, sales reps are creating sales deal rooms that organize all the information for buying teams. These sales deal rooms host everything including product demo videos, mutual action plans, security FAQs, ROI analysis, product explainers, case studies, and more.
Here’s an example of a sales deal room for enterprise sales:
Digital sales rooms enable deal champions to advocate for your product to internal stakeholders. Champions can share one link with stakeholders to learn about the product and make a decision.
Dock's deal rooms simplify the buying experience by providing a single destination for buyer and seller to work together to close the deal.
Summary: There’s no silver bullet
There’s no silver bullet to building a strong buyer experience. It’s the culmination of a bunch of touchpoints that ultimately leads towards a positive buyer perception of the process.
Marketing and Sales teams need to work together to map out each stage of the funnel. From there, they can work to optimize each step from awareness to consideration to decision.
The ultimate goal is to deliver an experience that surpasses a buyer’s expectations. When you delight buyers, everyone wins.