Software as we know it has embedded itself in the very fabric of how we conduct our daily lives, and is indeed big business. In fact, Gartner predicts that enterprise software sales will reach $457 billion in 2019, up 9% from the previous year.
As we consider the evolution of computers and communication we remember that first we used a typewriter, then word processing documents where the greatest feature was (gasp!) printing out documents in portrait or landscape. Applications came bundled in suites that could be installed with a compact disc (CD), which you could also conveniently use as a coffee coaster.
Today, we demand interaction between different applications based on template or metadata configuration with omnichannel cloud-based systems that serve a multitude of functions.
A brief history of software sales
Software sales is the conduit through which technical solutions are provided to end-users who may be businesses, governments, or individuals.
Sales professionals used to be the first and last point of contact if buying a software solution. If you wanted technical support after the fact, you had to call a human.
Today, the increased use of chatbots, artificial intelligence algorithms, and digital behemoths like Amazon means a cornucopia of products are available at a glance and a click, just for you.
The rapid pace of change in the market means sales teams need to be on top of their game, and digital marketing teams need to build in software sales strategy for product offerings.
How has software sales evolved, and how can reps stay on top of it?
The storefront has moved to the cloud
Software as a service (SaaS) is a software distribution model where applications are hosted online by a third-party provider. SaaS is one of three main categories of cloud computing, alongside infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS). It’s more commonly known to people as the ‘cloud’.
Instead of sales reps physically making appointments with prospects, they’re instead qualified through a customer relationship management platform or through a website commerce platform.
Once a decision is made to purchase, the customer has access to the software through the internet, and, increasingly a subscription model. The advantage of subscribing is that the customer always has access to technical support, and the latest version of the software, including any new feature releases.
For organizations it’s an effective way of measuring engagement and retention, as well as a clear way of forecasting revenues. The human presence will never fully go away, as evidenced by cellphone retailers still using brick and mortar (for now) so passive prospects can be engaged, and people can go talk to a person for support questions.
Understanding where business takes place is critical when considering how selling software and buying software has changed.
Customers are more likely to be subject matter experts
We’re increasingly all becoming digital natives, a term that was coined by Marc Prensky in 2001, with some criticism of its lack of nuance and excessive focus on age. Nevertheless, we’ve now been an internet-ready world since at least the early 90s. That’s around 30 years of experience.
What today’s average customer brings to the table is a knowledge of the digital space that sales teams should be prepared for. It’s no longer good enough to give them the razzle-dazzle hard sell and hope they sign on the dotted line.
Customer and sales representatives need to be informed and educated on the products they are selling. Online, feature specifications should be easy-to-follow, and there should be several places during the buying journey where a customer can provide feedback.
To keep up with the evolution of software sales, marketing must move away from strict feature-benefit presentations and spend more time with sales and customers to understand the business problems they’re solving with the software. Granular and customizable goals should be set considering every handoff – success criteria should absolutely be defined and measured. Finally – be transparent in your dealing with customers. Transparency and authenticity will differentiate your brand as you lead by example.