Only April Dunford can turn buying a toilet into a deeply insightful take on how to build a better sales pitch for B2B software. In her SaaSiest 2023 presentation, “Building a Sales Story That Wins,” April puts us in the shoes of a buyer, taking us through the challenges of the typical buying process, then providing guidance for how to craft a sales pitch that will help you close more deals.
- Buying B2B software is hard. Buyers are drowning in information – too many options, too many features, and not enough differentiation.
- 40-60% of B2B purchase processes end in no decision because buyers are overwhelmed and doing nothing is easier and less risky.
- Enterprise software buyers want perspectives on the market and help navigating the alternatives.
- The question to answer for buyers is, Why pick us over the alternatives?
- Arm the sales team with a story that reflects your positioning, which encompasses alternatives, value, and best-fit customers.
- Focus on value first, not features.
Buying is hard. Doing nothing is easier and less risky.
Buying software is hard. It’s not fun, and it’s super stressful. Buyers are drowning in information. There are too many options on the market that all look and sound alike, making it difficult to even create a shortlist to start from. And the buying process doesn’t usually get easier once a buyer starts talking with a vendor. Most pitches consist of nothing more than a wind tunnel of features with little to no explanation of what value those features bring or how the solution is different from and better than the alternatives. And when buying on behalf of a company, the stakes are high. Make a poor purchasing decision and it could damage your reputation, put your job at risk, and even potentially damage the company’s operations.
As a result, many buyers suffer from analysis paralysis. Research tells us that 40-60% of B2B purchase processes end in no decision because buyers can’t confidently make a decision between the options. So they simply make no decision at all because it’s easier and less risky.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
What we can learn from adventures in toilet-buying
Let’s look at one of several stories April told as an example of the highs and lows of the buying process and how to frame a pitch with the buyer at the center to make it a positive experience for both the buyer and seller.
It all started with a toilet. After buying an old house in desperate need of renovation, including a new bathroom, April found herself at the precipice of a new journey: toilet-buying. But buying a toilet did not go as planned. On the surface, it seemed like a simple enough task. Yet upon arriving at the toilet store, April was greeted by an unhelpful salesperson and a wall of toilets that all looked the same but had wildly different price tags and a plethora of features, none of which made any sense to a person not highly educated in toilet technology. (Flappers and traps and MaP scores, oh my!) Confused and overwhelmed, she decided she didn’t know enough about toilets to buy one and left the store.
Extensive internet searches plunged her into the depths of toilet technology. More toilet knowledge than April (or you) want to occupy the brain with. So April decided what many buyers decide in that moment of way too many complicated and nonsensical options: she wasn’t going to buy a toilet. She was going to keep the old one. And relief set in. By this point, she had spent three weeks thinking about toilets, went to the showroom twice, and spent what felt like an infinity on the internet. And how many toilets did she buy? Zero.
This is exactly what your buyers are doing. They think it’s going to be easy. Then they get overwhelmed with things they can’t figure out, and they don’t buy anything.
In April’s case, the buying process continued, but not because she wanted it to. Her contractor had already recycled the old toilet. Back to the toilet store she went! This time, she was met by a salesperson who sympathized with her toilet emergency and validated that the toilet-buying process was, indeed, crap. And he informed her that he was going to teach her how to buy a toilet.
He advised her that she only had to think about three things: quality, aesthetics, and space. He summed up all those features she’d been researching as quality. They narrowed it down to high-quality toilets since it would be the most-used toilet in a primary residence. The second thing was aesthetics. They ruled out fashion toilets, opting for a classic look. The last thing was space based on room size and ease of maintenance. The standard size was fine. And with that, they were down to three toilets. He told her they were all good, but he recommended the brand he worked for as it was a good quality toilet she’d never have to think about replacing. “Sold!”
He wasn’t doing a hard sell on features, and he wasn’t pushy. He was teaching April how to confidently make a toilet purchase decision. And because of his approach, he made the sale.
We need to help buyers navigate the market
Research tells us that enterprise software buyers want two things from us: 1) perspectives on the market, and 2) help to navigate the alternatives.
We are treating sales calls like the question is, Why pick us? But the real question is, Why pick us over the alternatives?
We have to arm the sales team with a story that reflects our positioning while guiding the prospect to confidently make a purchase decision. Remember: alternatives, the value you deliver, and who your best-fit customers are all come from your positioning. You need to get that right first, then your sales pitch will flow from here.
How to craft your pitch
April built her first sales pitch while launching a product at IBM. They did two things particularly well. They never talked about features – or the product at all – at the beginning of the sales pitch. They talked about their point of view on the market and where IBM fit. Secondly, the bulk of the sales pitch was focused on value, not features.
Start by talking about the market – look at all the alternatives at a high level, how the space works, and where you fit in that landscape.
Then show prospects how you deliver value. Competitive alternatives, unique capabilities, value, best-fit customers, and market category all come from your positioning. Strong positioning will help create a strong sales pitch. Take your positioning and map to all these pieces of a sales story.
Shift the focus from features to value
A successful sales pitch puts the buyer at the center and focuses on the unique value you deliver. It helps prospects understand the entire market and set purchase criteria. And it answers the question, Why pick us over the other options?
To learn more, head over to SaaSiest TV to watch April’s full presentation, including an example of how she created a sales pitch for Help Scout, or get her book about positioning, “Obviously Awesome.” And keep an eye out for her upcoming book about how to build a sales pitch in October!