Investigating Software Solutions

I originally wrote this in 2019 after a particularly difficult round of system procurement for a retail store.

My frustration is still valid today.

Consumer products are all about self-service, ease of use, and choice.

But B2B offerings seem to lag far behind this trend. Searching for software and platform solutions for business use in most cases provides very limited information about the solution and requires requesting a demo or making direct contact with the company in order to receive information.

From the perspective of the company selling the product, this gives a definite sales lead, the possibility to tailor a presentation to the needs of the company investigating, and a higher probability of conversion.

From the perspective of the company looking to purchase the product, this is a frustrating and often time-wasting extra step.

Consider: I am looking for a solution for a ticketing platform for a service team. As a small office, we don’t have a dedicated procurement team making contact with businesses and requesting demos. I am trying to fit my research around other work so I can propose a shortlist and we can make a decision, likely in the context of another meeting or in a limited time slot when key stakeholders can be brought together.

I’m faced with a few options online. Service A shows me a few screenshots and ends every page with a ‘Request a Demo’ button where I need to input details about myself and the company then wait for a sales representative to call me to discuss our needs and demonstrate the platform. Service B also leans towards requesting a demo, but additionally gives me some example use cases, key features, and customer websites I can look at where the solution has been implemented successfully. Service C gives me a full feature list for comparison, detailed specs and information about the options, and suggests I contact their sales team for more details. And Service D lets me try a demo of the service myself, along with everything offered by Service C.

Would you give all these offerings equal consideration? In an ideal world, perhaps you’d like to find the best solution for your team, regardless of time and expense. But we live in a practical world, where everyone is chipping away at both your time and your budget.

With this in mind, I tend to immediately discount Service A. The more difficult it is for me to find information quickly about what you’re offering, the less interested I am in speaking with you about it. Do you have something to hide? Are you going for the hard-sell approach? Do you just understand so little about my needs as a business user that it hasn’t occurred to you that I might not have the time to sit and wait for your phone call? None of these questions have a good answer, and they all lead me to write you off quite early on and focus my attentions elsewhere.

My shortlist will likely become Service C and Service D. I might not have time to try a demo myself of Service D, but the fact that the information is readily available and easy to find gives me more confidence as a business consumer that you believe in your product enough to give me the power to make my decision. Your product should speak for itself; you shouldn’t need to rope me into a sales call to convince me about it. Of course I can expect to need to provide some form of information or registration before I can access this type of detail/demo, which then gives you the opportunity to follow up with me as lead. But then the benefit goes both ways: I’m making sure there is genuine interest from my side before I spend too much of my time on your solution, and you’re spending your time following up ‘warm’ leads with a much higher chance of conversion.

Just like with a consumer product, it doesn’t matter how great or fully-featured your offering is: if it’s too difficult to access, understand, or use, nobody will buy it.