It’s likely, and there is data to back this, you’ve taken fewer software demos this year than in years prior. It is also likely your in-demo questions are tied more directly to ROI. In truth, the picture software buyers are painting in 2023 is probably how it should be.
There is a lot at stake when you buy software. Here is how Ryan Neu, CEO of Vendr, put it;
“Companies don’t cut mission-critical SaaS. Yes, it’s a harder sales environment. Yes, prospects expect a deal. Yes, budget compression is real. But, companies still need world-class SaaS to operate their businesses.”
People don’t (or shouldn’t) buy software just for the sake of it. They buy to solve a problem. This leap from purchase to usage is the most critical leap for vendors and purchasers alike. It’s why we believe implementation and onboarding is the most critical phase of the entire process.
People Buy Software To Solve A Problem
Marketers buy marketing automation software to give time back to their team. Implementation and services organizations buy client onboarding software to decrease time-to-launch and increase project capacity.
The problem they are trying to solve is the number one thing at stake during implementation. Here is a situation that happens too often.
You buy software, sign a 12-month contract, and are immediately shuffled to a different contact the vendor. You don’t have much visibility into the implementation other than a few status updates and tasks assigned to you. Three months into the contract, you’re still in the dark about how to use the software.
Not only do you, the decision maker, not understand it, but your individual contributors are even worse off. The problem you were trying to solve is still a problem. All the reasons you bought in the first place are now the reasons you can’t wait to ghost someone at renewal.
In the software purchasing framework laid out by Neu, this mission-critical piece of software is quickly moving from an asset to a liability.
Software Budget Not Well Spent
Companies spend an average of 13 cents of every dollar on software. Most don’t have the luxury of donating an eighth of their budget to shelfware.
The most obvious thing at stake during implementation is money. Back to your in-demo questions–they should center around ROI.
Most software companies aren’t charging an implementation fee. Because of this, implementation and customer success are often viewed as cost centers rather than profit centers. Software buyers in turn don’t place enough value on them. Implementation needs a rebrand.
Done correctly, implementation can have a massive, positive impact on customer and revenue retention. From a buyer’s perspective, implementation is a service you are either paying for explicitly or implicitly. Done correctly, a buyer is going to more quickly see a return on their investment.
Good software pays for itself. A smooth implementation accelerates the payback period.
Buying Software Is Buying Time
The great promise of software as a concept is the ability to do more with less. To overstate it, a valuable piece of software is like giving your team superpowers.
A poorly run implementation has the opposite effect. When there isn’t a clear plan in place, the customer is left out to dry. So instead of saving hours every week, a buyer is spending hours a week troubleshooting.
As vendors, we ask for a lot of time upfront with the promise of saving it on the backend for our customers. Vendors have a responsibility to make the most of that time. Clear project plans with visibility for both the vendor and the client should be ubiquitous.
Implementation-Specific Questions to Ask When Purchasing Software
- How long has it taken similar customers to go live after purchase? This likely isn’t the first time a vendor has implemented a customer in your industry. If they are on top of their implementation game, they’ll have metrics around go-live times. Get a go-live date established in the contract.
- Ask about integrations. Integrations are often the most time-consuming part of an implementation. Ask questions about integrations. Get a gauge for the vendor’s ability to handle complex integrations. Be specific.
- How will we be communicating during the implementation? Can you provide a project plan? You should have real-time visibility into the project plan and progress. Updating by spreadsheet and email can work, but setting expectations early is important. Ideally, the vendor will have a client portal for you to track progress, see tasks assigned to you, and ask questions.