How to stay connected in the no-touch world of software sales

While the pandemic disrupted business, the great remote migration made believers out of many decision-makers. Despite having to implement sweeping changes very quickly, the long touted benefits of remote working proved real and it’s obvious many aspects will remain in place for good.

Software companies already had employees who were quite familiar with working remote and maintaining productivity. Yet, while these companies were generally in a better position to adapt to the "new normal," their sales teams were impacted just like those in any other industry -- perhaps even worse. After all, they deal with complex technology that traditionally has required a lot of face-to-face time to educate prospects. No-touch software sales is tricky business, particularly when prospects are accustomed to hands-on experiences and trials. That said, software companies need to rethink their strategies and procedures.

Keeping it real and easy

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In-person interaction is particularly important in pre-sales, especially for providing prospects with a hands-on experience. On-site demos and proofs-of-concept (PoCs) have long been the most effective high-touch pre-sales tactics to highlight product value. Further, with IT environments continuing to grow in complexity, prospects really need to see how software will operate before it can be used in production.

With social distancing eliminating on-site demos and PoCs, the need for new pre-sales approaches is clear. Tools like Zoom and WebEx have helped, but the limits of audio and video conferencing holds engagement back. Prospects want to see products in action in realistic settings, especially when they’re able to be at the controls.

There are options to overcome these shortfalls. However, when evaluating solutions, keep in mind two key criteria that are important for advancing pre-sales.

The first is accuracy; the ability to showcase software in conditions that realistically reflect the prospect’s IT environment. The second is simplicity  – setting up and conducting demos and PoCs easily -- which is not only the best way to ensure user adoption, but to also acquire the speed, volume and control needed to transform sales.

Keeping it real and easy is what it’s now all about.

Deal maker or breaker?

The traditional way of running a demo at a prospect’s site on dedicated hardware allows for testing software in the environment where it is supposed to be deployed. That real-world experience is essential to prospects.

Still, on-site demos are costly and time consuming. Sales teams need to bring along not only equipment, but the staff to install and run the software. Permissions must be gained from the prospect’s IT department. And not only must these processes be repeated for each demo, they’re only a few examples of the many logistical hurdles.

Software vendors wanting to reduce customer acquisition costs and shorten sales cycles actually do better with a lower-touch model. Video tutorials and tools can personalize sales content, demos and PoCs. Further, collaboration platforms support a low-touch, cost efficient pre-sales model for apps or cloud services that are relatively easy to deploy.

Yet, while simple and scalable, these won’t deliver the accuracy and experience of on-site demos. Prospects won’t be able to evaluate how the software would perform in production. For them, not being able to do so is a deal-breaker, when what’s needed by sales is a deal-maker.

A virtual standard

Virtual IT labs have been around for more than a decade and over the years have become more sophisticated, reliable and easy to use. For software sales teams that had been reliant on high-touch, this now presents a powerful means to conduct demos and PoCs in environments as realistic and accurate as the real thing, as well as hands-on experiences.

For starters, software companies can create full IT environments for prospects managed in the cloud as a single entity. This enables vendors to make additional versions of their actual products available in a virtualized, cloud-based environment, encompassing complex scenarios that accurately simulate the prospect’s infrastructure.

While virtual IT labs were initially used for monolithic on-premises apps, when cloud computing went mainstream, a second generation of solutions arose. These were specifically designed to handle distributed software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps at cloud scale and speed. As a result, customers could easily set up environments, scale, collaborate and more.

This spurred great innovation that took virtual labs from an infrastructure platform for techies into a tool empowering a broad range of users. For sales, new features enabled easy self-service, advanced analytics into prospect usage, flexible access and usage privileges, integration with customers’ CRM tools and more.

In doing so, next gen virtual labs set a new standard for pulling off no-touch sales. With the right platform, all sales teams need to reach prospects with an experience rivaling face-to-face is a browser and internet connection, no matter where they’re located, no matter how many decision makers are involved.

Future proofing

Social distancing isn’t the only reason high-touch processes are in rapid decline. In times of a slowing economy, vendors often look to reduce the cost of sales. What’s more, market fluctuations can drive software companies to reduce the cost of products. This, in turn, raises pressure for sales teams to close more deals, in less time, while consuming fewer resources.

Software sales leaders can do this and close the expanding personal gaps brought about by the pandemic, while eliminating trade-offs between accuracy and simplicity. The truth is, we’re not sure what the days ahead will bring. However, with the right tools, a software company can future proof their capabilities -- ensuring they’re well prepared, adaptive and ready to connect in the new no-touch sales world.

Photo Credit: Odua Images/Shutterstock

Dr. Zvi Guterman is CEO of CloudShare. The easy to use platform is designed to help software companies deliver complex demos, PoCs and training, replicating real-world experiences without compromising time to market. CloudShare is trusted by more than 500 enterprise customers worldwide, including Palo Alto Networks, Atlassian, ForgeRock, Sophos, Dell and HP.

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