The welcome news of COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out around the world gives us hope that much of life will return to normal in the coming months and years. It also sent a signal to SaaS/Fintech companies that their time at the top of the stock market may come to an end once that happens.
Regardless of their stock market status, technologies like video conferencing have fundamentally changed the way we conduct business during this pandemic. Tech vendors themselves were forced to swiftly change their sales strategies amid lockdowns by implementing remote interactions with prospects and thinking digital-first.
As an end to this nightmare comes into sight, some of the profound changes this pandemic has caused to business could remain well into the future. According to some global consulting firms, a recent survey found that more than 90 percent of B2B decision-makers expect the remote and digital model to stick around for the long run.
With this in mind, here are three recommendations for B2B and SaaS sellers moving into a post-coronavirus future.
1. Optimize e-commerce
The SARS outbreak in 2003 is said to have jump started the dominance of Chinese B2C e-commerce companies like Alibaba. Similar to SARS, could COVID lockdowns be the catalyst for a sales revolution in B2B e-commerce? Indicators point to that outcome.
Another recent survey by McKinsey found that just 20 percent of buyers wish to return to in-person sales after the pandemic subsides. This is because the coronavirus is accelerating a trend we’ve been seeing in recent years: B2B buyers are increasingly demanding the same convenience they get when making personal purchases online via B2C e-commerce websites like Amazon, Walmart.com and other online giants.
Historically, though, these purchases have been largely small-ticket items. What’s interesting is that during the pandemic, we’re seeing B2B buyers become more comfortable purchasing big-ticket items online. The same McKinsey study observed that 70 percent of B2B decision-makers are open to making self-serve or remote purchases over $50,000, while 27 percent said they’d be open to spending more than $500,000.
As B2B sales increasingly shift to the digital world, SaaS vendors that rely on in-person sales must quickly optimize their digital assets for e-commerce. Vendors should update their websites and mobile apps with features that improve the customer experience, including live chat or chatbots that facilitate sales and customer support. Mobile app optimization is particularly important as we’ve seen a 250 percent increase in mobile app ordering during the pandemic.
Companies can also comfort buyers by providing clear and concise information – especially about payment and procurement processes – on their website and apps. A new client making a software purchase in the tens of thousands of dollars, for example, should not be wondering about next steps after entering their credit card information.
At the height of the lockdowns, companies like Zoom performed exceptionally well to keep up with increased demand. It saw its daily meeting participant numbers grew from 10 million in December 2019 to 300 million in April 2020. The company was able to scale its users with few technical interruptions by establishing a policy to never exceed 50 percent of its infrastructure capacity, ensuring its servers wouldn’t max out. With that in mind, SaaS companies should pressure test their technology platforms to prepare them for increased demand, and create protocol to help them deal with high site traffic.
By making a few improvements to their digital infrastructures, SaaS vendors can be more prepared for the impending revolution of B2B e-commerce.
2. Embrace Omnichannel Sales
Direct sales are no longer enough, with some of the world’s most successful SaaS companies scaling their revenue with omnichannel selling via marketplaces and indirect channel partners. Micrsoft is a prime example with 95% of their revenue flowing through the channel, while other companies like Dropbox report the channel as the fast-growing part of their businesses. This kind of momentum was in motion before the pandemic, and the speed of channel and third-party digital marketplace sales is only accelerating in the aftermath. In fact, Forrester insights show that marketplaces have grown more in three months during COVID-19 than in the previous 10 years combined.
It will be key for SaaS sellers to move beyond direct sales and adopt omnichannel as a core sales strategy going forward. Companies should view their channel partners as an extension of their internal sales teams, granting them some autonomy to influence overall sales strategy and rewarding them for good performance.
Firms should also invest in technology that makes working with channel partners simpler and more efficient. Some SaaS firms, for example, use centralized portals to connect their disparate channel partners to their suite of products and employ technology that allows them to standardize and automate billing, procurement and reporting for all channel partners. They also leverage APIs to automatically share internal sales information across channel partners.
To improve selling on marketplaces, B2B sellers need not look further than their B2C counterparts for guidance. B2C sellers are generally more transparent with their pricing and product feature information as their products are positioned right next to their competitors’ products on the proverbial digital “shelf.” B2B sellers should cast aside old sales tricks like special pricing for preferred customers and look to adopt a transparent, competitive pricing model to compete in digital marketplaces. Further, B2B sellers should streamline integrations to ensure seamless billing, procurement and support of the digital products they sell to end-customers via marketplaces.
With upwards of 70% of global revenue for independent software vendors stemming from third-party channels even before the onset of the coronavirus, SaaS companies will need to look to omnichannel sales to stay relevant in a post-COVID future.
3. Fine-tune remote selling
This year’s lockdowns forced SaaS vendors to rapidly improvise remote sales strategies as in-person meetings became prohibited. While face-to-face sales are expected to bounce back to some extent in the midterm, experts predict that remote sales adopted during quarantines may be here to stay.
In October, McKinsey reported that more than three quarters of B2B buyers and sellers now prefer digital self-serve and remote human engagement over face-to-face interactions. Its research also found that from April to October, revenue from video-related interactions jumped 69 percent.
Despite this, many vendors are having trouble adapting to the new remote reality. Nearly half of B2B sellers surveyed told McKinsey that working from home was affecting their ability to sell. So, it is integral for sellers to keep certain things in mind in transitioning from in-person to digital sales strategies. First, remember that your home is now your office, too. Take steps to create an environment where you can thrive, and ensure that ground rules exist with anyone else living in the home. Second, use video conferencing for all client meetings beyond the prospecting stage, since four out of five B2B buyers prefer video conferencing to phone calls and other interactions.
While in-person go-to-market strategies used by businesses dropped 52 percent during the pandemic, digital interactions with sales representatives via video conference and online chat increased by 41 percent and 23 percent, respectively. Thus, in order to succeed post-COVID, SaaS sellers will need to integrate remote selling into their overall strategy.
As the SaaS industry moves toward a post-COVID-19 world, many of the same strategies it used to survive during the pandemic will remain. In order to be successful in the future, SaaS vendors must optimize their e-commerce platforms, embrace omnichannel selling, and fine-tune their remote selling techniques.
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