There's a new way of buying software now and it involves using Slack communities. We witnessed the "Yelpification" of software, where niche websites started popping up dedicated to publicly reviewing software vendors and giving product ratings like Capterra and Product Hunt. Now we're now seeing what I believe is the "Slackification" of software: real-time discussion on B2B products between prospects and customers while completely bypassing the vendor. It's basically word of mouth at scale thanks to the thousands of free and publicly available Slack communities that exist on the internet.
Some Context First: Slack Communities
If you're not sure what Slack Communities are, read this first. I'm a part of about 2 dozen distinctly different communities myself: some based on my professional expertise (i.e. B2B sales, customer success), some based on my geography (i.e. Toronto, Canada), and some based on general areas of interest (i.e. SaaS and Startups). Now let's say I'm in the market for a new CRM; one could argue that I probably have at least 6 different communities that I can ask for advice, giving me access to 100s of potential users to help me make my decision. As a result, if you're a salesperson tasked with selling to these modern buyers, the implications are huge. With that said, here are the steps your buyers are taking before getting on the phone with you.
Step 1: Becoming UberInformed Independently
Internet research is now table stakes. You can assume that your buyer has taken the time to inform themselves of the available vendors for your product, visited 3rd party websites, and reviewed case studies to better inform themselves of the general market. This is now the first step, becoming UberInformed through extensive independent research conducted online. It's 2017, so you probably knew this already.
Step 2: Posing Question to Relevant Slack Community
For tech savvy buyer's, there's a good chance they're already on a number of Slack channels. If not, they'll likely take a moment and find a Slack community that's relevant to their search. From there, they'll ask a question like: "What do you recommend as a XYZ tool. I'm looking for something that does ABC." See below.
What's important to notice is that the buyer has become informed well enough to know the specific features s/he needs (i.e. Step 1), and is now asking the group for their opinion.
Step 3: Group Discussion & Debate
A simple question unfolds to a group discussion. Some individuals respond because they have an interest in the topic (i.e. beginner user), other individuals respond because they have some experience in going through a similar challenge (i.e. intermediate user), and lastly, I've found that there is always a handful of subject matter experts (i.e. expert users) that pride themselves on having a very detailed opinion on the product/tool/market. The conversation can go from a discussion on one vendor to a comparison of multiple vendors. Passionate users will advocate for products/services they absolutely swear by and conversely, give blunt negative reviews for products/services they've been burned by. There is no filter here, the buyer is getting informed in real-time.
Step 4: 1-1 Discussion and Reference Call
At the end of the discussion on Slack, active members of the conversation will often state "message me if you'd like to chat further" as an offer to the person requesting the information. While they're just being helpful to the community, the implications are huge. That customer reference call, which would've normally been facilitated by the vendor Account Executive at the last leg of the buying process is now being done well in advance, and without the vendor's involvement or knowledge. This 1-1 discussion will go into everything related to the product, customer service and support, and of course, pricing.
Step 5: Vendor Engagement
After this whole background check has taken place, your prospect will finally take the step to respond back to your email or sign up for that demo. That's assuming that after this Slack Reference, the prospect still thinks it's worth their time to talk to you. As a seller, it's important to realize that while your prospect may "play dumb", they probably know more than enough to be dangerous and that's a good thing for the modern seller. There will be less wasted time and more productive conversation assuming you bring real value to the table. The trivial takeaway here is: your product needs to work and your sales reps need to know their stuff.
Step 6: Feedback & Iteration
While the prospect is engaged with the vendor throughout the sales cycle, assume that he is also tapping that same Slack Community gathering more feedback. He is "iterating" on his buying process, reconfirming his needs, fact checking the vendor's statements, and gathering intel to help him during the sales negotiation. As a seller, the key takeaway here is not to be surprised. Plan your sales strategy as though you KNOW they will have access to all of this once confidential information. For example: consider that they've already learned about a few shortcomings of your product, and be sure to speak to them openly and overcome their objections during the demo.
Slack Communities are connecting more prospects with customers than any other medium I've seen or used. As modern sellers, plan for a far more knowledgeable buyer. One that not only knows your product but probably knows and has spoken to many of your customers as well. P.S. I'd consider joining these Slack Communities yourself, or at least having someone on your marketing team do so. This way you can monitor the conversations and stay informed of public perception.
Thanks for reading. If you found this post useful or have an opinion on the "Slackification" of software, I'd love to hear from you. You can leave me a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to subscribe below to get my posts delivered straight to your inbox! Thanks.
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