Every company is striving to become customer-centric to build the best possible user experience. However, observant companies now realize that this experience transcends the in-app, post-sales experience to include the initial touchpoints in the buying journey.

Traditionally, the B2B software buying experience is one-sided. As a potential buyer goes through various qualification checkpoints in the vendor’s sales funnel, they are incrementally exposed to new information and product features. It becomes a show-and-tell experience where a prospective buyer is in the audience sitting back and watching.


What Is Customer-Led Growth?

There is a new motion entering the scene turning this show-and-tell experience on its head. Customer-led growth (CLG) enables a prospective user to take control of their buying journey to build their own customized experience.

Traditionally, there are two paths to engage with buyers: fully sales-driven and full customer self-service. These strategies are fundamentally different regarding both the business model and engagement level a consumer will have with a vendor. Self-service sacrifices a personal touch to prioritize speed and efficiency, while a sales-driven model prioritizes a hands-on, consultative approach at the cost of scale.    

The future of software buying is not at these extremes. It’s somewhere in between. Unlike full self-serve, the CLG go-to-market motion gives prospects the option to decide on how they want to engage with a vendor. When needed, a sales resource can be available to step in to facilitate the deal or answer questions. This hybrid approach to software selling enables prospects to pick the level of engagement that makes the most sense to them to align interests and create a custom buying journey.

Sales Motions for Software Buying

  1. Self-Service: Very little interaction with the sales team. It sacrifices a personal touch to prioritize speed and efficiency.
  2. Sales-Driven: Traditional enterprise sales strategy guided by sales representatives. It prioritizes a hands-on, consultative approach at the cost of scale.
  3. Customer-Led: A hybrid of fully sales-driven and full customer self-service. It gives prospects the option to decide on how they want to engage with a vendor.

Customer-led growth is all about options. A CLG strategy gives vendors the versatility to meet buyers where they are most comfortable. Having the customer in the driver’s seat of the buying journey gives them the flexibility they are looking for to make their own decisions. This adaptability and empowerment enables a buyer to navigate the sales process how they see fit and engage with the right content to meet their needs.

Unlike a full migration to product-led sales, a customer-led strategy can be an effective bridge for enterprise organizations looking to close the gap between them and their competitors primarily using product-led growth strategies. A customer-led motion can be put in place to meet buyers where they are most comfortable while not fundamentally shifting an established enterprise go-to-market motion. If a prospect wants to talk to sales reps and is most at ease with a traditional enterprise selling motion, great! If a prospect wants to explore and learn on their own, empower them to do that, instead.

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Meeting a Changing Buyer Demand

Modern buyers today don’t want to sit around and wait. To better understand the evolving buyer mentality, let’s evaluate the B2B software buyer landscape. Over 45 percent of B2B technology buyers today are 25-34 years old, making them the single largest demographic in this space

This demographic does not like being told what to do or given timelines on how to do it. They expect results quickly. This group also values independence in the decision-making process. This drive for self-service shows: 57 percent of the purchase decision is complete before a customer even calls the supplier

This new buyer mentality has created a real gap. Modern software buyers don’t want to wait around and waste time and vendor sales teams are hard-pressed to meet the rising demand leading to an increasing disconnect between buyers and sellers. Bridging this gap is crucial to stay competitive and respond to new buyer requests.


Implementing CLG Best Practices

Companies often talk about a customer-centric mentality or strategy, but how can organizations actually implement these tactics to deliver the best experience for every unique buyer? These are a few strategies to start with.

How to Implement a Customer-Led Growth Sales Funnel

  • Map out the early customer journey and look for customer decision points
  • Provide an accessible customer communication channel
  • Collect and analyze feedback regularly
  • Track engagement to further refine future customer touchpoints


Map Out the Early Customer Journey and Look for Customer Decision Points

Both traditional sales-led, as well as fully product-led organizations, can benefit from a full audit of their early customer experience. Take the time to think through every touchpoint, message, email, and phone call a new prospect receives after expressing interest or signing up on a vendor's website.

In building out an updated buyer journey, take time to track out decision points. See where users currently have (or should have) options when progressing down the sales funnel. For example, if you offer a single call to action today ("Request a Demo"), explore other options like a product tour or self-service overview to help those eager prospects get started faster.

This exercise can help your go-to-market team better understand existing inefficiencies and gaps as well as uncover areas where a buyer can be empowered. These decision points and choices can help tailor the overall journey to deliver a bespoke experience for every user. 


Provide an Accessible Customer Communication Channel

Listening to your users to craft this custom experience requires the right communication mechanism. In the customer-led buying journey, provide a route for customers to engage with a sales team. This option helps users who traditionally would stray towards a sales-led motion feel more comfortable and able to reach out if needed.

Customer chat engagement tools like Drift and Intercom provide a great way to capture real-time questions and comments with prospective buyers. Alternatively, in a more asynchronous selling environment, polls and lead capture forms provide an option for these buyers to engage with sales teams offline.


Collect and Analyze Feedback Regularly 

After launching new customer-facing initiatives and selling tactics, listen to customer feedback wherever possible. This input can come in the form of survey results, in-product feedback requests, or candid customer conversations. 

Customer demands, buying habits, and interests are dynamic - your process should mirror this flexibility and adapt to a varied user base. Focusing on the buying experience to see what is working and what can be improved is a critical part of rolling out an effective CLG motion. 

The buying journey can be stressful from both the buyer and vendor perspective. Teams have deadlines to make and results to showcase from purchasing the right solution. As a vendor, tracking this feedback around pain points and process gaps can provide valuable insight to improve the buyer experience for the next cohort of prospective buyers. 

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Track Engagement to Further Refine Future Customer Touchpoints

CLG is designed to build the optimal buying experience for each and every prospective buyer. Sensing pain point areas, tracking usage, and listening to feedback can be powerful mechanisms to assess how users are navigating throughout different stages of the sales funnel. 

In constructing a customer-led strategy, data is a powerful tool to measure impact and effectiveness along the buyer journey. Prospect usage and feature interest data can have significant downstream impacts when it comes time to engage sales or customer success for upsell opportunities. Additionally, pattern tracking to see how different customer cohorts engage with the sales funnel and what degree of self-service they prefer can fundamentally change how you engage with similar future buyers.

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