Promise through to Proof.
B2B software sales is more than juicing conversions.

Bringing a UX lens to your online sales journey makes sense – but a better website along isn't going to cut it in the long term.


Brian HerronPrincipal UX Designer


elling B2B software is complicated. Buying B2B software is really complicated1. But I think we can describe the customer experience as three key moments that you must win to have a successful product in the market. These are:

1. Let’s not go into why it's complicated. If you know, you know. If you don’t, ask ChatGPT.

  1. The Promise: Usually how a website conveys the unique, compelling features that differentiate your product, and the outcomes it can deliver for your customer’s business. Essentially, a hook that will motivate your potential customer to convert.
  2. The Parade: The first demo, guided tour, trial or onboarding of your product. The customer can see it for the first time and get hands on. Ideally a fresh User Interface, with nice, consistent components that have all the polish in the world, core functionality that feels slick, a route to showing value quickly, and graded ramp-up introducing complexity.
  3. The Proof: The platform itself. When your customer’s team get their hands on your product and it gets implemented (however long that might take), does it deliver on it’s promise. Is it as efficient and capable as they expected? Would they buy it again, or do they have remorse.

Get all three right, and you’re on to a winner. If you only have two, you’ll struggle.

Without a high-performing website you won’t get people on the hook, they’ll never even see your product. Without a stunning User Interface your product is going to look old and unloved beside competitors – no one wants to buy the past. And finally, without the results, word will get around fast that your product just doesn’t work.

There are ways to get each bit working well – SEO, branding, A/B testing it to the nth degree, etc. etc. – but if you want the site, the demo, and the product in harmony and working in concert…

Then it’s UX all the way down.

It’s the product, stupid2

The risk in selling software, is that we focus on the selling not the software. Keep fixing our conversion channels and expect continued growth. The response, of course, is to more tightly align our product strategy and product development, with our sales channels.
2. snowclone is a cliché and phrasal template, a neologism that makes reference to the number of Eskimo words for snow. This one is based on the Bill Clinton presidential campaign slogan, "It's the economy, stupid".

The foundational concept of UX is the identification and articulation of user needs. These are the needs that you will have to address on your website. These are the same needs you’ll be responding to in your demo. And the same needs that your product should be laser-focused on solving. Your sales website and your platform are deeply linked – what better way to ensure that they arrive as a single unit then have them come from the same birthing pool.

Early discovery work in product gives us a framework for what the market actually wants, its expectations, even what constitutes a good success metric. Understanding the sales needs early in the design process means assets for the website and workflows for the demo that hit the mark with customers.

The product should serve the sales process by being… just really, really good

UX isn’t more important than other business functions, but it is a mechanism through which the product itself gets better. If you have something good to sell, something that fits the market, the selling gets easy (well easier, anyway).

The risk of reactivity

We’re in a wobbly world right now, aren’t we? There’s a tightening in the market. Tech job losses, impact of inflation, the feeling that recession is on the horizon or here already3. Businesses are going to have work harder to meet targets.

3. The Expectations Index has now remained below 80 – the level associated with a recession within the next year –every month since February 2022, with the exception of a brief uptick in December 2022.

Juiced on high octane levels of digital investment over the last three years – indeed last decade – what is the reaction of product companies going to be when a flood of interest slows to a trickle? They’re likely going to either try to focus on sales channels, “here’s a a ton of budget to get more leads in the door STAT!” Or cut costs, “move our annoying customers to self serve and auto onboarding!” New websites. More CRO. More portals.

And these are important. 100%.

But without focus on what you’re actually selling they risk being short term accelerators. Because every other company in your category is doing the same thing. And if you’re not the best (or the cheapest) you’re in trouble.

Recognising the moment

This is an inflection point. Many businesses have done well over the last 10 years. They have capital and have the capacity to reinvest following the Good Timestm. The question is how to use resources smartly to lock in growth over the medium and longer term.
Do the promise, the parade and the proof all line up so that the message you’re delivering syncs with the experience of the user and the expected business benefits.

Three questions:

  1. Does we genuinely stand above and apart from competitors?
  2. Does our messaging in sales match up with what our product actually does, and does that in turn match what the actually market wants?
  3. Do we still have momentum in our product roadmap or are we stalling?

Time to start stacking UX.

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