As someone who has worked in SaaS sales for almost a decade, I’m no stranger to the pains of shopping for software. Though I typically sit on the seller's side of the table, I understand the frustration that comes with finding a new software solution.
We've all been there — flipping through countless tools, long demos with little value, and being constantly bombarded with promises that “this solution is exactly what you need.” It’s exhausting. It's no wonder “buyers,” Product Managers, and Engineers get tired of the never-ending search for the perfect tool.
After speaking with thousands of digital builders, I've discovered that software selection can be easy. In fact, all you have to do is follow three key steps.
If you want to make faster, smarter tool investments, keep reading.
Step 1: Define your objectives
Before purchasing any new software tool, it's crucial to define the objectives you want to achieve with it. Take a moment to reflect and ask yourself, "What problems am I trying to solve, and how can a tool help me address them?" Your objectives should include feature functionality tied to business needs like driving revenue and meeting security standards.
Using this strategy—thinking about the specific problems you’re trying to solve—helps you consider the tools you already have in place. Are you using multiple solutions to tackle one problem? Is there anything in your techstack that feels repetitive? What integrations will you need? By assessing your current techstack, you may find new objectives to add to your list.
And of course, you want to make sure you get input from all relevant stakeholders. Imagine everyone related to the problem you're trying to solve. Once you’ve identified all of the key players, get a list of their top needs from a software solution. This will not only help ensure alignment, but may surface critical needs that weren’t on your radar.
Once you’ve created a list, prioritize each objective based on the impact it will have on the business. Understand what is a must-have versus a nice-to-have?
As an example, let's imagine you're looking for a behavioral analytics solution. Your pain points might be: “My team is flying blind” or “We're searching for insights in the dark.” You want to understand the impact of what a user is doing at any given time. Begin by mapping out your must-haves. Such as . . .
Capture a clean data set of user behaviors (form fills, clicks, swipes, gestures, etc.)
Identify areas of drop-off (missed steps or unfinished checkout flows)
Replay actions users have taken to understand a path taken (session recording)
Then you can start mapping your secondary nice-to-haves. In total, this process should take no more than two weeks.
By defining your goals up front, you can ensure that you invest in a tool that meets your most critical needs. If you don't, you may end up needing to bring on another solution to fill a gap. And then you're back to patching together your tools with duct tape.
Step 2: Research and prioritize
The market is flooded with options, all of which are backed by strong marketers and smart sales teams. That’s why you need to conduct thorough research and prioritize your options wisely. Don't simply follow the crowd or go for the trendiest choice.
As you research, keep an eye out for:
Trustworthy demonstrations. Demos provide a firsthand experience of the tool's functionality and usability and let you see if the tool delivers on its promises. A reliable demo also gives you a glimpse of how the software will integrate into your workflows, helping avoid potential pitfalls down the road. If done well, the seller will have tied the demo back to challenges the business is planning to solve.
Compelling customer proof. I can’t emphasize this enough: don’t get distracted by big flashy logos. You need to look for tools that have a proven track record for their customers. Who cares if a Fortune 500 company uses a tool if they haven’t seen any value from it? Whether it be through case studies or reference calls, make sure you’re able to understand the real value customers have obtained. A great question to consider with any customer proof is, “How long did it take the customer to see value from the software?”
As you're researching, always keep your list of objectives in mind. Evaluate how each option meets your must-haves and nice-to-haves. The tools that are able to meet the most must-haves shoot to the top.
Always keep your eye on the prize—the problems with the biggest business impact will not only help the business thrive, but will help product owners achieve their objectives. Prioritize tools that can directly address these challenges and contribute to your overall success.
Step 3: Start small and iterate
Once you've identified the tools that best suit your needs, it's time to take action. Begin by implementing the chosen tool in a targeted area of your product or with a specific group of users. This allows you to assess the tool's effectiveness and gauge how quickly you can derive value from it. It also lets you fine-tune your implementation and make necessary adjustments along the way.
As you achieve success in this initial phase, gradually scale the tool's usage across other product teams and even different business units. You'll be surprised by the number of individuals involved in managing the customer experience once your product is out in the market.
Remember, the journey doesn't end with implementation. It's essential to iterate and continuously refine your usage of the tool. Embrace a culture of experimentation and improvement. Regularly assess the impact and value generated, and make adjustments as needed. In many cases, the seller's team that provided the solution should be working with you in lockstep to continuously drive value. By starting small and iterating, you'll maximize the benefits of your chosen software tool and drive ongoing growth and success for your product and organization.
Take the leap, and let your journey of optimization and innovation begin. Your commitment to iteration will set you on the path to unlocking the full potential of your software tool investment.
Software buying doesn't have to be complicated or time-consuming. Define your objectives, research wisely, and start small. By clearly articulating your goals, prioritizing value over popularity, and implementing the tool incrementally, you'll make informed decisions that drive meaningful results.
You've got this! Start now and embark on your journey to efficient and effective software tool buying.