The Hidden Impact of Reviews Sites on your Sales Pipeline
As SaaS vendors, we typically think about review sites such as G2 Crowd, Capterra, etc. as channels to fill our top of funnel. Thinking about review sites in this way is not wrong – we all have data showing the impact that review platforms have on our top of funnel (such as total clicks, number of unique visitors, trial requests, and leads, etc).
In fact, according to CEB Global (now Gartner), customers are already 57% through the purchase process before they approach a supplier. New prospects are doing their research, and review sites are a primary source of this information.
That said, for the first time, we have data showing the previously hidden impact of review sites on sales pipelines (not just at the top of the funnel!). That is to say, decision makers in deals in your existing pipeline are now reading reviews on you and your competitors while at a more advanced stage in the buying process (e.g. post demo or post proposal).
Before we get into the data, picture this: A Director of Marketing has been tasked with buying new marketing automation software. They’re in charge of researching, getting demos, and getting quotes for all of the solutions that they deem appropriate for their business needs.
Your company is amongst those they have selected.
Then, your company’s AE nails the demo. The Director of Marketing loves what they see, and they request a quote. Of course, your AE sends one along right away, updates their pipeline in Salesforce, and high-fives their colleagues. The Director of Marketing confirms to your AE that your solution is their preference. This deal is looking like a winner.
Unfortunately, the Director of Marketing has to get their VP to sign off on the decision. However, instead of taking the recommendation of the Director, the VP takes it upon themselves to do their own research and see what other tools are out there. The VP heads online to read some product reviews on your product, as well as those of your competitors. Your competitor's product has many exceptional reviews and catches their eye. The Director of Marketing is immediately instructed to organize a demo with your competitor AND the VP is going to sit in on this one. Your promising deal is sinking fast.
All it takes is one senior level executive – VP or C-Level – to do one Google search for alternatives to your product and, all of a sudden, your sales cycle becomes much more complicated. Product reviews, as you can see, can be a disruptive force in late-stage pipeline deals.
So, where is the data to back this up?
If you are a customer of G2 Crowd, you can access what they call Buyer Intent Data. The Buyer Intent Data allows you to see the Organizations that are reading your reviews, as well the other companies in your category (AKA your competitors).
Here is an example of the data available:
Please note, I have obfuscated the Organization names. Organization names are available in the Buyer Intent Data. Here is a recent story from an interview we conducted about Buyer Intent data while researching this post:
Menilik Dyer from Promapp was evaluating the Buyer Data available in G2 Crowd with the Promapp sales team. What they found was many of the companies already in their sales pipeline leads were researching Promapp on G2 as part of the purchase process. Not just new leads. Luckily, Promapp has many excellent reviews from a range of different organizations. And luckily Promapp has a very good strategy for gaining new reviews every month.
Keeping in mind that “85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations” (according to a 2017 Review Survey by BrightLocal, if you have decision makers at customers in your pipeline turning to reviews before signing on the dotted line (which everyone does), you definitely want to make sure there is a clear strategy for making sure you outshine your competitors on these platforms.
Olivier, SVP of Sales at G2 Crowd explains, "When looking at the data on which organizations are reading reviews as part of their decisions making process, we see a combination of net new leads as well as decision-makers from deals already in the pipeline. A critical part of driving success & ROI is by having our customers run review campaigns. The volume of reviews helps in two ways. First, it helps ensure new buyers can find relevant reviews based on their specific business needs. Secondly, it helps with SEO. B2B buyers now act like B2C buyers which means they turn to search engines to begin their evaluation process. We recommend using reviews to capture this demand."
Customers are more empowered than ever to do their research and they can do so at any point in the sales cycle. Furthermore, their research is not limited to you and your competitors’ marketing resources, but also involves customer reviews from people who use your solution, which carry a great deal of weight with your potential customer.
There is little you can do if a prospective customer (or their boss) decides to start reading reviews on your competitors. Except, of course, make sure you get as many stellar reviews posted on those review sites as possible.