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September 5, 2019

The best software buying experience ever

By: Stef Caldwell

Have you ever had something go viral in your office?

Like a picture of your CEO in High School?

We had a viral moment here at Narrative Science, and no, it wasn’t only the picture of Stuart from High School. Although I did get my hands on that (so I’m sharing it with you too).

Actually, what went viral at Narrative Science was an entire company. That company is Drift.  

We bought Drift’s software in order to improve lead conversion on our marketing website and will also be leveraging it to provide in-tool support for our new data storytelling tool, Lexio. But this story isn’t about Lexio – or sexy-Lexy, as I like to call her – though you should check it out, for real. This story is about Drift.

I learned about Drift just as I was starting to make the transition from an Enterprise Account Customer Success Manager (CSM) to being the lead CSM for Lexio. The marketing team couldn’t stop talking about how Drift was going to completely reshape the way we thought about our website, going from being just another marketing tool to actually being the equivalent of our online retail store. 

Don’t leave your customers hanging

Cassidy, our Chief Marketing Officer, talks about Drift as if you are walking into your favorite store (for me, Nordstrom) and passing a greeter:

“Hi, Welcome to Narrative Science. Can I help you find anything today?”

So many businesses are digital-first, literally without a retail presence. These organizations miss out on capturing thousands of people worth of proverbial “foot-traffic,” without so much as finding out their name. Not. Freaking. Cool.

The solution? Drift, or products like it. They apparently do have competitors, but we never got to an evaluation stage with the competition. The reason? Drift made the process “the best buying experience I’ve had in my professional career,” according to Andrea, who led the software acquisition for us. 

As a former sales professional and now CSM for Lexio, I was literally stunned. For most people, software buying is not exactly a pleasurable experience. At worst, it’s “a necessary evil.” At best, “tolerable”. So as a company focused on delivering exceptional customer experiences–throughout the entire customer journey–and as someone whose sole responsibility is to advocate for our customers inside the walls of Narrative Science; I had to know: What did Drift do differently? How did they crack the code on selling software? 

I spent about a week interviewing everyone who touched Drift in the buying process. My goal was to capture what made this experience unlike any other buying experience. So what did it all boil down to?  Drift didn’t sell us software. Drift helped us buy software. To the untrained eye, you may be wondering, what’s the difference? 

Empathy. 

Empathy made the difference between it being forced down our throats to an active participant on a journey.  

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another

Drift helped Andrea evaluate the software by preparing a custom deck in the first meeting she had with them. It included personalized pictures of a future Drift Bot on the Narrative Science website and metrics that tied to our marketing department’s strategic priorities. Normally, after your first sales call, you are left to your own devices to articulate the value of a solution you are looking to bring in-house. All that Andrea had to do was share this deck with the team and back it up with her own knowledge of the system.

Drift helped Andrea get buy-in from the team by creating custom material that included the cost, value, rollout process, and people needed from our end to bring the software to life successfully.  Whereas traditionally, you are left to create your own argument for the software internally. This often includes wondering who should be involved from Narrative Science in order to make the implementation successful. Drift constructed the argument for her.

Drift let Andrea lead the buying process, but they identified gaps in our approach to purchasing. They called out the fact that she needed to get buy-in from Cal (the sales manager), who managed Gabby (the sales rep), who would be owning a Drift license, and therefore would need time allocated in her day to get the return on investment that was promised. They identified that we needed to get John involved (head of security) to ensure there would be no hiccups getting the contract over the line or during the implementation process.  

They even identified that once these people were involved, she was less than 30 days from completing the transaction, and gave her a roadmap to closing day. In order to make it easy on her, Aaron (the Drift rep) checked in daily, giving her action items and holding her accountable to completing them. I asked Andrea if this was annoying and she said, “No. Actually, it was helpful! I am so busy and I knew we needed the software. So holding me accountable actually made me continue to deliver against my action items so we could get Drift in house.”

Finally, after a month of accountability plans and moving the ball forward one step at a time, we were getting close to contract signing. That’s when the empathy went next level. Buying-circle influencers around the company received Linked In requests and direct messages from members of the Drift leadership team making every person in the buying process feel “taken care of”. This instilled confidence that Drift would continue to take care of us after the sale.  

But they didn’t stop there, as icing on the cake, days after the contract was signed, the entire Marketing Department received a hand-written note and a box full of swag from the Drift team welcoming us to the club.

So what does all this mean for you?

Hold us accountable. 

We’ve already implemented best practices in how we help future Narrative Science customers buy our software and we can’t wait to work with you! At Narrative Science we strive to have the honor of being “the best software buying experience you ever had” and furthermore “the best software decision you ever made.” We believe that data storytelling is the future of work and you need to feel it too.

So you need to hold us to it. End-to-end. Every step of the way. Make sure that we deliver a customer experience that is as good or better than our Drift buying experience. I promise that we will do our damndest to try!

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