What Software Companies Can Learn from 7-Eleven: How to Make Self-Service Work for Software Customers

2 minutes

We’ve established that the software sales landscape is changing – creating a new world where vendors must tailor the software sales process to individuals. But every software buyer has slightly different needs. So how can companies cater to all types of tastes without breaking the bank to build a different experience for each customer?

They can start by taking a lesson from the world’s largest convenience store chain: 7-Eleven. With more than 50,000 locations worldwide, 7-Eleven makes its motto – ”Fast, convenient” – work in every market. At 7-Eleven, people can get (almost) anything they want, fast. Some people need Skittles, others want a Gatorade, still others want both. Even among the people who want Slurpees, some want cherry, some want lime, and a select few want to combine every single Slurpee flavor to make a distinctive concoction. At 7-Eleven, all these folks get what they want and pay in their currency of choice, fast.

That’s because 7-Eleven makes all its products available on the store floor, in places that are convenient for people to find quickly. And anyone can mix up a custom Slurpee – they don’t have to wait for a Slurpee specialist to create one. The pricing for each size of Slurpee is the same, no matter the flavor. It’s a simple self-service model that software companies could stand to imitate.

To help customers get started with self-service, software companies need to break their products into distinct components that can be combined in different ways. For Slurpees, these components are size/price and flavor (and a lot of different straws). For a software product, components might include a marketing module and a sales module, each of which could be available in trial or enterprise versions.

Buyers then must be able to select and combine (almost) any components they want, even if a Fanta–Root Beer–Pepsi flavor grouping sounds questionable to most. And buyers should be supported throughout the process, with clear instructions on how to pour a Slurpee or import data using a software tool.

Obviously, software can get a little more complicated than Slurpees. But the basic principle still holds. By offering the right options and making it easy for customers to combine them, companies can rescue customers from lead purgatory by letting them mix up their own Slurpees – er, software! – and move closer to becoming a customer.

Once people have tried mixing Slurpee flavors, most don’t go back. Similarly, once people have customized a software product to their liking, they may be converts for life. People who have used their free trials to build custom setups have acquired enough knowledge and interest to become what are called “usage-qualified leads.” Rather than the traditional “sales-qualified lead,” which needs to meet particular budget requirements, usage-qualified leads get closer to purchase through an interest in using the product.

With the help of self-service tools, usage-qualified leads are able to upgrade to full-fledged customers on their own, eliminating the need for a long, complicated sales cycle. So by providing the self-service components and instructions to empower buyers to complete a sales process on their own, companies can “mind the gap” and get more leads to become customers. That’s a tasty proposition!

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