If you’re a seasoned software buyer, you probably remember when your knowledge of a product only extended as far as the vendor allowed. The exclusive relationship between buyer and seller allowed vendors to be selective with the information they provided to their prospects, often leaving buyers like you in the dark. Vendors were in control of the conversation– that is, until customers opened the conversation up to their personal network.

Congratulations, potential buyers. In case you haven’t heard, customers are now in the driver’s seat. When buyers found that the people in their personal networks could provide more transparent views of what to expect of a given product, post-purchase, they flipped the buying/selling process. Peer insight quickly became more reliable than a vendor’s sales pitch, and the voice of the customer became a more powerful resource than a sales associate. As G2 Crowd quickly approaches its 100,000th user review, the growing power of the customer voice is more obvious than ever. Fifty-three percent of tech buyers now rely on peer recommendations throughout their purchasing process. Word-of-mouth insight is an integral part of the sales process, providing potential buyers with more information than ever before.

Today, thanks to user review platforms like G2 Crowd, word-of-mouth insight is no longer limited to personal networks. Past and current customers are able to share their experiences with a software or product– and prospects are more than willing to listen. In fact, potential buyers often wait to make contact with a vendor until they have adequate information on the product. Peer insight proves to be a primary driver of lead generation and deal closure for the B2B space – buyers are in control.

Now that peer insight plays an integral role in purchase decisions, it matters less how vendors talk about their product(s) and more about what their customers have to say. Users talk and buyers listen, leaving vendors, their products, and their reputations completely exposed. Vendors are being encouraged to “embrace their nakedness”, which is great news for buyers. Transparency poses some difficulties for vendors, but it has created an opportunity for loyal buyer-seller relationships.

Influitive is a brand advocacy company that values transparent access into their customer’s opinions of their product, AdvocateHub, and recognizes the usefulness of transparency to their prospects as well. We asked them what they think about the impact of the “social era” on software buying and selling. They discussed interactions with their customers and how they led them to realize that “the social proof that comes from a trusted source in the form of a review is critical to break through the noise marketers have created.” According to Influitive, buyers are finally provided with a buying process infused with trust – an experience that until this point, they had craved.

Peer-to-peer communication has become more effective than old marketing techniques. “The only way companies are going to win in this modern era is by surrounding their buyers with social proof from their advocates, not harassing them with an endless supply of ‘selfish marketing,’” they said. Influitive has embraced that concept and structured their company around it, so that they create the best possible advocate experience. They know that in order to succeed as a company they must exceed their customers’ expectations, and online reviews let the know that they are delivering.

The fact is, 85 percent of tech buyers are reading up to ten online reviews before making a purchase. Peer-to-peer insight is keeping customers talking, and forcing software providers to join the conversation.

For both parties, this is where it becomes a two-way street. Buyers now have transparency into products. With the staggering number of reviews on G2 Crowd, vendors have transparent access into prospect’s opinions and conversations. Both parties are able to leverage this information and use it to establish better relationships, and ultimately, make better business decisions. When customers take part in peer-to-peer insight, they are exposed to the good and the not-so-good of a product. When a seller utilizes candid customer feedback, they can identify blind spots and work to overcome them. Buyers established expectations for better communication and better products.

Congratulations, software buyers. Your voice has changed the game.