Buying Software Is Awful, But Shouldn't Be

David Campbell
July 22, 2021
5 min read

The software selection process is broken, and no one likes it. I want to talk about why. First, I want to introduce us.

I’m the CEO of Tropic. I was formerly VP of Strategic Accounts at BounceX, a Marketing Technology vendor. It was there that I met my cofounder Justin, who was VP of Ops, as well as our Head of Engineering, Nick, and our Full Stack Lead, Pawel.

I sold software, Justin bought software; Nick and Pawel built software. We’ve created a modern platform to buy and sell software painlessly.

Justin and I happy in our new home at Company as a Startup-in-Residence

Tropic has been in stealth mode for a few months. This post is (sort of) our public debut. I’d like to talk about the problem we’re seeing and how we intend to fix it.

In 2020, it is way harder to make the right decision on software than it is to make the wrong one.

Businesses rely on software now more than ever, but the vendor landscape has never been so fragmented. In 2011, Marc Andreessen announced that “software is eating the world,” adding:

My own theory is that we are in the middle of a dramatic and broad outcome shift in which software companies are poised to take over large swathes of the economy…

We’re going to focus on marketing technology for our example, but these dynamics hold true for all software categories.

Martech is a $100B industry now occupying ~29% of the CMO’s budget (Chief Martech). Since software started eating the world, we’ve seen the number of vendors grow by 50x.

Consider the world eaten…

Rather than leading to more optionality and greater satisfaction, the vendor explosion has created more marketer dissatisfaction. As of 2019, 83% of marketers rip and replace tools they are unhappy with every year (Chiefmartec). Everyone hates this process. What’s going on here?

Let’s summarize the challenges in software selection, starting from the research phase.

3rd party research channels are biased.

Most software vendors are under tremendous competitive pressure at all times.“Neutral” 3rd party review sites and advisory firms capitalize on this need to differentiate, enabling providers to pay their way into popular new categories. Fortune favors the deepest pockets.

Outcome for Vendors

Vendors with strong technology are boxed out of deals by opportunistic vendors with stronger sales and marketing.

Outcome for Buyers

Buyers can’t distinguish between vendors because all of the messaging sounds the same, and each vendor seems to fit into many different categories.

For the next phase, let’s say you are a buyer with a need, and you want to research attractive vendors directly. So you go to their websites.

Vendor websites are not detailed enough.

Software providers by and large do not share detailed product and pricing information on their websites because the risk outweighs the reward. The focus of the website is to get you on the phone.

Sharing specific details on the website not only excludes buyers who don’t have the same problems, it also opens up the competitive threat. Providers cannot afford such a risk, so they encourage you to get on the phone…

Early sales calls frustrate both buyers and sellers.

Good sales orgs have built a qualification system into their process. If they don’t protect talented reps’ time for qualified leads, the business will suffer.

However, the system that protects their time can often lead inadvertently to wasted time for you.

In an effort to “qualify,” both sides withhold key information.

Buyer and seller objectives are not aligned.

On early calls, both parties:

  1. Ask specific questions to determine whether the other party is qualified
  2. Withhold key details (for buyers: business info, for sellers: price)

As such, it’s very difficult for each side to accomplish their goals.

It isn’t until you as a buyer are “qualified” that you finally get answers to specific questions. The result is this: if you’re looking at a few vendors, you could sacrifice 8-12 hours of calls before you even know who you want to evaluate.

Once you’ve qualified one another, it’s time for buyers to engage the internal team in the evaluation and decision but…

The evaluation process is often unstructured and complex.

Software purchases must happen fast, so more stakeholders in discrete business units are running their own evaluations, waiting to engage procurement until the end.

However, the market hasn’t delivered sufficient tools to support your evaluation. If you work in a business function, you probably didn’t sign on to run RFPs, but chances are you have had to do this. It probably wasn’t fun.

If you’ve ever had to build a spreadsheet from scratch, you know what I mean.

Even structured RFPs generally amount to one person chasing the others around to get them to add notes into a spreadsheet or Google Doc, feedback which then needs to be communicated to the vendors on yet another call, in yet another meeting. it’s a giant game of telephone, and the person who needs the tool is stuck in the middle.

This process can lead to analysis paralysis, in-fighting, and even decisions to leave the company — “we take too long to do anything.”

Between biased information, misaligned objectives, and a lack of structure, purchasing software has become excruciating and expensive.

Buyers —

  • Wouldn’t it be nice if you never had to waste time researching vendors again to figure out who can do the things you need?
  • Wouldn’t it be nice to get the best price every time without negotiating?

Vendors —

  • Wouldn’t it be nice to only talk to qualified companies?
  • Wouldn’t it be nice to have transparency into your deals to know how to structure a winning proposal?

That’s where we come in.

Tropic is an outsourced SaaS purchasing service. We will purchase your software for you and contractually guarantee the savings.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Share your specific requirements with Tropic for a new and renewing agreement. We’ll provide a verified shortlist report of providers with insights unique to you.
  2. Once you know which provider you want, we will purchase the software for you, managing the entire negotiation and signature process on your behalf
  3. We will continue to monitor all your agreements for you and will re-engage when it’s time to repeat the process.

When everyone is on the same page, the decision is painless.

Tropic makes things simple. We save our clients 22% on their software spend on average, while providing confidence that they are using the best providers.

As easy as booking a trip, maybe somewhere tropical.

We want you to enjoy yourself again.

Here are things we don’t do:

  • We don’t show ads for vendors
  • We don’t offer promoted posts
  • We don’t enable providers to buy their way into deals

Thanks for staying with me if you made it this far.

Now, I’m going to ask you for a favor:

  • If you have a software need now, go to and fill out our intake form. We’ll make sure it’s the best buying experience you’ve ever had.
  • If you don’t have a software need now, write “Call Tropic when you need to buy or renew software” on a Post-It note and stick it to your monitor. Or if you use a notepad, stick it to that.

Our website is, and we’d love to hear from you.

Alternatively, just email info@tropicapp.iowhen your next software evaluation comes up.


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David Campbell
David Campbell is the CEO and Co-Founder of Tropic.

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