Winning in B2B sales is less about selling and more about making it easy to buy. Enter buyer enablement. Let’s find out more.
If you’re in B2B sales, you’re not alone if you think your job is hard right now. You may even agree that selling is harder today than it’s ever been in the past. But have you tried putting yourself in your buyers’ shoes and looking at things from their point of view? Buying B2B solutions has also never been harder. Yet, when you understand the challenges your buyers face when they want to purchase a solution – and try to address them – you can make buying from you much simpler, differentiate yourself from your competitors, and ultimately, sell more. That’s where buyer enablement comes in.
In this article, we’ll examine what has changed in the B2B buying process to make it such a hard slog and why traditional sales-centric approaches are less effective. Next, we’ll look at buyer enablement and how you can transition to a more buyer-focused sales strategy. Finally, we’ll show you how Forward can empower you to embrace buyer enablement and drive better sales results. Let’s get started.
The biggest change in the B2B process is that more people are involved in a purchase than ever before. In the past, a salesperson could make a call or set up a meeting where they’d take one or two people through a demo and take it from there. Now, there are entire buying teams.
Research by Gartner found that a typical buying team consists of 6-10 people.
These 6-10 people will all come from different functions across the business, including sales, marketing, finance, legal, IT, data management and more. Each one will have different priorities and different reasons for buying this solution. For example, the sales leader may be more concerned with the solution’s effectiveness while the Finance Director will have a closer eye on price. Also, each buying team member will come to the having done their own digital research on how to meet their priorities. The same Gartner research found that each person on the buying team will share an average of four pieces of information with the rest of the group.
However, rather than there being strength in numbers, large buying teams make transactions more complicated. What used to be a step-by-step buying journey is a complex web of back-and-forth.
It’s no surprise that Gartner discovered 77% of buyers agree that B2B purchases have become ‘very complex and difficult.’
For buyers, the most challenging part of getting a deal over the line isn’t deciding what problem to solve, exploring the marketplace or gathering information; it’s validating the information everyone presents and achieving a consensus on the purchase. Information overload and conflicting priorities between buying team members mean the buying journey typically requires much looping back and duplication of work.
However, larger buying teams is not the only way the B2B buying journey has evolved. Another significant change is that buyers don’t want to be sold to anymore. In a recent Gartner survey, 43% of buyers said they would prefer a buying experience without any contact at all with sales reps. Instead of engaging with vendors, they undertake their own research (often on vendors’ websites or review sites such as G2), only getting salespeople involved at the last possible moment. Only around 17% of the buying process now takes place between the buyer and seller. 45% is independent research.
So, with buying decisions now being made behind closed doors by large groups of often conflicting buyers, where does that leave B2B sales teams?
The biggest issue with the standard sales process where you could start with a cold call, arrange a meeting where you’d pitch, negotiate then seal the deal, is that salespeople don’t have that kind of access to decision-makers anymore. They’re not in the room where it happens and don’t have nearly as many opportunities to influence anymore. If you’re a sales rep today, by the time you speak to a buyer, they’ve already spent several hours researching your solution, whether it can help them and where you sit in the marketplace. And, of course, that buyer is only 10-20% of the decision-making team. How can you move the needle?
In addition, sales teams working with traditional methodologies don’t have the same level of control over information that they used to. In the past, the pitch deck you sent over or what you imparted on a demo would be taken as the gospel truth. Today, buyers will go to your website (where you can control what they see), but they’ll also go on social media, visit review sites or talk to peers at events. In those situations, you have no influence over the information they gather.
And, of course, as discussed in the previous section, buyers no longer want to be on the end of traditional sales techniques. No one wants to feel like they’re being BANTed or MEDDICed.
The fact is, the traditional sales-centric approach does little to address the challenges buyers face. 77% of buyers think buying is too hard. Rather than carrying on in the same way we always have, we should look at what we can do to reduce that number. Even though we never asked for 10-person buying teams or the rise of independent digital research, this is the world we live in and we need to deal with it.
Enter buyer enablement.
Buyer enablement is the use of information to help buyers buy. It marks a 180-degree shift from the traditional attitude where the focus was on helping sellers sell. By switching the focus, sales teams can more effectively address the new buying environment illustrated earlier.
Here’s what effective buyer enablement looks like for B2B sales teams. Contrast it with the traditional sales-centric approach:
While this all looks great on paper, how do you make it work in real life?
The cornerstone of any buyer enablement strategy is delivering relevant content to the right people at the right time. The format of this content isn’t that important, although it could cover articles, infographics, videos, technical specs, contract proposals and much more. What matters is that this content is:
But how do you create unique, persuasive content and present it to the right buyers at precisely the right time? It’s not easy.
The first step is to ensure you understand your target account on a deeper level and the problems they face. There will be a business problem which you need to draw out from them in order to create the right messaging that sells your product as the answer. However, there will also be a buying problem.
Solving your target account’s buying problem can only happen if you know the process they go through when making a B2B purchase. Your first contact will probably be with the person in the organisation who will get the biggest day-to-day benefit from your solution, and they will become your ‘champion’. You need to use that first contact to help you understand who else is on the buying team and what their priorities are. You also need them to help you map out the buying process, so you can be there with the right content at precisely the right moment.
As you begin to work with your target account to guide them through the buyer’s journey, your role is to make buying from you as pleasant and easy as possible. Where you can, be proactive and anticipate the information each buying team member needs and when they need it. However, in the moments when they want to talk to you, be responsive. Meet each buyer on the channel they prefer, whether that’s the phone, email, mobile or anything else (even in person). The longer you spend with an account, the easier you’ll find it to speak their language and push the right buttons to move the deal forward. When you work in this way, you gain their trust and are seen as a consultant or advisor rather than a salesperson. This is the holy grail in the new B2B environment.
Within your organisation, it’s essential that your sales and marketing teams are fully aligned. Both sides need to work together to achieve the success your company needs. For example, sales needs marketing to create the relevant content they will provide to their buyers. But to make this happen, marketing needs to understand the buying process and what members of the buying team will want to see in their content. Clear and transparent communication is critical. Make revenue the goal rather than leads or deals.
Finally, you need a tech platform in your revenue teams that takes as much of this process out of the hands of your reps as possible. Keeping on top of multiple buyers across a territory of accounts is a tough job and mistakes can often happen. At the same time, a buyer enablement platform also makes life easier for your buyers, allowing them to locate, view and share content in one place rather than trawling through email threads and Google Drives. Your tech can be one of the reasons buyers enjoy dealing with you. It becomes part of your brand and a reason behind your success.
Forward is the buyer enablement platform that gives your buyers everything they need in one place. Here’s how it works:
Sales teams love Forward as it makes sales a collaborative process with their buyers, shortening the sales cycle and reducing the number of deals that go dark. They can sell in the way their buyers want, delivering unique, relevant content in a digital setting, as and when they need it.
Buyers like Forward because it gives them the easy buying experience they demand. Each part of the buying team can work on the parts where they have responsibility, with the right information at their fingertips – and no endless email threads.
B2B buying has changed. But with Forward, you can join the modern way of selling and reap the rewards.