Before we look into buyer enablement lets firstly consider sales enablement. This is one of the most commonly used terms in B2B sales today as companies focus on what training, methodologies, processes, metrics, tools, information and content can be utilised to positively impact the performance of sales individuals and teams. Everything is about helping sellers to sell.

You’ve got all of these great tools and processes designed to help you prospect, communicate, manage the funnel and close deals. But they’re all about you the seller. They’ve been created to make you more effective in selling.

The irony in this principle is that it’s the buyers that control the selling today not the sellers.

The buyers determine when and how they wish to engage with you.

In the past sellers were a necessity as they were the providers of the general information and knowledge required to educate buyers. We all know that this is no longer the case and most buyers are able and willing to research online independently.

It’s much tougher for sellers to get meetings and time with buyers as only 15% of them feel that meetings with sales are valuable.

Buyers only want to engage with sellers if they are able to add value to them in solving a business problem or achieving a business goal.

Adding or creating value is a major obstacle for sellers today and 94% of sales leaders believe that their sellers struggle to deliver value. Value includes providing expertise, sharing relevant opinions or giving advice to prospects.

So, what is being done to make the buyer more effective in buying? Sounds like a crazy question, right?

Surely, they’ve got the easy part, they’ve just got to decide what problems they need to address, evaluate suppliers, and make a decision, job done. If only it was a simple as that.

Gartner has produced a well-publicised diagram that summarises the chaotic and complex typical buyers journey, a link to view it is in the first comment.

The complexity of buying

The reality is that the buying process is now more challenging than the selling process, but salespeople see everything through biased eyes.

77% of buying decisions are deemed complex or difficult.

One of the reasons for this is the number of people now involved in the buying process, this is typically between 6-10, more often than not it’s around 8 or 9. The more people involved the more complexity they add.

Given that most decisions are now made by achieving consensus within the buyer group it’s understandable why sales cycles have got longer and the number of forecasted opportunities that resulted in a no-decision outcome last year was over 50%.

The research also showed that the greater the number of people in the buyer group the greater the chance of a no-decision.

When you think about it this makes sense. People are complex, they’ll look at most situations with their own issues, KPI’s and agendas in mind. Of course, they’ll also have the corporate objectives to account for when contributing input, recommendations or decisions to the rest of the buyer group, but the balancing act between personal and corporate is a challenge for most contacts.

Most projects will result in some winners and some losers, because selling involves change management. Some gain and others suffer internal pain with many decisions that move forwards.

If you analysed each member of the buyer group you will often find that they have shared, differing and opposed interests related to the project. This is one of the reasons that make consensus difficult to achieve.

Too much information

The buying process is predominantly made up of internal buyer group activities.

They spend 27% of the buying process researching information online and 18% offline, and they do this independently from each other. They then come together and spend 22% trying to build consensus across the group, but much of this is spent deconflicting all of the information.

To add to this internal buying challenge salespeople then bombard buyers with even more information designed to guide and influence them to choose the sellers product or service. The results are the polar opposite. The amount and type of information provided has a reverse effect, it actually makes it more difficult to make a decision. It creates analysis paralysis.

Companies are creating new content at an exponential rate and salespeople pass it on to prospects using the ‘lucky dip’ method – You might find something useful and relevant in this so I’ve sent it to you. And of course, the content is biased towards their proposition rather than insightful or helpful.

Think about what you send to your prospects today, now multiply that by all of the competitors also trying to win business with them. Do you honestly think that it will get read? Do you honestly think this has helped or hindered their decision process?

Buyers rate over two-thirds of all information sent to them by sellers as not being impactful or helping them complete jobs and only serves to add to their difficulties.

Buyer tasks

Buyers think of a purchase in terms of discrete tasks rather than a step by step journey. Completion of some jobs may ultimately depend on others so some tasks are worked on in parallel.

Gartner research broke the buyer tasks down into 4 main steps.

  • Problem identification – “We need to do something”
  • Solution exploration – “What’s out there to solve our problem”?
  • Requirements building – “What exactly do we need the purchase to do”?
  • Supplier selection – “Does this do what we want it to”?

During the execution of these tasks, the buyer group also undertakes ongoing validation – ” we think we know the right answer but we need to be sure”.

They’re also focused on consensus creation – “we need to get everyone on board”.

Some of the chaos and indecision comes from ‘looping’ where the buyer group revisits one or more of the completed tasks.

What is buyer enablement?

Think of buyer enablement as the provision of information that supports the completion of critical buying jobs.

This includes prescriptive advice ‘The What’ and the practical support ‘The How’.

  1. Help us know what to do and how to do it
  2. Help us complete discrete job-related activities

 

Buyer enablement means helping your prospects buyer group to navigate the complexity and make a decision. One that benefits them, anything contrived to benefit yourself above them will be easily recognisable and you’ll be put out with the rest of the garbage they receive.

Sellers are 62% more likely to win business with a good buying experience. Showing that you want to help them rather than sell to them is a great way to be buyer-centric.

The best buyer enablement comes from:

  1. Identifying who’s in the buyer group, this may take some time and in longer sales cycles could change
  2. Understand their roles and responsibilities
  3. Understand what’s important to each of them
  4. Understand their concerns and challenges associated with change
  5. Understand the dynamics between them
  6. Providing help to bridge the gap between buyer contact interests relating to the purchase
  7. Understand who is responsible or involved in each buying task
  8. Provide relevant information and insights to help them with that specific buying task at that specific time
  9. Not making them search for the value in the content, make it clear where it is and why it may help them
  10. Providing relevant reports, whitepapers, webinars, data analysis, ROI calculators NOT company or product brochures

What now?

Buyer enablement is not an alternative to sales enablement, it should be part of it. If sales enablement is to maximise the positive impact that it has on sales performance it must incorporate an understanding and strategy for buyer enablement.

Buyer enablement needs to be a collaboration between marketing and sales. Content and information will need to address and help each buying task that your prospects undertake. As a company, you need to fully understand your customers and how they will handle buying what you sell. There’s a good chance they won’t have a process for it, so they will need guidance and advice based on your experience working with other companies.

This may be an alien way of thinking to many in sales who have become set and stereotypical in their ways. Start thinking buyers first.

As sales leaders, you’ll know that this level of change requires discipline, commitment and continuous reinforcement. Half-hearted efforts will be a waste of money and of an opportunity. In a time when sellers are struggling to differentiate their product or service differentiating the buyer experience through buyer enablement will serve you well.

Selling can be like building a jigsaw puzzle if you don’t have all of the buying pieces in place you can’t complete it.

A big thank you to Gartner, CSO and Forrester for contributing such insightful research.

Check out how Boxxsteps Relationship Mapping software helps you manage and understand the buyer group

Share with your network