Stop “Selling” to Customers, and start “Helping Customers to Buy” instead.
The sales have become far more complex and challenging during the last 10 years. The modern buyers have researched product information, reviews, competitors, and pricing online to become educated, and thereby taken a significant part of what the sales rep originally did. The buyers are digital and empowered with access to unlimited information. Recent studies show that buyers spend up to 75% of their buying journey online before speaking with a sales rep. That means that the job of a sales rep has ultimately changed and that many classical sales reps need new competencies.
Marketing in a much more central role
The best presentation topics in a meeting have also changed – as most of the traditional and general information regarding “Industry Challenges, “Success Stories”, “Product Features” is now mostly covered through the customers’ research process.
Marketing now has a much higher stake in addressing the customer’s need for information on different channels in the early stages of their buying process. If the customers are not able to find answers to their basic questions and doubts, the likelihood of getting into a meeting at all will reduce dramatically, and they will go elsewhere.
If your content marketing has worked, the sales rep will meet potentials that are educated to some extent and know more or less what they want. At least they know they have a need and have explored possible solutions.
Gartner states that only 17% of the buying process is spent in meetings with potential suppliers.
That’s why you need to make those 17% counts.
If a sales rep cannot showcase how a product will solve the prospect’s business problem, then they lose interest. Even worse, the buyer will go to the competitor if they can provide a product or solution that ultimately solves the business problem.
In the report “Win more B2B Sales Deals” from 2018, Gartner has developed the term buyer enablement.
“Instead of deploying information to enable sellers to sell more easily‚ apply those same skills — combined with empathy and deep industry and customer knowledge — to develop and deploy information to help buyers buy.”
Brent Adamson, Principal Executive Advisor‚ Gartner
The central part of buyer enablement is a deep understanding of the buyers’ journey, which is essential for being able to address all needs and expectations of all people involved.
Depending on the complexity, a typical B2B buying process will go through different stages to complete the process and buy from you. Gartner describes those six stages of a complex buying process as “Buying Jobs.” Those stages are not made one by one – it will vary from company to company. In some cases, several steps can be done at the same time, and very often looping back or revisiting an earlier stage.:
- 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 do?”
- Validation. “We think we know the right answer, but we need to be sure.”
- Consensus creation. “We need to get everyone on board.”
Being able to deliver a buyer-centric sales approach with a well-defined Sales Enablement process - is a way of enabling the buyers, helping them to complete their buying process through relevant information and interactions.
Especially in the last 2-3 stages, the buying process has become much harder, as more stakeholders and sources of information will be involved.
In this example – Gartner has mapped out the buying journey.
Buyer enablement demands an aligned content strategy
Customers crave content to make a well-informed decision, which is why the relationship between sales and marketing is significant to succeed. Not just with Sales Enablement, but the buyer-centric approach in general.
The library of needed sales collateral should match all stages and touch-points of the sales process. The material should be able to address the customers’ and different personas’ needs for information and expectations throughout their entire buying journey. If you have a gap in the content, not addressing all stages, all decision-makers, and all concerns, it will affect the likelihood of winning the business.
Often up to 6-10 stakeholders are involved in a business decision. As a result, it is of the highest importance that marketing and sales are addressing each of these different personas with compelling content and insights.
To support buyer enablement, the content strategy needs to follow along, educating the prospects and helping them to make a decision.
What type of content is needed?
In the first phases, your need to create qualified leads through inbound marketing activities. In that face, it is essential to be as honest and open as possible.
“…If the marketplace is asking it, you must address it“
Marcus Sheridan, author of the absolute must-read
book for Content Creators “They Ask – You Answer”
The types of content in that early phase of “problem identification” should help the prospect to understand WHY they should consider any change or initiative. That answer will vary depending on the complexity of your offering.
Still, you should have industry reports, research, whitepapers, and customer cases and reviews on your website and use different digital channels to inspire and educate the prospect in the initial phases of the buyers’ buying journey, before a real sales-dialogue.
In some cases, this type of content effectively identifies a potential misfit by helping the prospect’s to understand what the products and services are, and even importantly are not.
In the “solution exploration” phase, the prospect needs to understand more deeply the WHAT. What kind of change is required – and whom it will impact?
It means looking into and identifying the different types of solutions that could help to solve their needs, and narrowing down the potential solutions. In this phase, the content and meeting interactions should start to advise and guide the prospect to make a decision, typically through buying guides, customer references, and demos with different suppliers. These pieces of content will help your customers explore the possibilities and what is needed.
Both in the “solution exploration” and in the following stages “requirements building” and “supplier selection” the variety of content will vary depending on the complexity of the offering and on the maturity of the prospect.
Content and meeting interactions should advise and guide the prospect not only to make a decision but also to build their Request for Proposal - “RFP”.
If you have done right and educated and guided all involved stakeholders well - you might even be able to influence the RFP to match our strengths.
Read: They ask You answer
We recommend this must-read within content marketing and how to generate inbound sales among modern and digital buyers.