I have been told that traditional selling practices based on consultative selling and value add are “old school” and do not take account of new technology, social media and remote working. Buyers are informed and speed of sale and price sensitivity are the new maxims.
Of course, each seller MUST know their cost of sale and market price range to ensure that they can profitably sell. Equally, every business strives for efficiency in all business processes, especially sales.
Indeed, in this new world the big sales challenge is the ready availability of quality information through digital channels which has made it far easier for buyers to gather information independently.
Given that a typical buying group can involves up to 10 decision makers‚ each armed with four or five pieces of information they’ve gathered independently, it is obvious that the buying journey has become increasingly complex. At the same time, the set of options and solutions buying groups can consider is expanding as new technologies, products, suppliers and services emerge.
The outcome is that these dynamics make it increasingly difficult for customers to make purchases.
The fallout from this buying complexity is that buyers value suppliers that make it easier for them to navigate the purchase process.
For suppliers to be able to assist purchasers make the buying decision they must therefore have an appreciation of what tasks go into finalising a purchase.
In general, the following buying activities are undertaken before a purchase can be made:
- 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.”
To win in this B2B buying environment, suppliers should focus on providing customers with information that is specifically designed to help them complete their buying activities – This is called “buyer enablement”.
Just as sales enablement helps sellers sell, buyer enablement helps buyers buy by providing them with prescriptive advice and practical support to make the buying process easier to navigate and complete.
At a minimum, buyer enablement must be:
- Relevant to the specific challenges buyers face
- Easy for the customer to use quickly and effectively
- Useful for customers in accomplishing the intended buying activity
- Credible and backed up by data and facts
The best buyer enablement will also be shareable, align to customers’ emotional needs, provide confidence and lead back to supplier’s unique differentiators.
If buyer enablement is the “new” normal it clearly fits comfortably with the traditional “old” school values of consultative selling and value add practices. Good B2B sellers have always positioned their value proposition in terms of their customers wants and needs.
Buyer enablement is a natural progression of consultative selling which enables the seller to help the buyer differentiate the right product to meet their needs from the multitude of competing information sources and enforces the sellers position as a trusted advisor.
The development in the complexity of the buying process does have other implications for the sales process. The buying activities that are mentioned above are not linear in as much as one does not necessarily follow on from the other. As such sales pipelines and forecasting procedures need to reflect that these activities can happen in parallel but equally, they can also be revisited as more buyer stakeholders share information. In many sellers forecasting systems this enablement stage will likely show itself as a stuck sale even though genuine progress is being made with the buyer in overcoming obstacles and the seller differentiating their product from those of the competition.
Equally most traditional sales and marketing teams are organised in a linear fashion: marketing generates and nurtures demand early through multiple channels before handing off the most qualified of opportunities to sales for in-person follow up. However, as we have seen most buyers don’t buy in a linear fashion so in today’s world of B2B buying there is no handoff from digital to in-person, it too is a parallel process and therefore the sales and marketing functions must reflect this non-linear buying approach.
At Fresh Eyes Associates we specialise in helping companies review their B2B consultative sales and account management functions and we would be happy to answer any questions that this article might have raised about your company’s sales approach.
Please call 07971 052857 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Or check out our website at www.fresheyesassociates.co.uk