Sell something to a prospect, and you might earn a valuable commission. Help a prospect buy, and you might earn a valuable customer. This practice — helping prospects buy — is buyer enablement. And it requires a deeper understanding of purchasing preferences and the buying process itself, particularly with self-service. In this area, B2B teams have been slow to adapt.
Previously, I shared part one of a two-part post on B2B buyers and digital selling. That first post described how digital, self-service purchasing disrupts sales and marketing. Today, I share part two. This second post focuses on improvements that sales executives can make to deliver self-service capabilities through digital selling, so let’s start with this buyer enablement topic.
Many sales teams ineffectively build processes from the inside out. For example, they create sales stages without considering buying stages or they enable sales teams without enabling buyer teams, even though helping buyers complete purchasing tasks quickly and successfully is gold. Without enablement, buyers may look elsewhere for value. In essence, B2B buyers can purchase anywhere, anytime — with or without you. Some suggestions:
- Buying journey. Interview customers, document the detailed actions needed to purchase a product from you, then find improvement areas.
- Buyer workflows. Deploy self-service tools for buying tasks throughout the journey, with links to demand generation, SDR, and inside sales teams.
- Pilot projects. Pilot at least one or two self-service projects to learn and adapt (examples: content, demo, pricing, freemium, trial, purchase).
Buying signals help sellers qualify and prioritize their deals. Historically, sales teams have relied on signals that come from face-to-face interactions. A buyer’s tone of voice or body language, for example, help reps understand a buyer’s intentions. As buyers choose self-service activities over personal interactions, however, the number of traditional signals declines … dramatically. These vanishing signals often occur in early buying stages. Fortunately, the signals are still there, but they are increasingly digital. Where to focus:
- Signal orchestration. Analyze digital signals and apply insights throughout the buyer’s journey; this improves deal prioritization and forecasting.
- Deal correlation. Correlate buying signals and selling behaviors with both closed-won and closed-lost deals to update workflows and increase win rates.
- Leadership guidance. Initiate a digital signal project; relying on a declining number of interpersonal signals adds risk throughout the sales process.
The most successful sales leaders hit near-term goals while achieving long-term transformation. In a new report, Getting Started With The Insights-Driven Sales System, I provide Forrester clients with the frameworks and insights needed to achieve this. The report also includes examples of both quick wins and strategic, longer-term projects. Without a doubt, the most successful B2B transformations make buying more productive. What to consider:
- Sales process. Outbound prospecting teams are often disconnected with buyer preferences and self-service workflows; quickly integrate these areas.
- Organizational design. Update team structure, size, skills, objectives, and metrics — to enable buyers in specific areas of the buying journey.
- Digital selling. Use insights to target ideal clients, using processes and technology to improve buyer content, engagement, and purchasing.
Self-service B2B buying, mixed with a slowing economy, makes matters more complex. At the start of the year, Forrester’s 2022 Global B2B Revenue Leadership Online Survey revealed that more than three-quarters of leaders expected revenue plans to go up by more than 10%. Since then, we’ve seen war in Ukraine, rate increases from central banks, and decreases in quarterly economic output. As a result, growth plans may now be overly optimistic.
With 10–12 years of strong economic growth behind us, most US sales reps aged 35 and younger have never sold during a recession. Nor have firstline managers in the same age range led a team during such a time. Similarly, sales professionals with expertise selling to digital buyers are in short supply. These challenges are worthy of executive attention — so, too, are the opportunities that come with buyer enablement, digital signals, and sales transformation.