Be more customer focused they say.
Help your customers on their buying journey they say.
Provide content to guide them through the decision process they say.
All great advice.
What an opportunity for sales teams to stand out from the crowd.
And what happens?
Sales teams send them a load of sales crap because we can’t help but make everything about us, our training and instincts mean that we shine the spotlight on ourselves.
The vast majority of content is created to promote and sell our own propositions.
There is nothing wrong with that as part of the overall engagement, but this doesn’t help our potential customers navigate the complexity of deciding and buying, it only adds to it.
Think about it for a moment.
You, along with all of your competitors, create a mountain of content and insights which confuse the hell out of your prospects because everyone states that they’re the best in many different ways.
Buyers then have to spend a big chunk of time sifting through all of the crap from sellers to work out what’s real and what’s relevant.
No wonder decision processes take so long or end up with the customer doing nothing.
The reality is that product differentiation is bloody tough, and almost impossible to prove during buyer engagements. Sending them your contrived and biased crap has little or no positive impact.
It’s well known that buyers are struggling during the buying process, so do yourself a favour if you want to be remembered create neutral content that helps them decide, not just content about you.
Gartner have coined the term Buyer Enablement and it’s the idea of creating materials, programs and content that help a customer in their own process of decision making.
The concept is absolutely what is needed.
Unfortunately, the ways that it’s being interpreted is different to what was intended.
Buyer enablement is not another flavour of sales enablement.
A key concept in sales enablement is to ‘influence’ whereas buyer enablement should be to ‘help’. Many in sales struggle to separate and manage the two, despite the vastly contrasting meanings.
Influence – to affect, control or manipulate something or someone; the ability to change fluctuating things such as thoughts or decisions.
Help – make it easier or possible for someone to do something by offering advice, services or resources.
And in this case the ‘do something’ is to make a decision.
Sales has been a distinctly selfish profession, but it has to change because buyers and buying has changed.
So, before you send them your piles of sales crap to influence them think about what you could send to help them.
Here’s a simple way of considering what you need to create for buyers:
Buyer enablement = Focus on ‘Why change and why now ‘?
Sales enablement = Focus on ‘Why us‘?
Remember, buyer enablement is a priority over sales enablement, because without the decision to ‘change‘, and ‘now‘, there is no opportunity for ‘us‘.
You, along with some of your competitors, will have solutions to their problems or goals and in many cases, buyers will struggle to separate one vendor from the other based on the trumpet blowing content they’ve received.
Don’t just rely on whitepapers, customer testimonials, case studies and any other look at me content, put yourself in the buyer’s shoes.
The buying process will comprise lots of people and lots of jobs and tasks that they need to complete to enable them to move forward.
How can you help them?
The buying experience, that’s how.
Gartner’s research showed that 62% of buyers would prioritise doing business with companies that differentiate the buying experience.
Sounds good, right?
OK, let’s rethink what we provide to buyers.
Not everything can be resolved with marketing collateral, whilst it may be interesting and sometimes insightful, it does little to move the needle in the buyer’s journey.
There are many questions that buyers ask themselves during the decision process before they get to vendor selection, these can be showstoppers that could ultimately contribute to a delayed or no-decision?
Is it the right time to change?
Can we afford to change?
Can we afford not to change?
What could be gained if we changed?
What do we need to know?
What do we need to consider?
What do we need to prepare?
Who needs to be involved?
Creating simple offline/online tools to help buyers answer their own buying questions can be a game changer in the buying experience. They can be input based files or web-based tools.
Here are some ideas, including some that Gartner identified:
DIAGNOSTICS – To assess if they are ready to make a change.
BENCHMARKS – That allow prospects to compare themselves to others based on important business measurements.
CALCULATORS – That help them to build their own internal business case. The obvious option would be ROI, but make sure this also includes the ability to build in internal costs, not just the costs of the solution purchase.
CHECKLISTS – To ensure that they done all of the right stuff. Who better to advise them than you based on doing many similar projects for others?
DECISION MAP – Who are typically involved? Deals get delayed because different stakeholders and buyers are added to the discussion late in the process. Give them the heads up on the typical roles/functions that should be engaged based on your experience.
Sales teams are struggling to figure out what they can do to significantly improve their outcomes.
More product and domain knowledge can help.
More sales training can help.
Better sales processes can help?
More sales tools can help.
But they help the seller not the buyer.
Improving your selling does not make the all important buying part easier.
Combine any improvements you make to your selling with improvements in the customers buying experience with you.
By creating customer focused content, tools and programs that help them in their process of decision making you are also helping your own chances of achieving your desired outcomes.
It’s a win win.
Check out our blog ‘What is Buyer Enablement?’ to learn more about how to help your customers to decide and buy.