Move from sales enablement to buyer enablement
It’s no exaggeration to say that COVID-19 has triggered a B2B sales transformation. Strict social distancing restrictions and a ban on non-essential travel are vital for public health, but they also mean it’s never been harder to get close to your customer. You can’t have face-to-face conversations, or show groups around experience centres, and with key contacts on furlough in your team or the customer’s, it can lead to difficulty in communicating, strained relationships, and missed sales opportunities.
Things are never going to go back to ‘normal’
If you think you can just wait it out until things go back to ‘normal’, think again. This new socially distanced world is here to stay, with 74% of companies planning to permanently shift to more remote working post-COVID.
Compound this with the fact that face-to-face time in the B2B buyer journey is already decreasing. Gartner research finds that when B2B buyers are considering a purchase‚ they spend only 17% of that time meeting with potential suppliers. And when buyers are comparing multiple suppliers, the amount of time spent with any one sales rep may be as little as 5% to 6%.
B2B sales teams haven’t fully adapted to this new world yet. While over 90% of B2Bs have transitioned to a virtual sales model during COVID-19, almost half feel that this approach is less effective than traditional face-to-face selling.
So what can sales leaders do to increase their teams’ efficacy and stay close to customers in this new distanced era?
A radical sales culture transformation
Lockdown is certainly challenging, however it also presents an opportunity to reflect and rethink sales on a fundamental level. But this means more than merely papering over the cracks with revamped sales enablement collateral.
Instead, B2B companies desperately need a paradigm shift in their sales culture and behaviour to meet and exceed today’s buyer expectations. This requires viewing your B2B sales enablement model from the perspective of the customer – switching your mindset from sales enablement (helping your sellers to sell) to buyer enablement (helping your customers to buy).
Buyers value this help. Customers who perceive a supplier’s information as useful in advancing their buyer journey are 2.8 times more likely to experience a high degree of purchase ease, and three times more likely to buy a bigger deal with less regret.
But as well as a shift in mindset, this fresh perspective also requires retraining and an updated approach to sales enablement collateral, so sales teams can put themselves in the buyers’ shoes, opening up new dialogue and better man marking customers while serving as disruptive, proactive thought leaders to guide them through every stage of their buyer journey.
Mine social for insights to socially reconnect
But how can you reach the level of buyer understanding necessary for this customer-first approach? Especially in a socially distanced world, or when the procurement shutters have come down in a complex bid or RFP process? Social media is the world’s largest freely available data mine of your customers’ opinions, but many sales teams leave this valuable resource untapped.
Why? Because complex buying groups often by their very nature obscure the actual implicit needs and characteristics of the individual, making it easy to forget that even in B2B it’s still people who do the buying. People who, like all of us, make emotional decisions based on business objectives, bonuses, professional interests, personal beliefs, or concerns and career goals.
Using social listening to filter out what’s really on their minds, and how their feelings might change throughout the buyer journey, is vital. With the right ‘social listening’ training your sales teams can use this information to build personalised conversation maps, applying your insights to develop personalised value propositions and a man-marking strategy that resonates with your target’s unique decision making style.
Hyper-personalise every touchpoint
Once you’ve defined and mapped your customer value propositions, you can use these to hyper-personalise every touchpoint to focus on the customer and their specific needs, challenges and opportunities, adapting and evolving with them as they navigate their buying journey.
This helps to bring out the ‘so what?’ to the customer, instead of the ‘spray and pray’ approach of listing hundreds of products and their features and crossing your fingers that something resonates.
Infiltrate, embed and grow
With some 6-10 individuals involved in the average buying group, another – often missed – key strategy is to ensure you extend your insight, and engagement, beyond your immediate contacts. Mapping key decision makers and identifying influencers means that you can infiltrate, embed and grow within the customer’s organisation by taking a strategic overview of the entire ecosystem and the personalities within it.
You won’t be stuck always talking to the same old people as you can develop personalised entry points for each stakeholder based on what keeps them up at night, and how you can help in a way that speaks directly to their human drivers: their fears and aspirations.
Case study: Transforming sales culture in action
Leading mobile services company Brightstar challenged us to help them launch an exciting new set of capabilities to a diverse mix of customers, each with very distinct needs, at The GSMA Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest exhibition for the mobile industry.
We used a highly personalised, verticalised approach to develop a series of unique value propositions to address individual target customer challenges, and those of their end-customers too.
Armed with this invaluable insight we crafted a series of simple scenarios to communicate capabilities through clear benefits and outcomes personal to carriers, retailers and enterprise organisations and their unique ecosystem. This approach was cascaded into Brightstar’s sales enablement strategy; equipping sales teams with simple, journey-led sales tools and ensuring that Brightstar’s customer-first strategy was lived from the very first interaction. With inbuilt flexibility to tailor the customer’s experience, whether on or offline, we have ensured that they remain at the heart of their personal journey, enabling a clear and simple sales interaction.
See how we also profiled and mapped Addison Lee Group’s key decision makers across sectors to devise focused value propositions and penetrate new markets across the UK, US and Asia.
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