The rise of the Internet has transformed the B2B marketplace: modern customers are more informed, more proactive, and more socially-engaged than ever. Much of the information buyers used to rely on sellers to provide (product info, pricing, reviews, etc.) can now be found with a quick Google search.
Google surveyed B2B decision-makers last year and found:
- 89 percent of buyers conduct online research during the B2B research process (click to tweet).
- 71 percent begin with a general search query (click to tweet).
- 57 percent of the buying process is complete before a buyer contacts a supplier (click to tweet).
Taken together, these stats tell us that nearly all customers are online, the vast majority search for a product first (not for a vendor), and they’re well-versed on purchase options before ever speaking with a vendor. When they finally do engage, expectations are high, and vendors can face an uphill battle trying to win them over. It’s safe to say the ball is in the customer’s court.
To get deals across the finish line, companies are looking for ways to regain control of their own sales cycles. Since customers are 57 percent finished with the buying process before they reach out, sales reps have a lot of ground to cover. They need to focus on what they can control: the last 43 percent of the customer journey.
That’s where sales enablement comes in.
What is Sales Enablement?
The delivery of MQLs from marketing to sales is one of the most important hand-offs in the entire customer journey. To successfully run with the baton, sellers need to quickly build rapport, get up-to-speed on customers’ requirements, and demonstrate expertise that can’t be found online.
The delivery of MQLs from marketing to sales is one of the most important hand-offs in the entire customer journey.
Sales enablement technology and sales enablement processes arm sellers with the right content during each stage of the sales cycle, so they don’t have to rely on intuition. And content doesn’t just mean collateral; it means marketing materials, coaching, subject matter experts, sales processes and methodology . . . essentially any resource a seller needs to close a deal.
Sales Enablement and the Customer Journey
Sales enablement solutions give vendors the resources they need to make a positive impact during each stage of the purchase process.
1. Make a Strong First Impression
Customers are inundated by sales outreach. On average, C-Level decision makers receive upwards of 150 emails each day. When customers do give sellers a bit of their time, reps should come storming out of the gates, ready to knock their socks off.
By the time a customer finally engages, they don’t just want a repeat of what they already read online. Sellers need to be in the loop on what actions they’ve taken and be able to follow up accordingly.
Sales enablement gives sellers the soft skills and business acumen to ace the first interaction and every subsequent interaction. When your reps have the messaging and resources they need during each stage of the sales cycle, they can engage and educate customers from day one instead of wasting time.
2. Take the Time to Personalize
Customers are tired of sitting through lifeless sales meetings. Instead of leaving vanilla voicemails or giving half-baked presentations, B2B vendors must bring their A-game.
They aren’t just on the hook for closing deals; they must also navigate stakeholder politics, abide by increasing regulatory requirements, and adapt as product offerings expand. In fact, 70 percent of sellers classify their jobs as moderately to highly complex.
Fortunately, sales enablement solutions are giving vendors more time to focus on the customer. Gone are the days of searching inboxes and scouring desktops for the right pitch books and product sheets; they’re served up inside of a sales content portal or CRM. Instead of delivering a cookie cutter sales pitch or presentation, they can quickly tailor content while staying compliant with brand guidelines (a marketer’s dream).
When sellers make the effort to personalize, it shows they care more about the relationship than the transaction. What customer wouldn’t be thrilled to know a seller did their homework before meeting with them?
3. Build Credibility
Customers don’t want you to sell to them. They want you to help them see value. Being viewed as a credible resource is vital to building healthy business relationships and gaining stakeholder consensus. Unfortunately, 75 percent of buyers feel like they’re way ahead of the salespeople who are supposed to be “helping” them.
Sales is about relationships, and relationships are built on trust. To earn a customer’s trust, you must demonstrate a fluent understanding of their business, the industry, and market trends at work. What changes are impacting their business? How will your product or solution improve their bottom line?
Sales enablement gives your sales team access to resources from experts across their organization so they can deliver a clear, timely value proposition and prove they’re the best vendor for the job. Successful sales teams have the right content, coaching, and expertise, and they know when to apply it based on the potential customer’s buying stage. Over time, customers will view their sales rep/account manager as a trusted advisor — not just someone who’s scheming to win new business.
Sales enablement is one great way to improve the customer journey, but there are many others. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below!
Jillian Eyl is the Demand Generation Program Manager at SAVO, a leading provider of enterprise-grade sales enablement technology. She executes strategic integrated campaigns including email marketing, webinars, events, social media, and blogging.