Despite your best sales efforts, buying is still difficult for customers.
Buyers are often overwhelmed with information – much of it coming at the wrong time or in the wrong quantities. None when they need it. Too much when they don’t. And a lot of it can be confusing.
It makes customers want to put off a buying decision instead of making one.
That’s why sales teams adopt buyer enablement – a spin-off or addition to their sales enablement programs.
Sales pros perform better when they’re backed with enablement tools, researchers find. It only makes sense that buyers will have positive buying experiences and make better decisions when they have enablement tools to use.
“It’s about you being the customers buying Sherpa,” says Brent Adamson, Gartner VP and author of The Challenger Sale. “This simply helps them understand and helps them buy.”
What is buyer enablement
Gartner calls buyer enablement “information or tools that support the completion of critical buying jobs.” Those “jobs” include:
- identifying the problem
- exploring solutions
- building requirements
- selecting a supplier
- validating the choice, and
- getting consensus on the choice.
If prospects have clear information and guidance at the right time during that journey, they’re more likely to buy. That’s where buyer enablement becomes critical.
Why? Prospects use several channels to get information – company websites, industry news, social media, product and service review sites, colleagues and friends. To complicate that even more, most B2B buying decisions are made by a group of 6-10 people – and all of them looked at about five sources of information, Gartner researchers found.
What’s worse, they take in the bulk of information before salespeople are part of the buying picture! In fact, customers say salespeople are the ninth resource they look to for solving business problems, according to a study from CSO Insights, the research division of Miller Heiman Group.
Buyer enablement helps control the potential chaos.
Building a buyer enablement plan
Most sales organizations already have a good portion of the information and depth of tools they need to get started with buyer enablement.
At a minimum, a buyer enablement plan needs to be designed so it is:
- Relevant. The information and tools that prospects receive need to be about their current needs and issues.
- Easy. Buyers shouldn’t have to search too hard – or at all – for relevant information or help when they need it.
- Useful. Prospects should be able to use the information to learn more, share or make decisions now.
- Credible. Research and recognition needs to back up the information.
The best-designed buyer enablement plans are also:
- Shareable. It practically takes a village to make a B2B buying decision these days. And the whole village needs to have the right information at their fingertips at the right time. Anything that’s shared with one decision-maker needs to be easy to pass along.
- Aligned to customers’ emotional needs. Buyers talk about the product or service they need. And you can tell them about yours. But outstanding sales enablement tools also help customers recognize how the products or services will meet underlying (often unspoken) needs – such as performing better, improving their business reputation or making them look better to bosses, colleagues or competitors.
- Provides confidence. Enablement information and tools need to do more than give customers knowledge. They need to make customers feel confident about what they know and what they believe about you. Enablement information and tools should continually reinforce what customers have learned and the direction they’re moving (which should be closer to your solution).
- Lead prospects to your unique strengths. There’s one danger in buyer enablement: You give prospects the knowledge and tools to make a buying decision – and they decide on another supplier! Information and tools should focus on your unique benefits that align with customers’ emotional needs. Customers who get “information that helps (them) advance are three times more likely to feel they got into a high-value, low-regret” deal, says Adamson.
5 tips for optimal buyer enablement
B2B customers spend about 45% of their active buying time doing independent research and 38% of their time discussing what they learned with colleagues involved in the purchase, Gartner researchers found.
They spend less than 20% of their time talking to sales professionals!
That’s why buyer enablement information and tools need to be on target and on time.
These tips for can help optimize:
- Do the map first. Trace your buyer journey from the buyer’s point of view, then create content around it – instead of mapping the buyer journey based on how you think it should go. Recognize that every customer journey will be different and likely linear. More than 75% of buyers go back to at least one part of the journey after they’ve advanced to another stage or “job.” So enablement tools should always be accessible.
- Speak their language. Listen closely to your buyers and customers – in social media, conversations and online inquiries – for the words they use in reference to your solutions. They likely don’t use the acronyms and jargon that’s used inside your organization. Use the language they do throughout your knowledge bank and tools so the right information comes up when they search for it.
- Make enablement a sturdy crutch. Since most buyers choose to spend more time researching solo and less time working with salespeople, buyer enablement is the ultimate sales crutch. Salespeople want to focus on finding the right tools and data and directing buyers to these at the right time – as opposed to being the major source of information. Salespeople can consider themselves the “information connectors.”
- Offer prescriptive advice. You don’t want to tell buyers what they should do: That’s usually a turnoff. But you do want to make recommendations on what to do, occasionally partnered with advice on what not to do. Both need to be backed up by research or case studies that can be verified as easily as a Google search (because prospects will look).
- Give practical support. Prescriptive advice should be coupled with tools customers can use to follow through on the prescriptive advice. More on that in the “Enablement Tools” section.
Build a broad base of buyer enablement content
Your buyer enablement content needs to have one element in common: customer-focus. As much as you want them to see, feel and know how great your solution is, the most important part of content is how your solution benefits buyers.
Keep that top of mind when creating (or re-working) these six types of content that should be part of your buyer enablement plan:
- Social media. Almost 85% of B2B buyers use social media as a source in their buying journey, a MarektingProfs study found. Use your corporate social accounts to regularly share in-depth blog posts on products and services. Salespeople can use personal, professional social accounts to share relevant videos, previous content and case studies at the right times for the buyers in their pipelines.
- Tip sheets. One-page pieces that can be shared electronically or by hand offer a glimpse of your product or service. If you create several tip sheets, each based on a different common problem prospects face, you can pass along the one that’s the right fit for each buyer. Post them on your social media often, too.
- Email. If you don’t already have a marketing-produced email campaign, create one. But keep in mind this important part for optimal buyer enablement: Send messages based on what buyers need, depth of knowledge and level of interest. Don’t send based on the chronological order you think it should be. You can give buyers access to the information from other messages through links at the end of the most relevant message. Then they’re enabled to review or look forward to the information they want and need.
- Case studies. Create a library of video and written testimonials that focus on the benefits other customers have gained from using your solution. You can refer buyers to them, send them via email or share in social.
- Blog posts. Because buyers do so much research on their own, long-form blog posts can be a form of salesperson expertise. Like case studies, refer buyers to or share expert blogs written by salespeople, product developers, the CEO or technicians. Create a library of them for reference on your website.
- White papers. As buyers near the end of their buying decisions, they’ll whittle down their list of suppliers. That’s a good time to offer more in-depth content such as white papers based on your own and industry-wide research and statistics.
With buyer enablement, there’s no exact formula for when you should deliver or offer content. The safest bet is to make it easy to access from any channel at any time.
Create and manage buyer enablement tools
Once you have plenty of buyer enablement content and make it easily accessible to buyers, you want to give them practical tools to use it.
Here are six tools you can offer online, in an app or through a salesperson for buyer enablement:
- Diagnostics. Help buyers identify their pain points – those they may not even recognize when they start looking for solutions. Try a series of questions that all the decision makers should answer to help them identify the most important issues and align their ideas on how they should move forward.
- Calculator. Help customers crunch the relevant numbers quickly. The calculator should be able to show them hard number benefits: increased revenue, improved efficiency, dollars saved.
- Benchmarking. You can showcase how current customers leverage your solution. Show where they were before your solution, progress increments and the final success.
- Simulator. Offer an interactive model to show buyers how your solution would work within their organization.
- Connector. This can be a person or a tool that helps guide customers to and through the information they want. Direct buyers to the connector early in the buying process.
- Advisor. This tool should be designed to give suggestions based on what customers ask and search for. Then it can give them actionable advice.