Traditionally, businesses selling products and services to other businesses (commonly referred to as B2B) incorporate many departments to make the process go smoothly. These include marketing, sales, customer support, legal, production, logistics, warehousing, and HR. Inevitably, technology also enters the picture, with online communication and particularly social media playing an increased role in completing sales efforts.
Given the fast pace of B2B markets, the left hand increasingly has no clue what the right hand is doing. Team harmony falters or completely collapses as inter-departmental coordination falls apart. So, the notion of sales enablement has emerged as an important tool to align all the moving parts.
Sales enablement functions based on organizing, prioritizing, and executing programs converge on the efforts of cross-functional teams. The goal is to connect with customers’ decision-makers through:
- Defined initiatives
- Research feedback
- Cutting edge reports
- Maximization of IT channels
Integrating your processes will help you come out on top in a highly competitive and complex marketplace.
What you need to know about the B2B customer experience
Back in the day, a company’s reps would travel to the customers in their region to meet with the buyer. The latter held sway over what to buy and reject. As a result, much rested on personal relationships and the many hours dining and entertaining buyers who could swing million-dollar contracts at the stroke of a pen. Relationship marketing took center stage, with buyers and reps building friendships, making it difficult for any newcomer to break through with a superior product.
In current B2B scenarios, things are vastly different because certain groundbreaking events turned things upside down:
- The technology revolution, where SaaS applications (and other software innovations) substantially disrupted brand dominance that had been entrenched for decades.
- Direct physical connections faded away as Zoom conferencing, Google Docs, and WhatsApp supported remote engagement.
- The role of “buyer” significantly diminished as new tech-centric entrants knocked at the door. It became increasingly difficult to allocate the time, latitude, and skills to absorb new data.
- COVID-19 hit customers and marketers between the eyes, sending employees scrambling to home offices.
- CEOs simultaneously grew nervous without everyone under the same roof, scrutinizing projects and decisions coming through the pipeline.
Consequently, the power of the B2B customer’s decision moved away from the buyer to “decision influencers.”
What is a B2B decision influencer?
Internal protocols have changed dramatically. The C-suite insists that any product/service combination onboarded for internal use or resale should align with existing IT configurations. Moreover, all the legalities around licensing, guarantees, waivers, and user rights are high-scrutiny priorities. Other crucial questions are:
- What do our engineers think of the features?
- Is the staff trained adequately to use it?
- Can our tech support explain it to our customers?
- Can our salespeople sell it?
- How adjustable is the brand to future tech advancements?
The list goes on and on. So, when sellers arrive at the virtual or office door, they should know they’re no longer selling to an individual, but rather to a buying committee. Any member of that “buying group” can crash the sales presentation if they are dissatisfied with the features they’re called on to assess. The net result is that the process slows down, sometimes to a crawl, testing a seller’s patience and resolve.
When a B2B deal fails, ask yourself, “Who killed the sale?”
If you examine a failed deal, ask yourself where it fell apart:
- Was it the IT whiz kid who spoke over the heads of some buying group members?
- Was it the careless sales representative who forgot to take a competitor’s logo off the pages of a report he circulated as a customized submission?
- Was it the media person who cut costs by producing poor-quality instructional videos?
- Was it the tech support agent who wasn’t up to speed on the latest app updates, frustrating everyone who contacted her?
- Was it the indifferent attitude of someone in the accounts department unwilling or tardy in answering questions?
I could fill a page with incidents, any one of which is generally enough to sink the ship. When it comes to compelling B2B presentations, you can’t be detailed enough. Make sure you’re covering all the bases. Indeed, that’s the essence of sales enablement thinking.
A constructive approach for B2B sales enablement initiatives
As a start, take nothing for granted. Even if your brand has been a B2B favorite for years, assume that the good will can disappear in the blink of an eye. One-dimensional promotions no longer work; you have to embrace everyone impacting a buying decision. It becomes challenging because you’ll need to employ all of your marketing segmentation skills. Analyze every team member’s:
- Thinking patterns
- Behavioral drivers
For example, you may communicate the effectiveness of a tech feature to the IT maven in the group one way, but entirely different from the production person who will assemble it. A many-faceted approach is the key to success, with a single theme in mind: Sell to your customer the way they want to buy, not the way you like to sell.
Buying committee members place heavy emphasis on differentiation, but not for the sake of being different. They want the seller to connect to them in a memorable way. Therefore, it’s vital that your presentation sticks out from the herd, even if the product’s physical functionality is similar to the competitor’s. Differentiation frequently comes down to how you send your message and the words you use (especially if competitors say more or less the same thing in a relatively dull way). Here are some tips and examples:
- Customize your presentations to look and feel like they were developed exclusively for the customer.
- Use the customer’s logo.
- Date the reports as current.
- Provide unique data as it pertains to the product you want to sell.
- Make it as personalized as you can.
- Deliver your presentation in an impactful but convenient way to the customer. Whether it’s a video on YouTube, a podcast, a conference call with a pitch deck to a team – or all of these to different audiences – arrange it.
- Make sure you’re reaching everyone who counts. Don’t leave anyone out.
- Don’t dismiss objections or questions as annoyances. One dissenting voice can sink the whole deal.
- Understand the buying power at stake, customer by customer. Put in the effort commensurate with the gain.
- Analyze every touchpoint and the zig-zagging between committee members – plan to address them all. Devise a backup to steady the ship if the strategy begins to founder.
- If you’re catering to a committee, ensure that your sales enablement team players know their part in the project and take their responsibilities seriously.
Armed with the right tools and methods, marketers can build powerful and effective sales enablement teams. By digging deep into all aspects of sales enablement advancements and innovative thinking, you can build a foundation for success. And SoGoSurvey can help you get the ball rolling. Contact us to find out how we can help.