Changing buying habits, new technologies, and access to data not available before – all this has led to B2B buyers expecting a deeper experience and understanding from sellers in every interaction. B2B sellers need to rethink their sales enablement strategy to deliver on these buyer expectations.
In this article, we talk about how digital commerce has changed sales enablement and why revising your sales enablement strategy can help you empower the sales team to better align with customers and bring in more value.
Sales enablement means making sales teams more efficient by equipping them with the right resources. They include content (from whitepapers to case studies), tools (e.g., CRM, eCommerce customer portals), and information that help effectively sell products or services.
Traditionally, B2B sales enablement relied on brochures, case studies, presentations, or scripted messages. These tools are often used during meetings and phone conversations.
Online selling in B2B also benefits from the traditional sales enablement tools. But it also goes a step further. To use sales enablement in digital commerce effectively, companies need a sales enablement strategy that helps move customers through the sales funnel while supporting them and responding to their needs on every step of their journey.
According to Gartner, complex B2B purchase decisions can engage up to 20 individual stakeholders. And the decision-making process involves more than just evaluating the product. It also factors in the overall experience with the seller and how he can address organizational change that the complex purchases entail.
B2B purchasing involves a complex process consisting of multiple stakeholders [Image source]
So how can commercial teams help buyers overcome decision friction and address their buying and change uncertainty?
The answer is sales enablement that integrates content and valuable support for buyers during their self-learning/research phase to engage and support them in every interaction. With this strategy, sales reps, automation, and a content-rich B2B eCommerce site must all come together to deliver the experience customers want.
Modern customers learn and buy digitally, and B2B sales teams must respond to this change accordingly. To drive sales performance, companies need to shift their focus from sales professionals being the primary commercial channel to building digital experiences that support customers on their self-learning journey.
It means enhancing both the on and offline experiences. Your sales enablement strategy should center around an experience that is tailored to the customer’s needs as they research, develop requirements, and shortlist vendors.
Creating a modern B2B sales enablement strategy involves assessing the current sales efficiency to discover gaps and trends that need to be addressed. It also means identifying and investing in tools that can fill these gaps. Below is a more detailed look at crafting a B2B sales enablement strategy:
Start the assessment process by identifying weak spots, blind spots, and other areas for improvement. For example, Animal Supply Company is one of the leading distributors in the pet supply industry. The company identified an opportunity in online selling and set a goal to move a minimum of 10% of sales to their digital channel.
But to achieve this goal, they needed to centralize and synchronize their network of disconnected systems (multiple legacy ERP systems and eCommerce websites) and data stored in silos. As a solution, the company invested in a platform that enabled them to create a unified backend. The backend system allows sales reps to provide better customer support as they research and order products on the website.
Alongside backend improvements, Animal Supply extended its eCommerce site to enable customers to place an order directly from a physical store shelf by scanning the barcode. Backend and frontend upgrades significantly advanced both digital customer experience and direct communication with sales reps.
That said, opportunities for improvement are not always evident. In this case, a well-formed customer survey can uncover the blind spots and areas that need your attention.
A rule of thumb here is to go beyond simple Net Promoter Score questions. Ask tough questions and include a mix of multiple-choice and open-ended questions. Finding out what customers really think about your business will be an excellent source for pinpointing things that need to be added or changed.
In the first step, you identified areas for improvement. The next step is to uncover the best approach to improving these processes.
For example, when a potential customer submits an RFQ or RFP, they send a strong signal of their interest in making a purchase. Depending on the products or services you offer, this could be the time for a sales rep to step in.
Alternatively, if you sell commodities, your customers will appreciate fast and streamlined purchasing. This process could involve an automated response to an RFQ or RFP, whereas the order is priced automatically by a pricing engine using your pricing structure.
Alternatively, you can combine human communication and automation in specific scenarios. For example, when the Animal Supply team attends trade conferences, they use tablets to pull product information and pricing from their eCommerce site. It allows them to take orders digitally while face-to-face with the customer. Interactions like this add a human touch to the sales process, accelerating deals thanks to digital assistance.
To successfully navigate the evolution of B2B buying, B2B sellers need to innovate the means of customer engagement, support, and problem-solving. As the people closest to the customer, they are best positioned to generate ideas for creating rich digital experiences.
Another essential practice is to continuously communicate within the sales team and other departments, reinforcing the customer-focused message. A practical approach to change management requires open two-way communication and ensuring all parties affected by the new sales enablement strategy are a part of the process.
Importantly, sales enablement is not only about aligning sales and marketing. The customer service team can also benefit from a sales enablement program. It can facilitate a handoff between sales, marketing, and Customer Service teams regarding content and customer information. With the CS team more informed about the customer pain points and needs, they can ensure smoother onboarding and offer more valuable resources along the way.
All in all, it’s common to experience pushback from employees and customers when introducing new strategies and technologies. That’s why it’s crucial to communicate the benefits across all teams to create a shared vision of becoming the best partner for your customers.
Alongside defining the strategy and the tactics, you need to select and implement technologies and solutions that will be instrumental in driving change.
Among the crucial B2B sales enablement tools are:
When adopting new sales enablement tools, a good practice is to use a minimum viable product (MVP) approach. It helps you minimize the cost and risks of investing in new technology while authenticating the solution’s value.
In addition to the number of sales made by the company, consider tracking other KPIs, such as:
As B2B buying increasingly moves online, B2B selling teams will have to adapt to stay relevant. This means focusing on digitally-led sales enablement to offer interactive, value-focused, personalized experiences.
This level of innovation in sales enablement will depend on the close alignment of your sales, marketing, and customer success efforts. It will also require the right tools to remove friction in some sales steps and provide timely and relevant customer data. By bringing it all together, your sales team will have the necessary resources to make the most of every sales interaction.
Xngage periodically features guest bloggers who support advancing digital commerce success for the B2B marketplace.
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