What is Buyer Enablement?

by | Apr 21, 2017

Buyer enablement is the methodology and mentality of making it as easy as possible for buying groups to buy from you, both during your customer’s first purchase and during the renewal process.

Traditionally, B2B sales strategies and technologies have been organized around enabling the sales rep and sales teams, with the focus on how to make sales more effective. Buyer enablement, in contrast, focuses on how to make the buying journey and decision-making process easier to navigate and leveraging technology to get stakeholders what they need faster than ever before.

In short, make it easier for the buying group to make a decision and you’ll close deals faster and more often.

Developing Buyer Empathy – Buying Is Hard

If we were to peel back the layers of ineffectiveness in B2B sales, we’ll almost always see one principle at the root of this problem: as sellers, we are too self-centered.

We are thinking about how we’re behind on our numbers, about the next conversation two hours from now with a higher-profile prospect, about what our next move is, about how we can handle that objection the client is bringing up, or about any number of things that could help us close the deal.

What we aren’t thinking about is them—the buyer—and what they are thinking and feeling. About their journey. About what they are risking to even consider your solution. We unwittingly think that selling is about what we do rather than what the buyer does. And the irony is that selling isn’t about us; it’s about them—you need to understand your buyer more deeply.

According to Gartner’s research (Gartner: Win More B2B Sales, 2018) , the buying journey is getting harder and more complex, not easier.

Sales Skills Needed to Enable the Buying Group

One of the factors making the B2B purchase more complex is the growing numbers in the buying group. The B2B buying group has been growing over time since the first research published by CEB in 2013 showed 5.4 buyers back in 2013.

Research now suggests that the “average enterprise buying team is made up of 13 to 14 IT and business professionals and the length of time on average for the buyer to make a purchase is 18 months.” (Gartner: Tech Go-to-Market: The Ideal First Sales Meeting Agenda and Presentation, 2018)

Implementing a Framework for Equipping the Internal Champion to Sell for You (DEEP-C)

The skills needed to help customers buy focuses on grooming and coaching champions so they can win over other stakeholders. The steps are likely different from what salespeople normally do. Here are five principles that provide a guide to the kinds of actions they can take to connect with champions and other stakeholders.

  • Discover your champion and through them discover the other stakeholders
  • Engage the champion and through them engage each stakeholder
  • Equip your internal champion with what they need to sell to the other stakeholders for you
  • Personalize value to each stakeholder
  • Coach the champion and other stakeholders through the buying process to a successful outcome

Leveraging Buyer Enablement Technology

There are several technologies that can help support buyer enablement efforts and making your buyers’ journey easier. These include:

 

  • Interactive demo automation technology
  • Return on investment (ROI) calculation technologies
  • Social proof and reference management technologies

Coaching the Champion: Recommend – Commit – Facilitate

Think of the buying process like a full-length sports match. You’re the coach. You need to recruit your star players to win the game. If it were a basketball game, you might first recruit your point guard (your champion). Unlike a sporting match, you’ll recruit the rest of your team (stakeholders) as time moves forward. Each team member will help you get the deal done in one way or another, though some stakeholders will appear to prevent it as they bring up what seems like pesky obstacles and even try to block the deal. The reality is that even those players help by bringing up valuable issues that need to be worked through.

During a sporting match, coaches are constantly giving advice, constantly engaging, asking for the players to commit to their guidance, and providing the resources and guidance necessary to win. Your role is similar. In the buying process, just like a sports coach, you can’t win the game for your players. All you can do is help from the sidelines. You are a valued member of the team, but all you can do is help the players win the game.

To exert leadership as the buying coach in the purchasing process, follow these steps:

  1. Strongly recommend
  2. Ask the prospect (and other stakeholders where applicable) to commit
  3. Facilitate and be a resource

Continuing Champion Enablement Through the Renewal

Many B2B companies, from SaaS to professional services, now employ a subscription pricing model. This means that getting the deal done happens every subscription period, not just once. So buyer enablement needs to continue past the purchase to begin the cycle of closing the next deal: the renewal.

What plagues all B2B SaaS businesses (or any business that employs a subscription model) is the fact that however good they are at getting the deal done in the first place, poor implementation and adoption can destroy their business model altogether.

Many SaaS companies, for example, have a cost of customer acquisition that exceeds the price of the first year’s subscription. In other words, they aren’t making money until year two and beyond. In subscription models, gaining the renewal is not only desirable but also essential for survival. And if you work for a company that employs a subscription model, it’s likely some of your compensation comes from what happens after the sale.

That’s why DEEP-C thinking doesn’t stop when the purchase is complete. Just as you took the lead in the buying process, you should also take the lead here by thinking about the buyer’s post-purchase experience before the ink is dry. The process of applying DEEP-C post- sale is very similar to presale, but keep in mind that the buying group may change significantly over the course of the subscription period.

Setting Up the CRM to Effectively Measure Buyer Enablement

There are eight kinds of data that are the most useful in helping to track how well you are enabling your buyers:
  • Champion(s) identified
  • Number of stakeholders discovered
  • Prioritized interests of the buying group
  • Percentage of group discovered
  • Percentage of group engaged
  • Percentage of group with final approval
  • Share rate
  • Stages of the buying process that each buying group member has completed
Some of these items, like whether a champion is identified, can be determined by adding yes or no or checkbox fields to your CRM or other records. Other data points, especially those that deal with tracking or sharing are nearly impossible to determine by traditional means and must involve software that can do the tracking for you.

Implementing a Different Type of Renewal Process

Before changing your CRM, I recommend beginning by changing the way you review deals. As you begin to focus on the progress of the buyer in your deal review conversations, you will begin to help your reps change their focus as well as begin to see patterns in buyer behavior across deals that go well and deals that stall.

To implement buyer enablement means that as a sale leader you’re going to change the nature of the questions you ask about each deal.

They might include questions such as:

  • Do you have a champion identified? Tell me how you decided that is the champion.
  • What has that champion done so far to promote the deal internally? How is that champion demonstrating that they will take risks to get the purchase complete and the change effected that they want?
  • How is the champion responding to your coaching? In what ways have you equipped the champion so far, and how have they used the resources that you’ve provided?
  • How many stakeholders have you discovered? Have you found a stakeholder for each persona in the buying group profile for this product and segment?
  • Has each stakeholder engaged, either with you or with the champion? Have they had their questions answered? Do they fit the profile of a typical stakeholder persona, or are they different?
Do you see the difference in the questions? Forecasting using buyer enablement is inherently more accurate because you are asking questions about what the buyers are doing and they are the only ones that can close the deal.

This new approach doesn’t stop with the questions asked of sales reps. The interesting thing about mapping stakeholder alignment is that it creates another data point to help forecast the likelihood to close, not based on what the sales team is doing or has done but rather based on how far along each stakeholder is.

Buyer Enablement as a Competitive Advantage

Making buying easier is the essence of buyer enablement, but it isn’t just about closing that next deal. It’s also about an approach to your market that will set you apart from your competition. Companies who are easy to buy from have a huge competitive advantage because the buying and decision-making process has become so incredibly complex.

To gain this competitive advantage, you and your teams need to understand what buyers want and how they think; you need to discover and engage the buying group; you need to equip the champion to sell for you to that buying group and prescriptively guide them through the buying process. You’re their guide on what otherwise is likely to be a disastrous journey.

Become a master of buyer enablement and you will shorten your sales cycle and close more deals at the same time.