Help Buyers Buy: The Secret to Crushing Complex Sales

Help Buyers Buy: The Secret to Crushing Complex Sales
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Modern buyers demand a virtual, seller-free, and streamlined buying experience. But sales tools fail to deliver. While sales enablement software pushed efficiency to the max, buyer-seller collaboration has not changed in the last 20 years. The result? Buyers are frustrated by multiple meetings before getting a demo, too many options, and unmanageable buying centres. Unfortunately, buyer frustration kills deals. But there's also a big opportunity: WOW your prospects by creating a super smooth buying journey.

Lennart
June 9, 2022
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lennart

Come to me for anything coffee related, advice on working with gluten and yeast (🍕, 🍝, and 🥖-making). Also, ask me about anything related to product strategy and customer discovery.

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B2B buyers have grown accustomed to making purchases easily as consumers. Whether that’s simply placing an order online for a purchase as large as a car, or clicking buy now on many retailer’s sites. Buyer’s appreciate having control now — more than ever.

In this post, we’ll be diving into how you, as a sales leader, can help buyers help themselves. Not only can this reduce frustration, but also improve deal velocity, and rep efficiency as well. We’ll explore some of the possible methods that you can implement to transition your deals from sporadic calls and emails — to a truly frictionless experience.

The Case for Buyer Enablement

With 77% of B2B buyers stating that their latest purchase was very complex or difficult, there’s a significant opportunity for companies to improve the experience. During most buying processes, buyers will only spend around 6% of their time interacting with any individual sales rep. This leaves more than 90% of their experience beyond what most sales leaders typically focus on. From ensuring buyers have the right fundamental resources, over detailed information regarding your proposed solution, to mutual action plans and interactive ROI models — providing them with a standout experience can boost close rates dramatically.

A lot of companies design their sales cycles around how they think things should work. I believe very strongly in the notion that you have to design it from the customer standpoint inwards, as opposed to your standpoint outwards, which is the normal way I see people thinking about this stuff.

From the book Traction by Gabriel Weinberg, Justin Mares

This is were buyer enablement comes in. While sales enablement is focused on helping sellers sell, buyer enablement explores how to help buyers buy. And given that sales is and will stay virtual even in a post-COVID world, this does not involve in-person coffee chats and lunch invitations.

From bouncing emails to fully interactive digital sales rooms, let’s dive into the staircase of buyer enablement capabilities.

Building Your Buyer Enablement Capabilities

Complex sales require an experience that guides the buyer into making a decision. As an organisation, taking this into consideration can make a massive impact on a deal’s success. Below you’ll find our guide to the options available to you as a sales leader. From simple emails, to completely integrated digital sales rooms, we’ll introduce the concept and unpack which one might be right for your organisation. 

Tier One: Emails to Facilitate Deals & Share Resources

The most common way to collaborate with buyers and share resources is through email. Needing no introduction, emails have been used to share everything from links to publicly available assets, such as blog posts or case studies, and to attached documents such as PDFs for more than 20 years.

From a technical perspective, emails are easy to configure and require no additional technology. Furthermore, many CRM’s such as HubSpot support helpful analytics including things like open notifications to see when decision-makers read your emails, as well as providing analytics on document read times, access, etc.

The downside to this method is that often with lengthier sales cycles and larger buying parties, documents and shared links (think Loom, Calendly, DocuSign etc.) can be hard to manage for both the sales rep and prospect. Between managing revisions, to document sharing over the span of many months and sometime even years, trying to keep track of these emails can be a challenge. Emails are also static and don't allow for collaboration e.g. on mutual action plans. Furthermore, if a rep shifts into a new position or a prospect is handed over from sales to customer success, it can be difficult for the individual taking over to understand what was shared.

Pros

  • The default method requires little setup or configuration
  • Easy for both sales reps and buyers to feel comfortable due to simplicity

Cons

  • Managing multiple email threads over the span of months can easily become confusing
  • Version control can be difficult to manage
  • Buyers may have difficultly providing access to others in the buying party
  • Information may be lost between Sales Development Reps, Account Executives, and Customer Success Teams.

Tier Two: Shared Folders for Deal-Related Resources

The second tier on the capability staircase of buyer enablement is the use of shared folders through services such as Google Drive, SharePoint, and Dropbox. This approach has the benefit of providing multiple documents and folders in a single live location. Instead of having to attach new file versions or juggle multiple email threads, you can now refer your contacts to the shared drive and have them provide access to others in the buying party. Given that many reps are familiar with these platforms, it’s typically almost as easy for them to use as attachment sharing over email.

While this approach does eliminate some of the downsides of separate emails, many of these platforms lack the activity-tracking previously available. This allows you to eliminate some confusion over document management, but removes the valuable source of information regarding which documents decision-makers may be viewing or when. Another major drawback of third-party file sharing tools is that they typically don't offer whitelabel capabilities and have a rather rigid structure. And while shared folders handle files well, they typically can't handle links that point outside their platform (e.g. to Calendly, Loom, and other tools you use to collaborate with prospects). Therefore, it's hard to preserve brand identity and offer an integrated experience.

Pros

  • Live document sharing with collaborative editing through tools such as Microsoft Word and Google Docs
  • Easy to implement and get started
  • It’s better for more complex deals compared to tier one

Cons

  • Both SharePoint and Google Drive support only change notifications, not viewing alerts or history
  • Buying parties may be confused with the addition of another channel in the communication mix
  • Individual emails or messages must still be sent to communicate details and updates
  • This approach can feel unprofessional compared to tiers three and four - esp. there might be concerns around privacy

Tier Three: Static Buying Pages Using SharePoint, Notion, or Your CMS

Building on some of the customisation downsides present in tier two, we found that many B2B professionals are taking the time to build custom web pages using platforms such as SharePoint Pages or Notion.

These tools allow you to craft web pages that can be shared with your buyers and their buying parties. Not only can you add a main page with media including texts, graphics, files, and videos, but you can also update these with relative ease as the deal progresses. Beyond this, some companies (e.g. leading consulting firms) are even taking the time to build full microsites for their important deals.

While this approach is great if you have the resources, it often takes a great deal of talent and time. Even with the costs associated with this tier, the approach lacks some of the advanced analytics and polish available. Aspects such as branding and live timelines may be difficult to perfect, especially compared to purpose-built solutions, such as Valuecase. Furthermore, the creation and management of these pages can become cumbersome, as they are not integrated into CRM platforms, such as HubSpot. Duplication between deals can also be time consuming as the reps need to manually input deal and contact details.

Pros

  • More professional than the first two buyer enablement tiers
  • Allows for a centralised location that contains multiple media formats
  • Relatively easy to enable for most organisations already using these platforms

Cons

  • Limited branding options available
  • Workflow management can be time consuming
  • Remains a lack of advanced analytics

Tier Four: Using a Digital Sales Room Like Valuecase

As the ultimate buyer enablement solution, digital salesrooms allow buyers and stakeholders to access all the information they need in a central portal. This solution contains the benefits of all the tiers mentioned before, with advanced analytics, support for multiple documents/media formats and types. It further offers live deal status updates that provide full transparency as to what the next steps are. Beyond this, these purpose-built tools, like Valuecase, support advanced integration with HubSpot or Salesforce, as well as easily replicable branded templates that save time and look great.

While configuring digital salesrooms can take some effort, budget, and training —many sales teams realise the benefits of increased deal velocity and close rates by limiting buyer frustration. Gartner expects that by 2026, 30% of B2B sales cycles will be managed through digital sales rooms that then will also be used throughout the full customer life cycle. To see if a Digital Sales Room tool is right for your organisation, feel free to grab a demo of Valuecase here.

Pros

  • Professional and intuitive experience for both buyers and sales teams
  • Support for advanced analytics including viewing activity
  • Document engagement rates, and more
  • Can save high-performing sales reps hours of valuable time per deal

Cons

  • Configuring, training, and budget required to roll out and continue successful implementation

Deciding on the Right Level of Buyer Enablement: Time to Level Up?

Overall, deciding what level of buyer enablement is right for your organisation will depend on a few factors. We break down some of these factors below.

Sales Process Maturity

As you are first identifying and crafting a sales process that works for your product, the focus should be on getting that right instead of investing heavily in technology. Ensuring that you have the right messaging, material, and playbook at this stage will be crucial to success. Once you have discovered what works well, we then recommend taking the time to consider optimisation by implementing the higher tiers of buyer enablement mentioned in this post.

Primary Channel

In B2B sales, there are two main ways of engaging with buyers. More traditional industries such as manufacturing favour in-person visits, while software buyers typically expect a purely virtual experience. The more you rely on your reps to sell virtually, the more you have to gain from a fully functional buyer enablement platform. This focus on reducing buyer friction will allow your offer to shine against the competitor's experiences.

Competition

As touched on in the point above, the more competitive your offer’s niche, the more you have to gain from standing out positively. Buyers rarely decide on a product based on purely technical criteria, but often consider their overall experience. The way that a business handles each sale will translate into the overall experience you’ll have with said company. Experienced buyers know this. As a seller, you can delight your prospects by giving them the information they need when they want it through a virtual sales room experience.

Buying Centre Size

Beyond your primary contact at each company, there will also typically be multiple decision-makers that will want to be consulted if not included in the decision-making process. Often if you are selling to a director as an example, their VP, the CFO, or even the President may want to know about your company or offer. They will often lack the ambition to get in touch with your reps directly and will instead want to learn about your company, offer, and proposed solution to their problem on their own time. By providing them with all the resources they need and even added media such as recorded presentations or proposal reviews, you’ll get a chance to explain your offer without relying on your contact's understanding or communication skills.

Product Complexity & Deal Length

The more complex your offer, the more your buyers will appreciate an experience that focuses on buyer enablement. As an example, if you’re selling a complex legal service in a competitive market that will need to meet the requirements of a large buying centre, being able to keep buyers engaged throughout the deal will be essential to product success. The more supporting resources and added information that they’ll have to reference over long periods, the more you stand to benefit as a sales leader.

Many products, while not being overly complex, require the buyer to have a certain fundamental level of knowledge regarding their product and your proposed solution. In software, this is very common. As another example, if you are selling an innovative solution such as programmatic marketing software, you’ll first need to educate your buyer on what it is they need to know to benefit from your unique offering. By providing a list of links to relevant resources on the topic in your digital sales room, the buyer will not need to search for additional information to make a decision.

Two Examples of Buyer Enablement Readiness

Deciding on your level of buyer enablement readiness can be a challenge. We’ve provided two examples below to illustrate sample personas and what solution we’d recommend for each.

Example Eddie: Eddie is the Head of Growth at his logistics company. He’s responsible for both sales and marketing. As his organisation is fairly new and still trying to achieve product-market fit, he’s handling most of his sales meetings by visiting business owners around his region in person. He faces a lot of competition from other companies in his area and sells a relatively easy-to-understand service. Most of the quotes he sends are submitted either over the phone, with an email confirmation, or by a simple email. 

Our Recommendation: While Eddie is in a competitive market, he’s still trying to build a sales process that works well for his service. Given the fact that he is also selling low complexity services directly to business owners in person, we’d suggest that he considers keeping his process simple by sending professionally crafted emails for each deal. (Tier 1 – Emails)

Sample Sabine: Sabine is the Director of Sales at a rapidly growing software startup. Her company sells an innovative FP&A (Financial Planning and Analysis) SaaS designed to help eCommerce companies across the world scale. Over the past year, she’s grown her sales team from 5 to 10 Account Executives and helped launch a customer success initiative. Typically, she sells to CFOs and Accounting Directors who often need to ensure the product is right for them by conferring with their CEOs and CTOs. She’s currently having trouble handling the number of leads that are coming in from marketing given the lack of available talent for her to grow her team.

Our Recommendation: Given the fact that Sabine has built a sales process that is scaling well and involves selling a complex solution to multiple stakeholders, her use case would be well suited for a digital sales room. Furthermore, as she is struggling to ensure her reps can handle as many deals as possible, she can reduce communication “Ping Pong” by allowing them to easily provide all necessary information in a time-efficient manner. (Tier 4 – Digital Sales Room)

How to Get Started! Building Your Buyer Enablement Capabilities

To recap, taking the time to properly understand your sales process and the factors mentioned in this article will go a long way to ensuring you’re making a worthwhile investment. From sales process maturity, to product complexity and deal length, the combination of these factors will determine what will make the most sense for your business. 

If you believe that your process is ready for tier three or four, microsites or digital sales rooms, we invite you to check out Valuecase by booking your demo, here.

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