Selling involves more moving parts than ever before. Sales professionals’ solutions are far-reaching and consist of numerous capabilities. Simultaneously, customers’ business challenges are numerous and touch on various functions. Managing this escalating complexity requires an effective sales enablement team prepared to equip sales professionals with the tools, analytics, and insights to advance buyers’ journeys.
The challenge, however, is that buyers’ journeys are dynamic, iterative, and non-linear. Therefore, the factors critical to an effective enablement strategy must account for this twisting path. We call these the buying factors—the case for change, stakeholder dynamics, and decision process—the set of facts, influences, and circumstances that contribute to someone’s decision to buy or not buy. Like buyers’ journeys, these factors are dynamic and interrelated:
- The case for change. The case for change is the “what” and “why” behind the sale. The reason for change must be strong enough to encourage the customer to advance through the long and taxing buying process.
- Stakeholder dynamics. Stakeholder dynamics represent the “who” of the sale. This factor focuses on the individuals making the buying decision, their power structure, their purpose, and their alignment.
- Decision process. The decision process is the “how” and “when” of the sale. The enablement professionals must be aware of new stakeholders entering and exiting the picture as well as the varying levels of influence among them.
Tracking the Buyer’s JourneyEffective sales enablement teams use these three factors to equip sales teams with the right materials at the right time. A templated approach will not work. Enablement teams must dispatch the tools, analytics, and insights that connect with the details behind the case for change, stakeholder dynamics, and decision process. For this reason, these teams must be involved throughout buyers’ journeys. As stakeholders, their needs, and the decision processes change, sales professionals rely on enablement teams to help them adjust through aligning specific skills to each of the five stages.
In this earliest phase, customers are determining if they need to act. They are measuring the challenge or opportunity and assessing if they need to pursue a solution. At this stage the sales professional needs to strengthen customers’ resolve to move forward by increasing stakeholders’ confidence in the economic value of the solution. Enablement teams should provide qualification criteria, meeting planners, and discovery questions. These tools enable sales professionals to gain access to stakeholders, float ideas, and deepen customers’ thinking on the issue.
Customers enter this phase when they begin to analyze the available solutions. They screen various partners to determine what solution is most appropriate. The investigation phase is the sales professional’s opportunity to build urgency around customers’ strategies. To do so, they need access to the decision makers. They must be prepared to provide stakeholder mapping tools while helping the sales team uncover the decision process and up-tier to senior stakeholders.
Customers are evaluating solutions that they have selected for a small group of potential partners. They are evaluating each one with a more stringent set of qualifying criteria. Enabling the sales professionals at this phase means coaching them to determine what the customer believes are the most pressing challenges, if the stakeholders are aligned, and the point of view that must be communicated. Tools like a team selling planner, competitive intel, and best practice videos are effective here.
By the time customers have reached the confirmation stage of the buying journey, they are reviewing the risk and reward of a solution. This phase is a likely area for momentum to stall as the customers decide if they are comfortable with the inherent risk associated with a purchase. They must also believe that the solution’s value supports the cost. Enablement needs to equip sales teams with tools to help them outline the sequence of events leading to closing, an ROI analysis, and appropriate case studies and references to compel the customer.
Negotiate and Commit
At the final phase of the buying journey, customers are asking themselves how they can maximize the solution’s value. They often do so by negotiating favorable terms and pricing. This is a critical area for sellers to maintain control by converting demands to needs. That is, they must understand the need underlying a pricing demand so that they can make trades that do not decrease the financial value of the sale. Enablement teams need to help sales professionals shape perceptions of value and arrive at mutually beneficial outcomes by providing negotiation plans and generating pricing examples.