In 2017, Forrester predicted the death of the B2B salesman, boldly asserting that one million B2B sales reps would be displaced by 2020. They argued modern B2B buyers prefer self-service and digital research, therefore, eliminating the need for sales reps, especially those who fail to add value to the buying experience.
While this prediction never materialized (and people will likely never be completely replaced), Forrester made a valid point: Sales practices must evolve to meet buyers on their journey and tailor the remaining buying experience to their specific challenges and objectives. That is even more true in an economic downturn.
Why don’t most salespeople get a second meeting? Most often, they fail to provide value.
When buyers have to solve a business problem, salespeople are low on the list of preferred resources. Today, 68% of buyers don’t want to interact with a sales rep at all.
B2B sales success: Why do reps miss the mark?
Most B2B sales reps miss the mark because they don’t know what content to use or when. That can look like sharing pricing at the beginning of the customer journey before the buyer is ready to have that conversation or presenting a generic, high-level pitch deck to a buyer much further down the funnel.
Showing up to a meeting with a “one-size-fits-all” presentation can be detrimental. Research on B2B buying behaviors indicates each stakeholder does 60-80%+ of their research independently and may have up to five pieces of relevant information to bring to the discussion table. Buyers don’t have time or patience for a generic pitch deck when they’ve already educated themselves about your products, services, and other high-level company information.
To add value for buyers, you have to meet them where they are in the customer journey. Sellers should act as a guide, moving the buyer through the process. Sales enablement can help.
Sales enablement: What does your buyer want?
Buyers want to work with B2B sales reps who help them solve business challenges, not reps who are there to sell to them. The “hard-sell” is a turn-off to most B2B buyers who say they want less “salesy” content. Reps that act as advisors or partners to buyers, demonstrating their understanding of the buyer’s industry and organization and articulating how their solution can address their issues, are more successful. In fact, 88% of B2B buyers only purchase when they see a salesperson as a “trusted advisor”.
While many sellers understand the inherent value of the product or service, stale sales enablement practices often limit their ability to communicate total business value to buyers. Because of this, the buyer perceives the product to be much less valuable than it is, causing the deal to be stalled or lost.
Gartner coined the term “buyer enablement” to describe a very specific type of content marketing: Information that enables customers to complete critical buying jobs. “Instead of focusing content marketers’ efforts on the constant generation of thought leadership, white papers, infographics, and videos, marketing leaders should rebalance their content efforts, capitalizing on their deep industry knowledge and customer empathy to develop and deploy information to help buyers buy‚” says Martha Mathers, Managing VP, Gartner.
Customer use cases and stories are examples of premium buyer-focused content. Evoking emotion through storytelling and illustrating the outcome of your solution for a similar customer provides compelling and evidence-based proof that encourages buyers to move forward.
Buyers are also looking to prove the value of their purchase to stakeholders. 66% of buyers say making a clear ROI case highly influences their purchase decisions and 95% of buyers now require financial justification on any significant purchase. In an increasingly difficult digital selling environment, value selling tools are especially important because they enable reps to quantify and communicate the economic benefits of products and services in the context of the buyer’s challenges. Using an ROI or TCO calculator can help marketers, sellers, and customer success teams quantify business value for net new and existing customers.
Content creation: Does your content resonate with buyers?
Buyers are overwhelmed with content, yet most of it doesn’t resonate. 61% of vendors offer too much material, and over 50% of buyers said material is extraneous (Forrester). B2B sales reps should be strategic when sending marketing materials to buyers. Identify the buyer’s internal challenges and share content that articulates the ROI of their offering in an easy, digestible way.
DemandGen estimates that buyers see more than 5,000 marketing messages per day. As a result, the key to sales acceleration has shifted from generating engaging content to educating sales reps about buyers’ specific preferences.
And just arming your reps with content isn’t enough of a strategy. To achieve your objective, the content has to be engaging. With most B2B sales interactions taking place virtually, it’s harder to keep (and track) your buyer’s attention. Marketing teams should implement an interactive content strategy to arm reps with the materials they need to sell effectively. Interactive content sees 52.6% more engagement than static content, with buyers spending an average of 8.5 minutes viewing traditional content items and 13 minutes on interactive content items.
B2B sales training: Is it enough?
Make the buying process as frictionless as possible to improve sales effectiveness. 89% of consumers buy based on the overall experience, regardless of price or functionality. It’s all about delivering the right content at the right time to the right person (Gartner).
To start, train your sales reps. Sales training includes educating sellers on the company, products, and processes through a standard onboarding experience for new hires. However, sales training is a subset of sales readiness with coaching, contextual and situational learning, communication styles, and role-playing. Today’s version of sales training needs to go beyond product knowledge. It’s more about preparing sellers to conduct engaging conversations with buyers.
And if your sellers are still working from home, training them to sell virtually is vital to your revenue team’s success. In 2020, HubSpot reported only 64% of those who transitioned to remote sales met or exceeded revenue targets.
With that in mind, it’s critical to enable sellers to lead engaging interactions that deliver value for buyers. When selling digitally, sellers must prepare buyer-focused content that speaks directly to the buyer’s needs. For B2B sellers to remain relevant, marketing and sales must align and tell a value-based story to buyers, using actionable insights to drive purchase decisions and ignite change.
To learn more about engaging buyers with the right content at the right time, download “The Complete Guide to Engaging the Modern B2B Buyer”.