Many customers are rethinking their investment priorities, consolidating vendors and freezing their spending. This according to post-crisis B2B Buyer research from the group over at Challenger, who indicate that:
- 53% – of buyer organizations have reprioritized their priorities
- 36% have put in place a spending freeze on anything not deemed “essential”.
I had the opportunity to interview Challenger’s Spencer Wixom, Senior VP of Marketing, and it was clear that the uncertainty has taken root, causing conservative policies to be put in place, with Spencer highlighting how
- 54% of purchases now require prior central review and approval
- Clip levels for procurement involvement have been lowered to $5,000
- 38% of all purchases now require a formal RFP process for proper vetting and vendor selection.
And this has had a significant impact, frustrating both buyers and sellers, with:
- 4 in 10 buyers started a purchase process that ultimately ended in no decision
- 46% of sellers indicated that they lost deals to “do nothing” (Oct 2020)
In order to avoid losing deals to “do nothing” (38% of total purchase cycles) and competitively differentiate when involved in RFP shootouts (the other 38%), sellers need to deliver more to buyers who have significantly elevated their expectations.
When studying what buyers want and need, Spencer highlighted the five key characteristics that were key to differentiating the experience, inspiring change and driving approvals, with the winning sellers best at:
- Demonstrating unique insights
- Helping the buyer come to a decision
- Understanding and addresses different stakeholder needs
- Helping the buyer build support across the customer organization
- Making it easy for the buyer to make a purchase.
Unfortunately, buyer expectations have elevated, and most buyers feel that over the past 18 months, especially post crisis, that sellers had become less effective.
Challenger research clearly shows the Engagement Gap and puts a number to the shortfall. In just one year, Spencer and the Challenger team report a 40% decline in buyers’ assessment of key seller capabilities, And the gaps were most apparent in the
- -52% – Ability for sellers to demonstrate unique insights
- -41% – Understand and address different stakeholder needs
- -49% – Help build support across the customer organization.
We agree with the folks at Challenger that the Engagement Gap is an expanding issue for sales and marketing leaders, needs to be addressed right away with the right content and enablement, and that organization who can bridge the gap, will have less deals resulting in “do nothing”, win more than their fair share of new business and dramatically improve customer loyalty on an ongoing basis.
Taking a look at the biggest shortfalls to guide improvements, here are our recommendations on ways you can deliver:
Delivering unique insights – more often than not, especially early in the decision-making process, buyers need inspiration to help motivate change. This means providing messaging content, research and benchmarks to help buyer’s understand that their current methods and solutions are costing them dearly on a personal, organizational and business level, and worthy of considering change. It’s all about illuminating and amplifying the pain, the biggest motivator for change. Insights are used to connect, clarify and elevate the challenges.
Some leave the determination of what insights to present to sellers, which we find doesn’t always work. More mature enablement organizations pre-package insights and benchmarks for common business challenges, but often these insights are not unique and it’s hard to personalize the findings for every industry and stakeholder to be most relevant. Others have researchers who prepare customized insights and analytics for particular prospects, but this doesn’t always scale.
To better scale the insights for the field to use, you can create an interactive application / presentation, based on the specific customer profile – like type of business and location – the interactive can be used to automatically lookup and render the correct insights to help inspire change, and include accompanying use cases, solution recommendations and success stories to help fuel storytelling on how to solve the challenges highlighted. For example, a large beer distributor uses an application that automatically senses the location of the driver at each stop, loading sell through data which the driver can use to communicate opportunities and drive 4Ps optimization (price, product, placement, and promotion).
It can also be difficult to create unique insights, however using an interactive capability / maturity or value assessment tool, your team can collect data from each and every customer engagement, and this can be used to quickly create and automatically form a insight / benchmark database. Insights and benchmark collection and communication can include capability / maturity scores, challenges to address, benefits delivered and more. For example, an application integration solution provider uses an on-line cloud integration assessment tool, to help prospects understand their current capability and maturity, compare to peers and obtain next step advice. The solution provider uses the tool for outreach, to get more, better executive meetings in order to run the assessment and deliver the unique insights to inspire change.
Checkout the tool for yourself here:
Driving customer decisions – buyers want help on how to best improve, which is often the basis for them connecting with you in the first place. But decision processes are becoming more complex and difficult for the buyer. A huge opportunity for good sellers: being a concierge to help buyers make sense of their challenges and potential solutions, and help navigating the decision-making process.
To enable, means providing sellers with the right content to help sellers understand the potential solutions and clearly communicate the right solutions and demonstrate use cases.
When you build out this prescriptive content for each industry and unique stakeholder’s point of view, you are often left with a big messaging guide that doesn’t scale, or a 200+ page deck.
Instead of bulky messaging guides and big decks, you can take advantage of more modern interactive presentations. Based on a little discovery about the buyer needs and where the buyer wants the conversation to go, the interactive presentation provides the seller with just the right vignette – a precise story about the challenges, prescribed solution, demo and success examples. Instead of a big deck that the seller has to clairvoyantly cull to anticipate the meeting flow, or wade through for the right content, the interactive presentation prompts proper discover and guides the seller and buyer to the exact right dynamic slides, demo videos and content needed to fuel the conversation and collaboration.
Checkout how Givaudan leveraged Mediafly Jumpstart Presentation services and platform to take a big solution catalog and 400-page PowerPoint deck, converting this into an interactive presentation, to provide sellers with guided, interactive discovery and the right few pages of content to match the specific prescriptive solution recommendation:
Aligning to various stakeholders and driving consensus – each stakeholder has different challenges they are trying to address, and different outcomes and value they are hoping to derive from the proposed purchase. Providing justification is key to get stakeholders bought-in, aligned and approving.
But this is not easy to accomplish unless you deliver the justification needed on each deal to assure buy-in, and have it cover all stakeholders involved in the decision-making process. Providing a one size fits all justification, or customized analysis on every deal via value consultants doesn’t scale.
Implement an interactive value assessment tool that sellers, partners (and even customers) can use directly to create a customized business case for each unique prospect and decision committee. The value assessment should tune itself for the specific roles involved in the decision-making process, challenges the buyer has, as use case scenarios prescribed.
For example, Xactly needed to arm their sellers with an easy-to-use tool to introduce value early in every deal and put together a formal financial justification business case for buying committee review and CFO approvals. The team was able to leverage Mediafly’s JumpStart ROI to rapidly create a credible value assessment tool that was quickly rolled out to sellers and prospects worldwide.
Checkout the Xactly value assessment tool and program here: https://www.mediafly.com/evolved-selling-community-blog/influential/on-demand-jumpstart-roi-scale-your-value-selling-faster-than-ever-before/
To hear first-hand about the research and advice from the Challenger team, checkout our interview with Challenger’s Spencer Wixom here: EVOLVERS Podcast: Challenger Evolved: Inspiring Change AND Making Sense.
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