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Last week, I talked about the dawn of buyer enablement. Didn't get a chance to read it? I can wait. đź™‚ 

Or here's a brief recap: the buzz phrase the last few years has been "sales enablement"—enabling Sales to be more effective and more efficient during the sales process.

But here's the secret sauce many people are overlooking: in order for your sales folks to be truly efficient and effective, your organization needs to make the shift to a buyer enablement mindset first.

Why? Because BUYERS are in control of their buying journey. Not sales. Not marketing.

Instead, Sales and Marketing need to focus on ways that make it easier for buyers to buy your services/products.

Now, here's the thing: we know that more and more buyers are doing more and more research before ever talking to a salesperson. Not surprising, right? People are savvy searchers. They know what they want—or, at least, they know what they're looking for.

And what they don't want is their search to be interrupted by pesky sales folks bugging them via phone or email, which is the equivalent of the retail associate who ambushes folks the minute they step into a brick and mortar store with a breathless: "Is there anything I can help you with?"

Since so many buyers are doing their due diligence and conducting research online and from various sources—review sites, websites, chat, social media, and so forth—your job is to think about all the ways you can provide buyers with the information they're looking for and in the format that they want it in. And to deliver this info in a way that's authentic, generous, and with no strings attached whatsoever.

I know this is scary for many people reading this.

Because what if you give buyers the info they need and they walk across the street to a competitor? Don't focus on that.

Instead, what you need to think about is how many more truly qualified buyers you'll get, and all because you enabled these buyers to buy faster, more efficiently, and with more confidence from you.

What is effective buyer enablement?

Remember, effective buyer enablement involves...

  • Reducing any and all friction the buyer typically encounters when they're searching for answers.
  • Giving the buyer the right information when they want it instead of at a time pre-determined by you.
  • Offering the buyer multiple ways to engage with Sales when they are ready to do so.
  • Giving Marketing and Sales teams the permission and resources to do things differently.
  • Retraining Marketing and Sales to embrace this new approach and teaching them how to pivot depending on the buyer they're talking to.

So, what are some things you can do to give buyers the information they're already looking for with ZERO friction?

1. Revisit your buyer personas—and potentially throw them out.

Yes, you still need to understand the buyer's journey, but you also need to understand that a buyer's journey isn't a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Journeys are as varied as buyers themselves.

Consider these examples. Do any sound familiar?

  • Some buyers will come to the table wanting to talk price, nuts, and bolts. Think about information that can help those prospects.
  • Some buyers will come to the table because they've been sent on a mission—they're the face of several other decision makers. They need to look smart and informed to their colleagues. How can you help them shine?
  • Others will be sour and prickly, because they've been burned by a competitor or the ugliness of the sales process. How do you enable these buyers to come around?
  • Some buyers might be all of the above, at various times during their journey, because buying isn't a linear process for most people (which is why the concept of the sales funnel is becoming more and more outdated)

It's not so much about what Netflix shows the buyer watches or how much money they make or even their job title. Instead, put yourself in their shoes. Get in their heads and hearts regarding the problem they have and how your company's product or service is uniquely positioned to solve this problem.

What info would truly be helpful to them as they research and evaluate options? What are some things you wish all buyers thought about before making this type of purchase? What are some mistakes you've seen other buyers make—and what information can you provide to help these new buyers avoid those mistakes?

2. Rethink your approach to content marketing.

  • Create thorough, easily-searched-and-sorted Frequently Asked Questions pages that answer real questions prospects have AND THAT CUSTOMERS HAVE. Regarding the latter: you're showing how you continue to help buyers once they become your customer.
  • Provide demos on demand rather than (or, at least, in addition to) having a demo with a salesperson. Again, the buyer is in control. Let them decide when they want to talk to an actual human.
  • Create detailed product pages that talk about the specifications of your product. Benefits and features are still good info to have, but spec sheets are often what people need in order to make decisions.
  • Be transparent about pricing if at all possible. Create price comparison dot charts that easily show service/product levels (or comparisons with competitors).
  • Consider ungating ALL content. This isn't for everyone, and I realize this is a terrifying idea for many, especially those who've worshiped at the altar of inbound marketing for the last 15 years. But ungating content removes friction, since there's NO form and no worry about pesky follow-up phone calls and emails. Let buyers search in stealth mode (many already are—consider how many "dummy" phone numbers you get on forms).
  • When ungating, have confidence in your content. Because if it's truly great, helpful, and demonstrates your expertise, prospects (overall) will remember you. And if the content isn't great, do something about it. If you've been going through the motions and putting out "guides" and "white papers" because that's what someone told you to do, but the content was "meh"—reinvest and create something special.
  • Take CHANCES with your content. Unless you're selling a product or service that's truly unique, you have competitors who likely sell similar products and services. Unless you can PROVE your stuff is better, the way to stand out is through the personality of your content. People remember personality. People remember real. People remember honest. (I know this can be scary for professionals, especially those that have to run all content by Legal. But here's the thing: personality-driven content and professional content aren't mutually exclusive terms. You can have both!)

3. Experiment with new ways of having "chill" conversations—over text, IM, social media and live chat.

Don't sell. Just chat. Let that be your new mantra—and not just for Sales, but Marketing, Customer Service, the C-suite.

If you're doing everything else right—that is, enabling the buyer to learn about your products and services naturally and on their timetable through generous, authentic, no-strings-attached information—they will come to you when they're ready to buy.

That said, you still need to make yourself available to chat with buyers (again, on their terms). And the formats people use to communicate today are as unique as buyers. Some people respond well to texts. Others like tweeting back and forth with companies. Still other buyers use messaging apps, like WhatsApp. Others can appreciate live chat, provided the chat is truly helpful and not just something shiny on a website that ends up frustrating people more than it helps.

A BIG CAVEAT: You can't set up these things once and forget about them. So here's another word to strike from your vocab, at least in this case: automation. Instead, embrace EXPERIMENTATION. Try different things. Be willing to move fast (be willing to give your Marketing and Sales teams permission to move fast).

I know communicating in "real time" with potential customers can feel fraught—and can BE fraught. I'm not suggesting you simply unleash everyone and let them do what they want, when they want, without any direction. Just the opposite.

Before you unleash, you should...

  • Have discussions with Marketing and Sales—what platforms do your buyers tend to use? What are the pros and cons and limitations of these platforms? What will you need to do to get up and running?
  • Train staff regarding best practices and pitfalls to avoid.
  • COACH staff on an ongoing basis. What worked about a particular chat? What didn't? How can we make the process more real, more authentic? Have them coach and support each other, too. Share what works with each other!
  • Have goals/metrics so you can measure the effectiveness of these new communication strategies.

At the end of the day, I know you and your teams still have quotas to meet...

And I realize the concept of "buyer enablement" might be hard to grasp, especially in a sales culture that's all about jumping on a lead, any lead. Over the last decade, Marketing and Sales teams have gotten a lot better at identifying and labeling prospects according to where they might be in their journey. "Marketing qualified leads" remain in nurturing programs while "Sales Qualified Leads" move to sales people for follow up.

But again, that's the OLD way where marketing and sales folks are "in control." (Or think they are.) I'm not recommending you toss out lead scoring. But again, keep in mind that the BUYER is in control. You might think a lead is an SQL, but honestly—only the buyer can truly tell you that.

And they WILL, provided your company continues to generously and authentically provide the information they need to make the right decision for them.

Again, I get this is a new way of thinking about things. If any of this resonates with you—if you feel a flutter of excitement in your belly and perhaps a little fear—let's chat. The possibilities that a true buyer enablement mindset can have on your business are enormous, and I'd love to explore this more with you.

When YOU'RE ready. (See what I did there?)

Reach out or leave a comment below or hit me up on social media and let's chat.

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About the Author

Susan LaPlante-Dube | PMG Principal
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Susan LaPlante-Dube, PMG Principal

Susan LaPlante-Dube created PMG in 2002 and acts as one of PMG’s Principals. As a jack-of-all-trades in marketing, she loves digging deep on a topic and finding new ways to spin old ideas. While she would prefer having some high-tech voice software to record all of her blog thoughts instead of having to write them down, she loves the satisfaction of helping her readers learn something new.

 Tags: Buyer Enablement

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