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Originally published in the Boston Business Journal.

“The buyer is boss” is a point I’ve stood by for a long time, and a recent conversation I had with a client brought to my attention just how important it is for companies to position this concept at the heart of their sales process. 

When discussing whether to enable chat tools on a client’s website, the salespeople on the call argued against using chat tools. Their reasoning? They would rather communicate with buyers through phone or email. To this, I took a deep breath and posed a question: “Should we plan our strategy around how the seller wants to sell...or how the buyer wants to buy?”

To say “the buyer is boss” doesn’t mean the buyer is always right, or that they even understand the problem they’re tasked with solving in the first place. Regardless, one fact remains: buyers (and their preferences) dictate how — and what — they buy.

What is buyer enablement?

Buyer enablement is the process of providing buyers with the information they need, when they need it, so they can understand the full scope of their business problem and how your solution will help them.

Why is buyer enablement important for your B2B sales process?

According to the Gartner Group buyers spend 45 percent of their time researching solutions independently and 22 percent of their time meeting with their buying group. The easier you make it for buyers to learn about their problem, discover your solution as as option, and advocate to decision-makers at their company, the faster they will move through the buying process and become your customers. 

To engage buyers, you need to:

  1. Document and Evaluate Your Prospects Buying Process 
  2. Identify and Reduce Points of Friction
  3. Communicate With Buyers on Their Terms, Not Yours 
  4. Help Your Buyers Understand Their Problem Through Educational Content (Not Product-Focused Content)

How to Enable Your B2B Buyers

1. Document and Evaluate Your Buying Process 

Chances are you’re already documenting your sales process, which begins once a buyer raises their hand to speak with a salesperson. Before taking steps to further enable your buyers, you’ll need to document and evaluate your prospects buying process as well, which starts when a buyer begins thinking about their problem. 

To get a better understanding of your buyers’ journey, take time to interview recent customers. Some questions to ask:

  • How did they frame the problem prior to interacting with your business? 
  • What resources (online and offline) did they use to begin framing the problem? When they were online, what did they type into search? How many different resources did they use?
  • What about your content helped them grasp and define their problem? 
  • Did they engage with your sales team? If so, did this engagement make it easier for them to take the next step?

I cannot stress enough the need to view your buying process through an objective lens. Doing so will help you reduce points of friction, which brings me to my second tip.

2. Identify and Reduce Points of Friction

Points of friction are experiences that make it difficult for your buyer to find the information they want and manage their own buying experience. 

Common points of friction include software companies not offering demos on demand, manufacturing companies only talking about material specifications and not applications, or professional services companies that offer point solutions but fail to provide an indication of price (not even a range or starting price). 

Some companies fall into the trap of thinking a friction point is part of their strategy, hoping it will encourage buyers to talk to sales. For example, the back and forth of setting up a meeting with a salesperson. 

In reality, buyers who fail to get the information they need at this point in the process will simply bounce from your website to another that provides them the answer they originally sought to find. Solve for the sales meeting point of friction by making it simple for your buyers by using a tool that allows your prospect to follow a link and simply pick a time that works for them. 

3. Communicate With Buyers on Their Terms, Not Yours

This point of friction is especially important because it’s so often overlooked and can result in wasted time and resources. Determine the channels through which your buyer may want to communicate and plan how you will use them. 

If your buyers want quick answers while on your website, yet their only option is to call or send a form, they will leave your website for one with a chat feature that provides instantaneous answers. On the other hand, if you do enable chat on your site and then use it to ask dozens of questions, before offering value, then you can bet your buyers will leave that experience too. 

When you outline the buyer's journey, take the time to also learn all the different communication channels your buyer would like to use and make them available. And when your buyer reaches out to talk to sales, make sure you ask the question about what channels are most convenient for them. 

4. Help Your Buyers Understand Their Problem Through Educational Content (Not Product-Focused Content)

The B2B companies we work with know their solutions inside and out — while it’s tempting to immediately show a buyer how their service can solve their business problem, the reality usually is that your solution solves part of their problem. 

Think about the buyer’s problem in the larger context of their business. For example, buyers who are concerned about product safety can solve their problem in various ways -- your solution being one of them. Create content that helps the buyer understand the broader implication of their problem and educates them regarding their options. 


Doing this will position you as a thought leader and a helpful resource, and begins to build a relationship early in the buying process. In fact, research has shown that when companies do this, customers are three times more likely to buy a bigger deal.

 

The Ultimate Guide to Harnessing the Power of Customer Success

 

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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