Picture this: your potential buyer visits your website, reads your content, and picks up the phone to schedule a sales appointment? Ideal picture, right? And you will definitely have these types of customers, but the majority follow a totally different route. They will read a lot of content, and listen to opinions from different parties and they will have a lot of unanswered questions. The purchasing process of a B2B buyer is not so simple anymore. And these days the buyer wants help in the purchase process itself. Let’s talk about buyer enablement.
What is buyer enablement?
Buyer enablement is about making the buying process simple and efficient for the buyer by supplying valuable information. Whether online using content and tools or via personal contact with buyers. In a sense, you give your buyer (and the DMU) the tools to go through the buying process smoothly.
Just like sales enablement helps the sales team to sell, buyer enablement literally helps buyers buy. What value does it bring? Research from Gartner shows that customers reward organizations that make B2B purchases easier.
Why buyer enablement is important right now
The B2B purchasing process has changed a lot over the past years. The idea of one seller and one buyer is no longer valid. Due to the immense growth of available information on the Internet, new communication channels, fast technological developments, and DMU size, the game has changed.
Google and the Internet are widely consulted sources during B2B purchasing and decision making. Just like brochures, whitepapers, trend reports, and webinars. Because of this, we are now facing an overload of content and many organizations are all saying that they are the best. With the intention to help a potential buyer, the amount of content creates the opposite effect: confusion. As a result, B2B buyers spend far too much time trying to create order in the chaos of available content. At the expense of actually speaking with suppliers.
Suppliers’ information should actually help buyers in the purchasing process.
The buyer journey is non-linear
CEB research shows that the B2B buyer’s journey isn’t as linear as often suggested. The buyer does go through the known phases in the buyer journey (awareness, consideration, decision), but with a lot of jumping back and forth as illustrated below. According to Gartner “Customers engage in what one might call ‘looping’ across a typical B2B purchase, revisiting each of those six buying jobs at least once”. Not surprising when you understand that B2B buying is often long and complex, and a lot of stakeholders are involved. At the same time, there is a huge amount of information and opinions available. So where to start?
Research by Gartner has found other constants based on the Jobs-To-Be-Done framework. The so-called buying jobs:
Buying in B2B is a continuous process of searching for the required information, validating it and creating consensus between the most important stakeholders. With buyer enablement you make sure that your buyers go through the buying jobs smoothly and efficiently.
DMU grew considerably
The average number of people involved in the B2B purchasing and decision-making process (DMU) has grown considerably over the past years. The reason for this growth is diverse, but one of the main reasons is the fact that more and more departments are involved in a buying decision. This way, stakeholders gain more buy-in and better support of the project.
However, multiple people means multiple consulted sources and eventually multiple opinions and insights. For sales this is a tricky situation: It is no longer about getting a Yes, but about getting a collective Yes from all people involved.
This requires content that helps all people involved in their different roles within the DMU. If you think decisions made during the purchase of complex products and services are mainly made based on ratio, you’ll end up empty-handed. Behavioral economists like Nick Southgate and Daniel Kahneman have repeatedly proven that the winning organization is the one that makes the purchasing decision simple and clear.
Examples of buyer enablement
A number of examples on buyer enablement:
- Online calculator – An example of this is the well-known ROI calculator (see https://www.oracle.com). An online calculator provides buyers a simple and structured way to analyze complex data.
- Diagnosis tools – Think of maturity models such as the B2B lead generation maturity scan. This provides buyers a framework to analyze their own situation: Where am I and what are my options and next steps?
- Recommendations – A quiz or a number of questions with which you help the buyer identify pain points and help you recommend solutions. This can for example be an extension of the diagnostics tool.
- Comparisons – Provide buyers the data they need to enable them to compare complex products or systems. A good example is The Most Detailed Marketing Automation Selection Guide. As a buyer of marketing automation, you now no longer need to go through all supplier websites to make a comparison. And yes, of course the product of the creator is also being assessed (first column).
- Benchmarking reports – Every organization or department wants to know how well they are doing compared to the market: Am I doing well? A benchmarking report provides this insight. An example is the 2019 Demand Generation Benchmark Survey Report.
- Simulation – Show how the solution works in the context of the buyer. SAP does this with the S/4HANA Simulation Game.
- Advising – Helping is the new selling. The better you understand the buyer as a person, his goals, challenges and situation, the better you are able to help by giving advise during the decision making and purchasing process.
- Connector – As said in the beginning, for Sales it is about getting a collective Yes. Sometimes this requires being the linking pin and taking away any unclarity or difference in perspective within the DMU.
- Speed – Give potential customers the opportunity to make the next step as soon as they are interested in your product or services. Replace the contact form with for example a tool such as https://calendly.com/ to directly schedule an appointment or use a chatbot such as Drift.
Buyer enablement versus content marketing
Isn’t buyer enablement then the same as content marketing? Content marketing is primarily being used for inbound marketing and nurturing in B2B. This type of content often doesn’t give the essential information someone needs in order to make an informed decision. Only 20% of content produced by organizations actually contributes to buyer enablement.
Buyer enablement content focusses on making the purchasing process of the buyer easier. The extreme focus on the buyer requires Marketing and Sales to work side by side. So not sequentially like in the classic trajectory. But together like you do with account-based marketing. Gartner has listed 10 questions that you can use to check whether your own content is supporting your buyer enablement.
How do you apply buyer enablement?
How do you organize buyer enablement? Guiding a purchasing process with both personal contact and relevant content cannot be done by a marketing or sales department alone. During the purchasing process, each member of the DMU has a different information need. In order to anticipate on this, it is important that Sales and Marketing continuously work together and focus on information excellence.
Information excellence is about offering relevant information at the right moments in the purchasing process. Simultaneously, you address the questions of different buyer personas within the DMU.
- Research the people involved within the DMU – Which persons are involved in the purchasing process? You can do this for a specific potential customer (ABM style) or more general. In both cases, you map:
- Function and role within the DMU (influencer, decision maker) and their level of influence.
- Who is the owner of the problem?
- Who is your ambassador? The person within the DMU who believes in your product or services, has access to the ultimate decision maker? Ideally, this person is your primary contact person.
- You can expand this by mapping who this person’s proponents and opponents are.
- Research the purchasing process – This is comparable to buyer journey research, only now with an extra focus on the DMU and the buying jobs to be done. With these insights, you have the basis of buyer enablement and tools. You can do this research for a specific target account (ABM style) or more generic.
- Develop buyer enablement content and tools – Support your ambassador and DMU with content, tools and advice. Identify the types of objections you may get and advise your ambassador on how to handle this.
- Explain which questions he should ask internally to get the ball rolling.
- Explain who to involve and why.
- Provide insights, content and tools to help during the purchasing process.
- Offer different perspectives to add value they can use.
Want to know more about buyer enablement? Feel free to contact us.