My name is Larson Stair, I’m the CEO & Co-founder of Gondola.ai, a real-time sales enablement platform that helps to standardize best practices throughout the entire sales cycle in the live conversation.
Here’s our main talking points:
- The B2B buying experience today
- How do we improve?
- Real-time sales enablement
- Buyer enablement
Let’s go ahead and dive in 👇
The B2B buying experience today
The B2B buying experience is really complex. What we don't see behind the scenes at times is all the additional people that have to be brought into the equation, the information that needs to be digested, and technical pieces that we need to walk through.
So it's become more challenging than ever, especially for larger organizations, to make a purchase, change processes internally, and get all these internal stakeholders brought into the fold and bought in.
Buyers agree. Over 70% say that the B2B buying experience is very challenging and complex.
spending less time with sellers
About a fifth of their time is spent on sales calls with sales reps. That means they're discussing internally amongst buying committees, they're doing research on their own accord, looking for articles, reviews, and pieces of information to help them sift through this complexity.
All of those decision makers are bringing all this information to the forefront, so they're spending less time with us - and still finding the experience complex.
How do we improve?
The key to creating great buying experiences
The key to creating a great buying experience is focusing on aligning your entire company around the buying experience.
It boils down to two pieces: alignment and context. Keep these two pieces in mind as a central theme.
- Alignment: Amongst all the internal stakeholders, whether it be SDRs, AEs, solution consultants, executive staff, customer success, we all want to be perfectly aligned around this customer journey.
What pieces of information do we need to gather and deliver to our buyers to make sure that we’re in alignment on the value that our solution provides?
How do we make sure that's perfectly connected in alignment with the needs and pains we’ve uncovered throughout the sales cycle?
- Context: We're going through a lot of complex information. There's more decision makers in the room, and not everybody has the full picture or has been there throughout the whole cycle to have a deep understanding of what's going on, what’s being purchased, or what the ins-and-outs of the solution are.
Having the ability to give quick context as new decision makers come into the fold, either internally or externally, is key to creating this buyer experience.
Go-to-market teams are siloed
Traditionally, go-to-market teams have been siloed. Great marketing teams are building out incredible assets that you know are supposed to be used by the sales teams.
The renegade sales reps are building out their own piece of information, running disjointed discovery calls or not putting information back into Salesforce, and then sometimes delivering some of that information to the customer service department.
As a former rep, sometimes the sales to service handoff can be a little bit rocky.
All of these different departments (marketing, sales, service) can be operating in silos at times, and not creating good collaboration and alignment between them.
These three departments have to work together to guide the buyer throughout the buying experience and make sure it's a really buying process to walk through.
Sales enablement meets buyer enablement
The old, top-down mandates to your individual contributors just don't work quite as effectively as they did in the past.
help sellers sell
Only then can you deliver a selling story in perfect unison with the pains and needs you uncovered in discovery calls with the value our solution provides - to do that consistently amongst all internal customer facing people is the goal.
That's where we start, by enabling our sales teams to tell the right stories, gather the right information, and walk through those presentations quickly and easily.
helping buyers buy
Here’s a situation that happens all the time: you have a great conversation with the buyer, perfect unison between what your solution provides and what they need.
Then, they go off into the ether and explain it to their colleagues internally and maybe reps don't deliver information, or they do it late or inconsistently, or it's the wrong information.
That's a problem.
It's our job as sellers to make sure our buyers have the right information at the right point in their journey to make their jobs easier, and make it easier for them to make a purchase.
Real-time sales enablement
You can't enable your buyers if you don't have your sellers bought in. So I want to talk about real-time sales enablement and how effectively you can help your sellers gather the right information in discovery calls, and then also the selling motions behind that.
What is the right information to gather?
This is arguably the biggest key to selling: how do I ask the right questions at the right time, get my prospects talking about their pain points, and about why they're looking for this type of solution.
Discovery is not a step, it's stage agnostic. We need to consistently be asking appropriate questions throughout the stages of the buying cycle.
What I'm going to ask you at problem identification vs solutions exploration are going to be totally different.
The problem identification might be more about what their day-to-day looks like today, what are the problems and pain points they’re encountering.
Solutions exploration might be as you're walking through a demo or discovery demo call, where we’re digging deeper into features and functions that could solve some of those problems we identified.
On a typical discovery call, we should be asking 11 to 14 questions on average, so we need to be prescriptive about these and consistent. Make sure we're not just doing it once and then forgetting about it, it should be ongoing throughout the entire sales cycle.
We need the information back into the CRM, but sales reps are not great at doing that, leaving it to the end of the day, next week, tomorrow, whenever it might be.
This means that we don't have the information at our disposal to analyze and change the questions we might be asking on the front end, because it’s essential to ask the right questions at the right times.
What is the right story to tell?
Then, and only then, do we go into telling and explaining the right story about our solution.
This is a key part. The first part, gathering the right information, is the first priority, but then having a library of different flows for different parts of the sales cycle and buying cycle is really critical there.
Reps spend too much time trying to find the information to deliver to their buyer - up to 30 hours per month.
That’s an incredibly long time, so we need to have it right at their fingertips and we need to make it really easy for buyers or sellers to find that information and tell the story that is going to sell.
Even more concerning is the majority of marketing’s created collateral is never even used. That puts a lot more emphasis around why it needs to be right at their fingertips all the time.
Who are the right people to include?
The last piece is what I call ‘human capital optimization’, which is if we set up the real-time enablement, and we enable all of our people and sales reps to ask the right questions or tell the right stories, we can be more efficient with our time and bring in strategic parties when it's relevant to that conversation.
In other words, it’s about aligning strategic parties to the steps of the buying cycle, and including them when that time is right, but only after the first few steps have been properly identified.
The theme behind sales and what we should be focused on as sellers
Gartner talked about an interesting concept about the theme behind sales and what we should be focused on as sellers which is made up of two pieces: sense making and change management.
The first one is sense making. Buyers nowadays have upwards of seven decision makers involved in a purchasing decision, a whole committee of people that need to understand the ins-and-outs of the solutions we're evaluating.
Each of those decision makers are bringing at least four to five pieces of information to the table. So we're sifting through 30-40 pieces of information as a buying committee.
make sense of all that information that's at their fingertips
The second piece is change management. Implementing any software can radically change the business and all their processes, so it's our job as sellers to create a perfect picture of how we're going to get you from point A to point B.
Within that, we're switching solutions, training up the entire organization to make it feel as easy as possible.
These two concepts are really impactful when you think about how to enable our sales reps, and thus also enable our buyers.
Real-time sales enablement in a nutshell
Sales, marketing and customer success need to be communicating back and forth, and delivering on what's working and what's not.
To do so, we need to templatize the process. We need to have good templates based on what questions we want reps to be asking at different stages of the sales cycle.
Then, think about putting all the information back into Salesforce. As we're ready to sell and tell our story, we need to have those flows at the forefront so reps aren't looking for information or even using anything or creating their own.
Templatizing that process is incredibly important, and getting as granular as possible down to industries, personas, and whomever you might be segmenting your audience by.
The second piece is to bring it to the forefront.
This means that reps don't need to look for all these pieces of information. There are tons of solutions that can help with bringing this to the forefront, whether that's a content management system (CMS) or solutions built directly into screen share platforms nowadays.
If you bring it right to the forefront and make it dead simple for reps to be following this, they will. If it's anything other than that, they're going to default to their old ways, and you'll run into some struggles.
The third piece and arguably the most important is we need to centralize the data.
By centralizing the data, you can understand what's working and what's not, and make little tweaks to the process and template you've created to make it really easy to win more deals, drive more revenue, and do it much faster too, because you're creating better alignment with your buyers.
Buyer enablement: equip your buyer
Create internal alignment around the customer’s buying journey
If you want to create internal alignment around the customer's buying journey and equip your buyers, you need to understand what their buying journey is and what steps they need at each phase they're going through when they're making a decision.
Once you understand that buying journey, we can create alignment between the marketing assets needed to different stages.
Coming back to the different stages of the customer buying journey, what I need as a buyer at problem identification is not the same thing as what I need at supplier selection or requirements building.
Ultimately, the whole purpose of this is to give the customer a taste of what it's going to be like to be a customer of mine.
If you have confidence that I'm leading you in the right direction, you're gonna make a decision for us much faster, and you're gonna be more confident in that solution.
Use buyer behavior to guide the sales cycle and future optimization of the buying process
If we can understand who's looking at which assets, for how long, what parts they focused on, and make that connection, we can optimize them further.
This can be actively helpful in a sales cycle so we can start to have a better and more fruitful conversation.
The opposite of that is “my buyer looked at nothing and maybe I don't need to spend my time with this buyer because they're not as serious as I once thought”. It can help me to be more efficient with my time, once we have this centralization of the data.
To wrap up
The key to creating a great experience for buyers is around internal and external alignment around the customer's buying journey. Internal amongst sales, customer success, success, marketing, and also buyers and people they encounter there.
This boils down to:
- How do we help sellers sell more effectively?
- How do we help buyers buy more effectively?
When we do get those times with them, make the most of those moments and give them the information they need to help to run through their conversation.
This starts with mapping out the buying journey, understanding each and every stage that needs to happen and moving throughout that journey.
Give your sales reps the information they need so they can gather the right information and ask the right questions.
When it's time to tell an effective story and start selling, whether it's running a demo or running through case studies, we need to provide them with flows that help them to run through the pieces of that presentation.
Then the last piece of this is human capital optimization. You need to include the right parties at the right time in the buying journey. By setting up this enablement, we make better use of high value people's time if we can optimize this entire funnel and make sure we're including people only when it's necessary.
The second half of this is equipping your buyer:
- Understanding what buyers need as they go throughout their journey.
- Working with your marketing team to create content and making it right at the forefront for your sales reps to be delivering that to your buyers so they can move throughout their buying process.
The key to both buyer enablement and sales enablement is it needs to start with your sellers.
We need to templatize the process, the discovery calls, how we're putting information back into a CRM, the questions asked during discovery calls, how we're selling our product and we need it to be at the forefront and centralizing all this data.