What is buyer enablement?

There’s one word to keep top of mind when it comes to buyer enablement, that word is ‘easy.’ Buyer enablement is so important today because the typical buying journey of the B2B buyer is anything but easy.

Actually, research and advisory firm Gartner recently described the B2B buying journey as “a long, hard slog.” Have you heard that from your buyers?

If you’re looking for a competitive edge in today’s hypercompetitive market you should consider buyer enablement as the methodology and the mentality to get the business you’ve always wanted. With a mature buyer enablement strategy in place businesses who provide the best buying experience stand to triple the likelihood of closing a bigger deal with less regret.

That sounds pretty great, so we’re going to break down what buyer enablement actually is and establish a few ways you can use buyer enablement at your own company.

Some background on buyer enablement

For the past decade or so, sales enablement has been top of mind for most sales leaders. Sales enablement is the process of providing the sales organization with the information, content, and tools that help salespeople sell more effectively.

This has required an enormous amount of effort, time, and resources to get marketing and sales teams working closer together internally in response to the shift in buying behavior and preferences.

Content from marketing teams became the primary driver of new leads for sales teams. Content to get leads, content to engage leads, and content to close leads. Content became the means by which many companies in B2B grew their business online. There’s no doubt that content marketing and sales enablement assets are still important but something has changed.

Content is cheaper than ever. We’re all drowning in information. Right now, high-quality content is table stakes and many of the website forms that used to generate all the information needed to qualify leads to MQLs are disappearing. To get ahead companies are starting to ‘un-gate’ great content and put it all out there for free.

The era of information overload is here

Buyers have caught on to what happens when they fill out a form. The glory days of content marketing are behind us. Though content is still necessary buyers have shifted the way they buy yet again.

On the shift in B2B buying behavior here’s Latané Conant, CMO of 6sense,

“When it comes to this there are three things I think about every day. First of all, I think about the fact that B2B buyers are anonymous. So, they’re on B2B trade publications, they’re on your competitor’s website, they’re on your website—if your lucky—but they’re not filling out a form. They’re doing all their research anonymously. The second thing about them is that they buy in teams or buying groups. There are almost 10 people involved in the average buying decision. So, I say B2b buyers are fragmented. The other thing about them is that they are resistant. I remember early in my career when an 8-touch campaign was crushing it. Today, our cadences are 15-22 well-orchestrated personalized steps just to get the smallest sign of life from a future customer.”

Latané Conant
CMO, 6sense

Let’s give that some pause. Today’s buyer will probably never fill out a form, preferring to get information from 3rd parties, they operate in buying groups of nearly 9 other people, and they aren’t engaging with content like they used to.

To understand why buyers are acting this way Gartner has more insight.

According to Gartner, access to information has further complicated the buying process for B2B buyers. “Today’s customers have access to not only more information but also to more high-quality, trustworthy information. This is not a relatively new situation but still presents a challenge, as it delays direct interaction with suppliers,” says Brent Adamson of Gartner.

Buyers are overwhelmed with information, deals are taking much longer to win, and more people are getting involved. The market has recognized that sales organizations have acted selfishly and responded. Furthermore, the younger your contacts are the more skeptical they tend to be. Millennials are twice as skeptical of claims made by sellers during the sales process than older generations.

“Perhaps growing up in the era of information abundance makes millennials so comfortable doing their own research that they don’t trust sales reps to help them,” says Adamson.

For too long, B2B sales strategies and technologies have been organized around enabling the sales rep and sales teams, with the focus on how to make sales more effective. Furthermore, content marketing has become table stakes and too many companies abuse consumers with too much information.

Because buyers are demanding more personalized experiences businesses need to consider a new way to get their attention and ultimately their trust.

How businesses can respond to the most recent shift in buyer behavior

The sales team should not be the only team responsible for revenue. Instead, companies are shifting towards establishing a distributed revenue incentive structure over a crossfunctional revenue team.

This has given rise to revenue operations (RevOps), the strategic convergence of sales, marketing, and customer success to drive full-funnel accountability across the revenue engine.

The essential components of RevOps

  • A revenue team – distribute revenue across customer-facing teams
  • Data infrastructure – ensure a holistic view of the customer is shared across business units
  • Enablement technology – leverage technology to give teams the tools they need to influence revenue

Revenue teams consist of marketers and salespeople but also customer success. If you think about it, your customers are also a great source for repeat business and expanding relationships.

Instead of placing the full burden of business development upon front-line sales reps, business leaders should consider that by aligning incentives across customer-facing teams they can account for the full experience the business provides the customer.

Enablement technology is a fast-growing category that is taking the same practices from sales enablement and distributing it across all customer-facing teams. Now at every touchpoint marketing, sales, and customer success teams can deliver more value with every customer interaction.

Buyer enablement is about the perspective of the buyer

With buyer enablement, revenue teams work together and focus on how to make the buying journey and decision-making process easier to navigate.

With the right technology and content to get stakeholders what they need faster than ever before they’re able to provide personalized experiences that buyers expect.

Because buyers prefer to remain anonymous, do their own research, maintain a healthy skepticism towards salespeople, and make decisions in groups—the entire sales process needs to reorient itself around providing

In short, make it easier for the buying group to make a decision and you’ll close deals faster and more often.

What is the definition of buyer enablement?

  • The definition of buyer enablement is the strategic undertaking of information gathering that leverages research, technology, and people to establish a holistic understanding of the buyer’s journey and the subsequent deployment of an operations strategy to coordinates the provisioning of personalized information and custom guidance, provided by appropriate members of a revenue team at the right time, to support buyers in their completion of critical activities necessary to make a purchase.

The most important part of that definition is supporting buyers in their completion of critical activities necessary to make a purchase. Every audience has a unique set of challenges and roadblocks. Furthermore, every account has different requirements and leadership structures.

Getting to know what your buyer’s journey looks like and providing your buyers with the best support to simplify an incredibly complex journey is key to your business’s ability to generate revenue going into the future..

Providing support is about creating an experience

The buying experience your company provides to the customer should be your company’s top concern. Buyer enablement is all about optimizing the buying experience to create more sustainable growth.

To be clear, the buying experience is no longer just between a front-line salesperson and a buyer. The buying experience extends from the moment a person realizes they have a problem to well after they’ve chosen your company as a solution. At SalesReach we like to think of our relationship to the market through the lens of the Jeff Bezos and his flywheel approach.

Read more about how the flywheel concept is taking over businesses here.

Even if your company is not in the retail or e-commerce space a good understanding of how consumers make decisions when making a purchase and evaluating an existing relationship with a vendor is a critical skill. What makes a flywheel approach so insightful because it reveals a problem in B2B.

B2B is certainly going through the throws of innovation right now but it’s generally accepted that it’s lagging behind trends set in the business-to-consumer (B2C) space.

The key to buyer enablement is the business consumer

For a couple of years, B2B practitioners have been observing the “consumerization” of the B2B buyer. Even if you don’t know what that means you can probably relate to the fact that today’s buyers are a whole lot different than they were five to ten or even just two years ago.

B2B is no different than B2C consumers (perhaps they never were).

At SalesReach, we like to say that there are only human-to-human sales. For anyone in B2B today the concept of “the business consumer” is an important consideration in your business development strategy and a cornerstone of buyer enablement.

The concept of the business consumer describes the relationship today’s buyers have with their suppliers

To get a quick grasp on how to deal with business consumers, just consider how you’ve purchased something recently.

“At Forrester, we call the business buyer the business consumer. What this means is business buyers also make purchases in their personal lives. Their expectations, attitudes, and experiences are now shaped by their favorite brands. So, if you close your eyes and think about your favorite brands. It might be Spotify, Netflix, Amazon, Apple, maybe [they are your favorite] for a variety of reasons but the top reason is probably personalization and also consistent engagement across whatever channel you choose. These buyers are expecting the same fricionless experiences in B2B.”

Mary Shae Ph.D.
Prinipal Analyst, Forrester Research.

The exchange of value-driven experience delivery has become more and more noticeable and disproportionate to buyers.

Over here I can order a new car delivered directly to my house no questions asked and over here I have to fill out a multiple-step form, check my email, schedule a demo, ask my bosses what they think, dig through multiple email threads, request access to view, and on and on.

Josh Fedie
CEO and Founder, SalesReach

It’s frustrating because the business consumer deeply favors the B2C experience and will gleefully advance with the B2B provider that offers an experience better than competitors.

Now, B2B buyers are more entitled as their expectations have been shaped by their interactions with their favorite brands such as Amazon, Apple, Carvana, and more.

The best brands, as evaluated by consumer satisfaction and revenue all provide consumers a powerfully enhanced buying experience. They have buyer enablement built into their DNA.

There’s an old saying that the sweetest thing anyone will ever hear is the sound of their own name. The top brands today have figured that out and applied it to nearly everything and done so to great effect. They provide personalization and consistent high-value engagement across all touchpoints.

All customer-facing teams need to work together

A core principle of sales enablement has been that marketing and sales departments need to work very closely together if they’re going to win the customers. However, if we’re really going to take a lesson from today’s most successful and impressive brands we need to think more about sustainability in our business functions.

“For so many B2B companies, marketing, sales and customer success operate in their own disconnected silos, much like a bucket brigade passing prospects from one team to the next as they make their way down the customer journey.

Andy Byrne
CEO, Clari

Buyer enablement is focused on solving customer problems and mature buyer enablement programs are not limited to just marketing and sales functions.

Marketing teams, sales teams, and customer service teams need to work together to create programs and seamless experiences that return maximum value to the customer, consistently, and at every interaction.

The buyer enablement movement is a re-orientation of how business units collaborate to return value to the customer and ultimately achieve higher revenue. Through buyer enablement, companies can attain higher levels of customer-centricity by choosing to reallocate their focus from internal sales processes and solving company problems towards the optimization of customer interactions that in sum create a better buying experience.

Buyer enablement boils down to very simple concepts that businesses tend to forget. When it’s easy to do business people will do business with you more. When you trust someone you’re more likely to buy from them. When you’re confident about your purchase you’ll purchase more. Buyer enablement is all about providing the best buying experience and simplifying the purchase.