Sales Enablement is a discipline and practice area that’s still in its relative infancy.  There are self-appointed sales enablement ‘veterans’ who would (and do) argue differently but in its current shape, size and profile, it’s a toddler.  And like all toddlers, it’s excitable, ill disciplined and curious to explore the world around it. In the last 12-24 months this industry-wide curiosity and energy has translated into lots of much needed conversations, philosophising and events to attend, as we’ve  searched for answers to our sales enablement questions. 

In amongst all of the noise a consistent topic of conversation has centred around the B2B Buyer and the experiences that we (Sales Enablement + Sales) need to serve up to them, in order to 'sell more stuff'.  As a result of this the community has generated a load of great strategic, big picture, content such as research reports, thought leadership pieces and methodologies. Whilst we need this type of content to help shape and frame our thinking it doesn’t bring any grit or reality to the challenge at hand. Many sales enablement professionals haven’t come from a sales background, they’ve not had to sit in a room, eyeball to eyeball with a buyer and attempt to sell something. To this end, we thought, “Why don’t we get some B2B buyers in a room with some sales enablement professionals and have a chat”. So, that’s what we did.

On Sept 11th, in a meeting room, a stones throw from Oxford Street, Bridge, in collaboration with our friends at Showpad, hosted ‘Straight From The Buyers Mouth’. The event saw senior B2B buyers from BlackRock, Informa Group, Canon and ExxonMobil come together with 15 or so Sales Enablement professionals and engage in a round table discussion. The agenda was built around the different phases of the buyer journey as we explored the reality of what good and bad looks like for the buyers in the room.

There was a lot of open and honest discussion (thanks to everyone in attendance) with more than a few things that surprised much of the room or challenged pre-conceived thoughts/ideas.  Across the 4 phases of the buying journey here are my single biggest take outs from each:

Awareness: It’s part of a B2B buyers job description to be curious and buy products and services. This simple fact is often overlooked. Sales and marketing professionals often fall into the trap of thinking they need to be clever and bamboozle buyers with complexity in order to gain that initial point of engagement or traction. In reality, this often isn’t the case and buyers actively enter into the market looking for a solution to a problem. They want to find answers, so give them what they want.

Definition: Be flexible and accommodating. Each buyer is unique to a lesser or greater extent. As they look to understand and define their challenge, they will want to execute certain tasks. This will need to be carried out largely on their terms. Not yours. If they want a relevant case study in a clear and understandable format, then give it to them. If they don’t want to talk to a salesperson, don’t try to speak to them. Do not try to impose your sales methodology or qualification process on them. That won’t end well for the seller.        

Validation: With anywhere between 40% to 55% of Enterprise deals being lost to ‘no decision’ or ‘lost funding’ salespeople have to work much harder at giving buyers compelling and robust business cases. Vendors who are willing and capable of dedicating time to working this through with a client will be in stronger positions to win. ROI calculators and similar tooling are increasingly important to buyers especially in light of buying committees and the need to convince 4 to 6 stakeholders, not 1 or 2.

Decision:  Whether you’re sat buy-side in a presentation as a procurement professional or a branding expert there’s one commodity that is valued higher than any other during the critical presentation stage of the buying journey.  And that is… chemistry. It’s one of the biggest clichés out there but apparently, it’s truer than ever, ‘people, buy people’. You might be in the box seat when you enter the room but if you don’t deliver a slick, engaging and compelling presentation you are opening yourselves up to being usurped. In a business world that is so tech-heavy it’s wholesome to hear that aspects of a decision are still reliant on human interaction and real-world experiences.

 Keep an eye out for the next event from Bridge.