The 5 Buyer Enablement Levels

How buyer enabled is your company currently?
good examples of customer engagement, user engagement strategy, technical pre sales, customer engagement management, pre sales consultant, user engagement, Demo Fest | goconsensus
Mark Green

The Buyer Journey

Firstly, let’s talk about the Buyer Journey. The journey through which your customers, your prospects go through when they interact with you as a vendor. The first thing they do is they have a NEED. Now that’s often helped by marketing. Perhaps for example you see a movie poster on the side of a bus and realize, “I can change – I can go and see that movie.” Then comes the discontent of the fact you’re not currently seeing that movie. Well, just with software, no one wakes up and decides “I want to buy software”. Usually they feel the need to change for some reason. Now Marketing can help there, but we’ve seen demo automation help there as well. 

After that, people have to research to LEARN what to change. Maybe there are 20 things they would love to change, 10 they could change and maybe 5 that they’ve decided they are going to change. You can help in this research phase to uncover other ideas that they might find able to change at the same time very easily. Especially with your help.

Then they can compare the different vendors who can help make that change. Afterwards, they have to BUY  into whomever can help with that change, and it often involves software and services. There’s a definite fear – a personal fear, as well as a professional fear to make sure that they’ve taken the right step. So helping them through that and onwards to the commitment stage is also very important. 

Last is VALUE, expectations and satisfaction. The value stage is post-sale but certainly something that can be provided by presales since they can help there as well; making sure the expectations are met, and satisfaction ultimately is the result.

This graphic is reproduced here courtesy of Kevin Davis from A Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness and also available in Garin Hess’ book Selling is Hard, Buying is Harder. 

Stakeholder Mapping

We’ve been discussing the buyer, but the buying group is not just one person. So how many people are there? We did some research this year and last year, and we found that SEs across the world were reporting on average 4.8 stakeholders per deal. In fact, Gartner did similar research and found that Account Executives see up to 11 stakeholders on average. 

But we found as many as 16 stakeholders can be involved in the buying group. Now you might be going through that buying learning journey yourself – have a think about how many colleagues you have that are interested in this project and that you have to help understand the various nuances and benefits that you have suggested. No matter what the actual number is, there are lots of people involved, so trying to make sure that they are helped is very important. 

So we have our champion. Usually the person most invested in the project, and the one saying ‘this is going to work’. But you’ve also got other people. Depending on your product it may be a Finance Manager or Chief Customer Officer bringing in change and software to make a difference. If your champion has gone all the way through the buying journey and is ready to commit, the other people in the buying group probably aren’t. Maybe they’re feeling left behind, so they may actively serve to stop that project or slow it down. Making sure you get all of them on board is very important. Also, don’t forget IT; I’ve personally spent a lot of time in IT and security in my career and certainly servicing those technical people with information, who usually come along at the end of the decision making process, asking all sorts of questions and extra details. So it’s key to remember that there are all sorts of stakeholders. 

One of the ways we can help with that in Consensus is the Buyer Matrix. When you send them a demo, you get to see who’s been clicking on it and who’s been selecting what’s very important, somewhat important and not important for their learning journey as they customise the demo to their needs that day. What you’ll find is the dark green dots represent the selection as very important. These people feel these items are very important… a great bit of discovery. Light green are somewhat important, and the clear dots are topics, they’ve selected as not important for their learning journey today. 

For each stakeholder interacting with your demo either during the start of that buying journey or all the way through, you get to see a heatmap because you’re always helping them.,. The heatmap provides an overview of how they’ve interacted with the videos. Each feature is represented here, and their watch time is represented by the different colours. Green they’ve watched once, orange they’ve watched twice, and the darker it gets the more times they’ve watched that part of the video.

In this example, ‘How Consensus Personalizes the Demo’ might have been very important to the viewer, so they’ve watched that part quite a few times. Either way, it’s very important that when you do speak to them, ask them why it struck their interest. It’s great that they interacted with that and learned a bit more, so why not uncover the reasons behind that?

Stakeholder Enablement

How do we then enable these stakeholders to move themselves through their buying journey? Certainly it’s not by saying “Hey, which sales stage are you at now?” They’re in buying stages: It’s a buying motion. So I would recommend the DEEP-C framework. We’ve found it particularly helpful for  really enabling the champion. Discovering who the champion is, who the other stakeholders are, though them engaging those other stakeholders and equipping them with what they need. Personalising that information to those other stakeholders is absolutely key, and it’s a coaching methodology that helps this whole process. It’s available in Garin Hess’ book Selling is Hard, Buying is Harder or you can find out more here on our website.

Level 1

Back in 2015, we saw the rise and maturity of RFP automation tools. I’ve used Ombud, but there’s Ombud also RFPIO, Avnio – all sorts. Now certainly when they first came along, people panicked thinking automation is here to come and take our jobs! Well that’s not what happened at all. In fact, It was a wonderful day when we got RFP automation tools. But it’s not like we’re sitting here twiddling our thumbs with nothing to do. That was Buyer Enablement by saying, “Take our word for it here’s some useful information.”

Level 2

2019 comes along and most enterprise systems are now available in the cloud as a SaaS model. What that means is it’s easier to stand up an instance of the software and provide it to people to have a go. So Buyer Enablement Level 2 is “Have a go yourself, see what you can learn by using the software”. Unfortunately, that’s very good for very simple software, but if you’re trying to understand the benefits of a more complex solution, perhaps one of the stakeholders is not going to use this solution, but they are interested in the benefits, they can’t get that with Buyer Enablement level 2. This SaaS Trials or PLG.

Level 3

Buyer Enablement level 3 is where buyers are guided to the first NEED stage where they’re understanding what to change and understanding how that discontent within their status quo affects their day to day lives. By removing repeated overview demos, Demo automation really helped presales scale further up the funnel, and helped buyers in level 3.

Level 4

Buyer Enablement level 4 is where buyers are guided through the first 3 full stages of their learning journey. They understand the NEED, they go through the LEARN phase and are coached through the BUY phase as well, helping to de-risk the project. I’ve seen lots of companies who are now at BE level 4 as of 2022 and they’re doing very well. In fact their competitors are as well because people keep leveling themselves up.

Level 5

This is the hardest to achieve. By now, the ball is already rolling so whilst it means a big change, it’s also the moment where you’re the most supported by great results and successes. I was talking to an industry colleague the other day who’s actually doing this as well. They help buyers through NEED, LEARN, BUY, but also after the sale as well. So presales’ impact is then felt across the entire buying journey to every stakeholder involved in the sale and onward to that VALUE stage of meeting their expectations and ultimately satisfaction.

So that’s the buying journey, and these are the 5 Buyer Enablement levels. How can you level up?

Reaching level 5 by 2024

Firstly, nothing will come on its own. Buyer Enablement is often difficult to push at first because you have to  help people see the benefits of adopting serious change beforehand, even if you know the ultimate result is benefits all round for sales, presales and of course, your buyers.

Thankfully, there are many people, organisations and softwares that are tuned directly to help some of the more modern challenges that presales leaders face. Bringing in software is easier than ever with best of breed being the new standard rather than the outdated ‘one vendor for everything’ strategies of yesteryear. What’s more, because presales now has a stronger ‘seat at the table’ of operational change, leaders are now more able than ever to bring new ideas and innovation to their realm whilst simultaneously keeping revenue targets achievable and staff growth managed.At Consensus, we’ve seen how presales leaders who embrace change are seen as a refreshing and innovative approach to business change, especially since  CRMs, support and more are a crowded and often well established process. The opportunity to find huge valuable change means presales software budgets are growing and the presales software market looks to grow to $2.1B by just 2027. That’s only 5 years away so change is coming, and presales leaders who take advantage of this energy early enough are likely to ride a wave of success.

RFP Tools

First off, deploy RFP tools. The rise of presales efficiency was boosted by the automation, even in a small part, by RFP tools. These tools allow you to give your teams a way to respond to RFPs using reliably good responses tuned to the needs of buyers in the shortest and most efficient way. Some even automate much of the process by throwing the responses back into the original RFP documents from buyers. Having used these for a few years, there’s no way I’d run an enterprise team without RFP automation included somewhere.

Many people felt worried that bringing in automation would serve or reduce the value each presales rep had – in fact it has quite the opposite effect. The power of great presales could be scaled so that even newer reps, who aren’t fully ramped with all the right responses yet, could now benefit from those who did.

Get Specific

Even if you’ve deployed demo automation, you can also address different industry or stakeholder needs by recording video content tuned directly to their needs. For example, if you’re selling Financial Accounting software, you’ll likely have a Financial Controller, Head of Finance, or perhaps even a CFO involved. But change projects affect more than just those using the software. IT, change or project management are invested in the success, and perhaps even the CEO or board members as well. Board members are unlikely to want to see how to post an invoice or run bank reconciliations, but certainly may find reporting and budget forecasting more relevant. Couple that with an understanding of your buyer’s unique industry. Perhaps they’re a charity, so make trustee and donor forecasting and annual reports content to serve those buyer stakeholders. The examples are endless, but your specific buyer needs are not.

Address the buying journey

As mentioned above, addressing the needs of each stage of the buying journey is absolutely crucial. Imagine you were buying a car, and the first thing the car salesperson gave you was the service and maintenance manual. Sure, there’s loads of information, but how is it useful to you in a showroom? Likewise, if you go to get your car fixed and all the mechanic does is endlessly show you videos of how cool your car would look driving along beautiful mountain roads. Sure, lovely – but what I need is something different.

It’s no different with software purchases. At each stage of the buying journey, your buyers need to achieve certain parts of their project. So make content that serves them at the specific point they are. We dive more into how in our 6 demo types, read more here.

Measure & Align

KPIs are often used to measure output. But, whilst measuring output is important, understanding the inputs first puts you in a far better position. We’ve seen many sales success stories based on the anecdotal evidence of great presales, but unless you really know what actions you took to craft that win, you’re hanging success off conjecture.

By measuring newly available metrics via demo automation – like average view time, stakeholder engagement and demo sharing – you start to see not just the hours worked by your team, but also the scaled effect they’re having on their successes. Presales power now comes at scale, and each rep, team or division is able to deliver far more than before focused on demand gaps and activity gaps. Once you’ve measured presales activities and impact, you’re then better able to align them with sales goals. For a deep-dive into some surprisingly helpful non-financial KPIs, check this webinar from Demofest.

Expand

You’ve won your area, your buyers are flowing through at a tremendous rate being helped along the way by your now-super enabled presales reps or teams, the number and quality of closed-won  opportunities is climbing, and others are starting to notice your innovation is making waves. We’ve seen in many of our customers that their ideas spread to form Innovation hubs or Digital selling teams. These teams are the new wave of buyer-focused selling using automation to scale their efforts – so why not scale this impact to other parts of your business? Perhaps other countries could do with some of your successful methods. You can help them through the change your solution brings and point out the benefits and pitfalls you often see along the way. Other product areas could also find great benefits from adopting your proven methods, and you’re now instrumental in productive, profitable growth for your company.