Most people think the sales team closes the deal. There’s an entire category of sales professionals known for complex selling. But there’s no such thing as a complex sale! Garin Hess, our founder and CEO wrote in his book, “Selling is Hard. Buying is Harder”:
“Effective buyer enablement is not just a methodology. It’s really a strategy and an attitude, the way you look at the world and your perspective on sales…the reality is, we can never actually close the deal. Only the buyers can.”
When sales teams adopt this mentality, it brings a shift in empathy and engagement that helps them better equip buying teams with the information, the structure, and the confidence they need to buy. We call this strategy Buyer Enablement, and it has proven to be one of the most effective strategies to drastically shorten the B2B sales cycle and increase close rates.
What is Buyer Enablement?
The singular focus of Buyer Enablement is to make buying as easy as possible for customers. It’s the ultimate competitive advantage. Think of how easy Amazon has made it to buy things—some consumers make purchases even when the item can be found elsewhere cheaper due to how quickly and easily they can complete purchases through the site.
B2B buying cycles may never be as convenient as online consumer shopping, but consider, for example, the average buying cycle for an IT purchase, which Gartner estimates is 16.3 months. 77% of those surveyed by Gartner said their last IT purchase was complex or difficult. Long, complex— these are quickly becoming disqualifiers for buyers. .
Additionally, Gartner claims only 17% of that long (and sometimes painful) buying cycle is spent with prospective suppliers—and that’s suppliers plural, not just one. So unless your team is the only one in the running, that means you’re only getting to influence about 5% of their time in direct contact.
While every sales team is attempting to have meaningful interactions during that small amount of time, buyer enablement strategies put the right information and strategies into the hands of your champion within the buyer team so they can sell for you when you aren’t around.
Essentially, buyer enablement requires sales teams to become the coaches that create incredible salespeople out of internal champions.
Four Fundamentals of Buyer Enablement
The question that sales teams should be asking themselves is simple: What do buyers need to do to close the deal, and how can I provide them the resources to be successful?
Unpack that with 4 sub-questions asked from the perspective of your buyers:.
How do we solve this problem? This question allows the sales team to prove, from a broad perspective, the solution we provide is valid for the problem a buyer is trying to solve.
Can we afford it? From ROI calculators to key value propositions, it’s up to sales teams to provide the information that financially justifies the purchase of their solution. A financial stakeholder can put the breaks on quickly, so champions need to have these answers ready.
Can we afford to implement this solution? Hess calls this “emotional return on investment” because stakeholders must decide they have the time and energy to implement the solution. If a product is too difficult to implement, it is difficult for even the most motivated champions to drive change.
Am I the first person trying this? Being a trailblazer doesn’t appeal to everyone; most buying teams will be looking for social proof that this solution has been successful for other users. When champions can provide precedence and positive user experience, their case for purchasing is much stronger.
When your champion is adequately instrumented to answer these questions at scale for all stakeholders, their likelihood to view you as a coach and advisor and to expedite decisions goes up dramatically.
Taking the Lead in the Buying Process
By answering the questions above, the buyer becomes ready to lead the selling effort. The sales team isn’t finished with buyer enablement, though. Being a coach and not just a seller means asking the right questions, encouraging proactive strategies, and, most importantly, helping champions make and keep commitments to take action.
Navigating this from start to ongoing customer partnership, across multiple customers, is of course easy.
Of course it’s not easy! But there’s a simple framework you can follow: The DEEP-C™Buyer Enablement Framework.
DEEP-C™ Buyer Enablement Framework
- Discover: Discover your champion and other stakeholders
- Engage: Champion and stakeholders
- Equip: Give the champion everything they need to sell internally
- Personalize: Help the champion personalize their tools to each stakeholder
- Coach: Prepare your champion to sell well, then follow through with them with commitments
Consider how stakeholders have been introduced into the buying cycle in the past. Traditionally, stakeholders trickle into the buying cycle one at a time, over months of conversation. The DEEP-C™ framework challenges this approach by reorienting the sales team around this north star: how do you enable buyers to act more quickly?
Sales teams should be able to identify the typical stakeholders that contribute to their buying cycles. Rather than wait for these people to appear after a ton of manual work and outbound prospecting, champions should be able to organically involve the right people right up front. This one simple adjustment can shave months of the buying cycle.
One sales team in a medical software SaaS Division of a Fortune 500 company reported that using this approach for 90 days shortened their buying cycles by 68% and increased their close rate by 27%. An enabled buyer is an empowered one, a confident one, who’s no longer intimated or frustrated by the buying experience but who becomes a true champion and change agent to close deals sooner.