Adapting to Evolving Buyer Behavior
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The way people interact, communicate, consume, and buy has undergone drastic shifts in the past year. While the trend toward virtual work and digital innovation is not entirely new, the transition has been rapidly accelerated. These changes further brought customer priorities to the forefront, underscoring the importance of providing value as a trusted partner.
As organizations transitioned from in-person to virtual, and now, back to hybrid and in-person environments, buyers and sellers alike have been taken on a roller coaster of change that has inherently caused behavioral shifts. As the norms of buyer behavior are continuing to evolve alongside shifts in the selling environment, sales enablement must efficiently respond to these changes to effectively support buyers and maintain valuable relationships.
Here are three ways buyer experiences are evolving long-term, and best practices for enablement to implement to help sales reps adapt.
Prioritizing Emotional Connection
Emotional connection is vital in both virtual and in-person settings. Since virtual settings by their nature involve barriers in the form of screens, it is all the more important to prioritize relationship-building in a virtual environment.
“Our emotional brain is five times more powerful than our logical brain,” said Allen Biehl, director of global sales enablement at Snow Software.
In non-virtual settings, the buyer and seller have opportunities to candidly connect and converse through in-person activities such as lunch meetings or networking events. On the other hand, virtual meetings are oftentimes compressed and on strict agendas, leaving little room for the casual conversations necessary to establish genuine emotional connection.
An effective solution to this challenge is prioritizing storytelling in the sales process in order to create resonance regardless of the environment. To do so in a way that gains trust from buyers, sales enablement can keep the following in mind:
- Enable sellers with tribal knowledge of the company and industry, and bring the stories of experienced reps to the forefront
- Leverage customer examples and case studies to demonstrate impact and the potential outcomes
- Engage cross-functional peers in the sales process to humanize the organization
- Make space in virtual meetings to get to know the customer; virtual meetings do not have to be exclusively business discussions
Keeping Reps Motivated
Rapid change can be exhausting, which poses a challenge in keeping reps motivated. This can be further exacerbated in virtual environments, as video conferencing fatigue and lessened emotional connectivity make it all the more challenging for sales reps to maintain high levels of engagement throughout the buying process. In turn, this can lead to cognitive overload.
To overcome these challenges and ignite motivation to keep pace with change as work environments shift, sales enablement can keep the following guiding principles in mind:
- Measure the impact of reps: Using proof points and allowing the sellers to understand the direct value they are contributing reinforces the belief that they are bringing tangible changes and impacts to their customers. Once sellers see their impacts, they will be motivated to seek out further information and training.
“Really being able to engage with a customer and believe that they are bringing value to the customer — that’s what gets [reps] motivated, when they can really see that they can make a change,” said Biehl.
- Engage reps in coaching: Managers can use coaching scorecards to give consistent feedback to reps regarding the specific expectations that are set in training processes. This can also help reps feel supported in their own professional development.
- Mutual action planning: As buyer behaviors change, reps are craving clarity in times of abundant uncertainty. Using mutual action planning gives sales reps a concrete answer to the question of who needs to do what to make their respective deals happen.
- Just-in-time learning: Using just-in-time learning to foster need-based training makes overcoming challenges immediately possible, as the training is readily available when and how the rep needs it. Placing information directly in the hands of sales reps eliminates the time they would spend searching for that information, which in turn, makes the sales process more efficient.
- Create space for support: Lastly, reminding sales reps that they have continued support will foster motivation and eagerness to perform. To foster support in virtual environments, create instant messaging channels for questions or office hours to compensate for the interaction that would be present in the office.
Preparing Reps to be Agile
As the buyer experience evolves, the expectations are increasingly high for sales reps to adapt quickly and effectively alongside that evolution. This means it is essential for enablement practitioners to support reps with flexible programs that can help maintain agility.
“A key element would be to…be flexible enough and to adapt quickly,” said Michel Tornabene, revenue enablement leader at Checkout.com. “If we need to shift quickly from a hybrid to an in-person to, again, an online type of selling experience, that needs to be happening quickly and rapidly and needs to come out as a natural approach.”
To foster agility in sales reps, deep buyer profiles that are built with evolution in mind are key. When sales reps thoroughly understand the buyer, each stage of the sales cycle can be driven by an education element that demonstrates value and encourages the buyer to move forward in their journey. Rather than teaching buyers what to think, sales reps can provide the right questions at the right time that fit accordingly to the buyer’s behavior.
Similarly, buyers are moving more and more toward a world where they are self-serving in gathering information. In response to this behavior, sales enablement can use engagement tools to make efficient adaptation possible based on real-time feedback from customers.
Additionally, sales enablement tools that allow reps to quickly gather information and share it with prospects and customers in the moment, regardless of in-person or virtual workplaces, fosters efficiency and agility. As a result, reps can optimize alignment with customers and build credibility. At the same time, enablement can utilize technology to communicate to reps in digestible ways to arm them with the latest and greatest information, regardless of their work environment.
“Our biggest job is to get stuff in front of our sellers in whatever way they want to consume it,” said Biehl.
As the world shifts back to hybrid and in-person environments, sales enablement will undoubtedly undergo changes as well. Keeping the buyer engaged throughout the growing pains of these transitions is vital to the success of sales enablement and the sales organization as a whole. By ensuring rep behaviors are aligned to the behaviors of their buyers, keeping reps motivated, and continuing to foster connections across teams and with customers, enablement can ensure more seamless transitions.