Getting Back to the Basics to Enable Virtual Selling

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The global pandemic has impacted every aspect of our daily lives. It has forced business-to-business (B2B) buyers and sellers to embrace doing business digitally in a huge way. In Sales Enablement PRO’s State of Sales Enablement Report 2021, 70% of the respondents reported that their company’s sales process has become more challenging over the last 12 to 18 months. This shift has turned the B2B buyer-seller engagement on its head and whether we like it or not, this digital shift is here to stay.

Independently, surprising findings from a 2020 McKinsey research report cite that over 75% of buyers and sellers say they prefer digital self-serve and remote human engagement over face-to-face interactions. The research also notes that “70% of B2B decision-makers say they are open to making new, fully self-serve or remote purchases in excess of $50,000, and 27% would spend more than $500,000”.

Call to Action

Many sales enablement industry experts advocate that now is a great time to get back to the basics while simultaneously pivoting by embracing creative disruption. Getting back to the basics entails aligning the buyer’s journey with the sales process (i.e., sales methodology, sales stages, and enablement tools).

According to CSO Insights, “sales representatives of companies whose sales process is aligned to the buyer’s journey attain sales quota 13% more often than representatives of companies whose sales process is not aligned to the buyer’s journey.”

As the book, “Sales Enablement 3.0: The Blueprint to Sales Enablement Excellence”, by Roderick Jefferson discusses, it is critical to align sales enablement to the buyer’s journey. While there are many strategies and tactics that can be implemented for companies to thrive in this new normal, one of these key baseline strategies entails creating an airtight end-to-end process.

It is critical that a company’s messaging and positioning, go-to-market strategy, and short, medium, and long-term sales enablement metrics are aligned. Sales professionals are counting on all the lines of business to collaborate and build an easy-to-follow strategy that will ultimately lead to success for them, their prospects, and their customers.

Personalization at Scale

As we all continue to adapt to working virtually, while striving to create meaningful relationships with buyers, it is also extremely important to keep the focus on buyer engagement and cultivating a personalized customer experience across the entire revenue organization. Savvy sales enablement leaders like Stacey Justice, vice president of sales enablement and productivity at HashiCorp, focus on personalization at the early stage of a buyer’s journey. The level of personalization of customer engagement has become an important metric being tracked by 31% of organizations, according to the Sales Enablement Analytics Report 2021. The challenge going forward is, how can sales enablement professionals help sales teams personalize at scale and then track the impact and effectiveness throughout the entire process?

Another key approach to the back-to-the-basics mental model is underscoring the value and significance of establishing and maintaining personal relationships with prospects and customers. Relationships are the backbone of sales success. People buy from, and because of, personal relationships with people. It is therefore important to help prospects make decisions, even if the decision is to not buy.

Priming a Consensus Decision

If today’s virtual selling environment is not challenging enough, the typical buying committee now includes as many as 15 decision-makers. This means that in today’s buyer’s journey, the revenue-generating team, which may include sales enablement, must work towards gaining agreement from multiple people.

Obtaining consensus from multiple decision-makers means that we must influence the collective memory and thoughts of the entire decision-making group (regardless of each member’s role). One innovative way to facilitate reaching consensus is to use a neuroscience concept called “priming.” Priming means introducing one stimulus to influence how buyers respond to a subsequent stimulus.

“In your sales presentations, every element influences how the next one is being processed,” said Dr. Carmen Simon, author of “Impossible to Ignore: Creating Memorable Content to Influence Decisions”. “For example, one slide influences how your audience perceives the next slide. When you understand how to use priming in your presentations, you can get multiple decision-makers to remember and act on your message in a unified way.”

Tools for Virtual Selling

Recent McKinsey research indicates that video and live chat have emerged as the predominant channels for interacting and closing sales with B2B customers increasing to 53% and 49% respectively. Needless to say, sales enablement tools have become (and will continue to be) a critical component in this global, virtual selling universe. As many enablement practitioners have discovered, selecting, designing, building, implementing, integrating, and maintaining these tools is a full-time job.

According to LinkedIn’s State of Sales 2021 report, 50% of buyers said that working remotely has made the purchase process easier – but in contrast, sales teams are having a harder time. The report further indicates that 65% of salespeople surveyed say working remotely is more challenging than they anticipated.

Delivering impactful, engaging, personalized customer presentations is front and center, now even more than ever. The successful acquisition and adoption of sales tools by organizations will give them a competitive advantage. For example, practitioners may have the following types of tools in their sales technology stack to enable virtual selling:

  1. Content Management Systems
  2. Learning Management Systems
  3. Prospecting Tools
  4. Sales Reporting Tools
  5. Marketing Automation Tools
  6. Communication Tools
  7. Sales Coaching Tools
  8. Revenue Intelligence Platforms

It is important to note that with the growth and strategic importance of sales enablement tools, there is a significant amount of consolidation occurring in the industry through alliances, partnerships, mergers, and acquisitions. As sales enablement professionals, the challenge is to strategically integrate the technology stack whereby it maximizes value to the sales teams so they can sell more, faster.

Building a Rock-Solid Enablement Foundation

People are now living, working, learning, and playing in a highly digital world. For sales enablement professionals, this situation creates an opportunity to be visionaries and strategic partners for key stakeholders. A successful sales enablement strategy in today’s virtual selling environment requires a sound framework or blueprint. Key elements of a rock-solid foundation can include the following five Ps:

  1. Purpose
  2. People
  3. Programs
  4. Performance
  5. Platforms

While each of these elements is essential, “People” is the key thread that weaves the framework together. After all, people are at the center of how organizations can achieve personalization at scale, build consensus, and improve the virtual selling experience. To create meaningful, people-centric enablement programs in an ever-evolving environment, it is important for practitioners to remember that they are all in this together.

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