The modern B2B buyer has a confusing journey. Buyers have a large variety of factors to consider during the sales process and need at least some degree of guidance. The responsibility of guiding the buyer through his/her sales journey is held by the sales team. In this presentation, Aaron Janmohamed goes over ways that salespeople can guide their prospects through the buyer’s journey.
Aaron Janmohamed is the current VP of Marketing at Consensus. Aaron has a decade of sales experience and has spent the last few years of his career in marketing.
“…an average of 11 stakeholders are involved in a b2b purchase. It can occasionally flex to nearly 20 Especially in the enterprise. That’s a lot of people right. It’s complex, it’s a lot of people, but what amplifies This is the fact that yes, b2b Buying has changed.”
“You want to personalize the value of each stakeholder but I actually think the more appropriate term is relevancy.”
- Make recommendations to prospects
- Ask for commitments
- Facilitate and be a resource
Hello, my name is Aaron John Muhammad I lead marketing at consensus. We do intelligent demo automation to scale pre-sales teams and I just saw my face in the corner. I’m smiling like an idiot. I’m gonna hopefully not look at that for the rest of this presentation and I certainly won’t listen to it because I hate the sound of my own voice. But I’m excited to present to you today on the theme of buyer enablement. Oh, first, I have some tech. It’s not working. I’m doing this from my laptop. I apologize if the video and audio are a bit ski Wampus but you can troll me on LinkedIn if it sucks. Hopefully the content though is good enough that you’re not going to do that. So buyer enablement, I shouldn’t have led with my punch line. It’s another disclaimer it was just too cool. I had to do it. And I guess it sets the stage for the rest of the presentation. So why not? Sellers don’t close deals only buyers can. I really don’t think there are too many organizations in the world that would adopt the edict that their sellers are not sellers and that their sellers don’t close deals. So my goal today is to prove to you that this is absolutely true. And hopefully I don’t screw it up in the process.
But there’s this. There’s this terminology that we used when I was in sales. So I spent the first 10 years of my career in enterprise sales and account management. I refer to what I did as complex selling. So I was managing these massive deals across multiple months with a ton of different people, stakeholders and an account. What’s not complex about that, but the problem is one of orientation. I’m going to make one last disclaimer of the principles of Byron a when I think applied to any revenue team marketing sales, customer success, I’m going to speak from the perspective of a seller I apologize for the the narrowness of my language.
But this is really something that applies to any revenue generating team but specific to sales. We tend to have this idea that we’re the ones managing the sales process. I really don’t think it’s true. So here’s the justification behind that.
This is an article from Forbes my co Garren wrote a couple of months ago, he cited Gartner now everyone in their dog talk about how buying is changing and how buying groups are growing and how you need to buy their technology because of these factors. I’m not pitching to you right now. So you don’t have to worry about that. But the point is I know you’ve heard this before, but it sets the stage in the premise for why buyer enablement is important, and it’s a good refresher. So this is just two years ago Gartner says an average of 11 stakeholders are involved in a b2b purchase. It can occasionally flex to nearly 20 Especially in the enterprise. That’s a lot of people right. It’s complex, it’s a lot of people, but what amplifies This is the fact that yes, b2b Buying has changed. It is not linear, is very asynchronous, you know, when I was in sales, and still I you know, I you know, just two jobs ago, I could probably point to a sales process that looked very much like what you see in the very middle of the screen. Okay, very linear. Here’s what we think about selling and buying. It’s really all the stuff around it that matters. That’s where the rubber meets the road and that’s where the buyers spend most of their time. We have this very narrow view on what buyers are doing, what they need, is at the point where they make a decision. I think it’s flawed. And this messy chart has probably only gotten more messy as Tech has gotten more complex and infiltrated more parts of our lives. Not to mention the fact that it’s different for every one of the stakeholders. If you’re managing a big deal with 20, individual stakeholders, and this is their, this is one individual’s view of the world and each 20 of them have a different view of the world or a different journey that they’re going through. I mean, it just almost seems impossible. Of course, we’re making it more complicated than maybe it needs to be but that’s kind of the point right? We want to take an accurate, realistic view of what’s really happening.
I think the more important slide though, is this. This is something again, that Gartner had published a couple of years ago. I asked customers if these data points are still true, my current customers, and I actually heard that it’s gotten worse. So the one I want to point out is what’s in the top right are the circles. How much time does a buyer actually spend in direct contact with vendors, or the buying process? It used to be 17%, it’s closer to 15%, really 10 to 15%. But for math, I’m going to use 15%. That’s with all vendors. Just think about that. For a moment. already. It’s hard to map out an organization, especially in the enterprise. It’s hard to map out their touch points with brand and solutions and learning and you know that whole dark funnel principle that applies to every revenue generating team. That alone is complex, but the fact that they’re spending only 15% With all vendors further amplifies the problem.
But let’s break this down. That’s with all vendors so if there are three vendors and that number is not 17% it’s really 15% You’ve got what 5% direct contact time with your buyers and we think that that’s going to close deals. That’s enough to close deals, but the problem is sometimes it is enough and we do close deals. That’s because marketers usually do their job and they’ve created great brand awareness. I’m gonna toot my own horn but it is true.
The broader point though is that this is a big problem. Our window to influence buying decisions to influence how they think about the problem space in the solution space is very narrow. And when we factor in additional vendors that much more narrow and when we factor in all those different buyers and stakeholders that much more narrow. And so to think of b2b as a seller as something that I’m managing as a process that I have to own kind of correct but really misses the point in terms of its orientation. So I like to think of you know, not complex sales, but complex purchases because this is the start of thinking of how buyers are at the center of this again, we all pay lip service to the fact that we have to have customer customer empathy. Now we put customers at the center of everything. I really don’t think it’s the case in practical terms, unless you start treating your processes or your closed deals as something that your buyers are doing. And something that they’re managing on their end. I think you’re kind of failing from the start.
So I had this really cool customer with a really cool conversation with a big customer of mine. He’s one of you know, he’s with one of the largest tech companies in the world. And he was telling me how even at that company, all of their budget, their training, tools, processes, it’s all oriented around the seller. Do you think it’s absolutely right? You train reps on these soft skills, soft sales skills, those are important you train them on, following a process in conjunction with their pre sales counterparts. It’s not like that’s a bad thing.
But literally, it’s all around how can the seller be better to engage, connect with and manage this process? There’s literally no training and no tools, at least very few tools to help the seller reorient their thinking around the buyer. Have You Ever Been a seller? Have you ever received buyer training? You know, what is the process your buyers go through? And how can you help guide them through their process? Do you have tools that help enable that? Are your processes mapped around how your buyers buy rather than how you want to sell? I would argue that most of the time maybe 80% of the time, that’s not the case. This is the fundamental problem, okay. And so it creates this enemy of teams holding their buyers hostage to their calendars.
So I think I mentioned this, but I’ll repeat it when I was in sales if I landed my first meeting with a customer and then a follow up discovery with a few more stakeholders. And then two weeks later, maybe the first product demo of the course of the month, I’d have three meetings. I thought it would be crude like that would be killer. If I had accomplished three solid meetings with a single account over the course of the month. I think I’d be ecstatic, right? But that represents how much time like maybe three hours two hours of direct contact, cross hundreds of hours with that stakeholder group. Again, that window of influence is very narrow, but we think that we’re winning, we think that we’re owning the cell and controlling the deal if we are able to get them on our calendars, and that’s usually not what’s required to close deals. In fact, I’m going to go back to that part. This messy chart is the fact that your calendar is not the only thing that matters; they’re doing a lot of things independent of you and independent of your meetings. Right now you have very little control over and if you’re not planning or charity or organization around some kind of buyer enablement approach, this is not going to be the focal point of your process and that’s kind of where it breaks down.
Alright, meantime, b2b buying this is from The Princess Bride for any 80s kids just sucked one year of your life away. How do you feel? Probably not good. Is what the buyer would say. Certainly the case right? So we are I’m gonna I’m gonna pause it that the only way forward is buyer enablement. Okay. It’s a mix of methodologies and experiences. Teams need to start embracing in order to properly orient their businesses around their customers. On the one hand, it probably includes something that’s interactive and on demand. It includes a process that’s guided for the buyer, not a process that’s guiding the buyer through your process, once again, something that creates a frictionless and scalable solution for you and the buyer. I mean, these are the fundamentals of what buyer enablement entails. And really, it’s that it’s that central shift in thinking that your buyers are the ones closing deals, but you it’s a complex purchase, not a complex sale. So there’s my CEO, he wrote a book called selling as hard buying as harder. I’ll give you a link at the very end.
But this is how he describes it: buyer enablement, complete shift of Mindset by salespeople starting with realization by the way, I am definitely going to cross it out. It’s not just salespeople. I do think it’s the entire revenue organization. But it starts with the realization that they are not in charge of selling their jobs and shift from selling to helping customers buy this really cool idea we’ll get into in just a moment, but it’s this idea that you know, you’re not a seller you’re a buyer coach. And marketing needs to embrace the way that they deliver content needs to be oriented around what the buyer needs to make decisions more quickly, and to engage stakeholders in an appropriate and organic way that’s not dependent upon the seller. Again, we’ll get into that in just a moment. But one of the things that Garrett, my CEO had kind of written out, is not something that we sell, so I felt comfortable sharing it with you. It’s not part of our product package, but it’s thought leadership that he’s implemented in our business and with our customers. A lot of people talk about okay buyer enablement and focus on the customer, but how do I do that?
So he introduced what he calls the deep sea framework for actually taking action on buyer enablement and rolling it out across your organization. Now, I’m keeping this fairly high level because I’m already almost out of time, but I’ll try to go through this fairly quickly. So you get the basic idea. And if you want any more information, I’m happy to share it with you after this event, but deep sea is obviously an acronym. The first point on this wheel is to discover your champion and through them discover the other stakeholders.
You know, we do this thing, our business that kind of embraces what we find to be so relevant within our b2c lives or our personal lives. And that’s virality, something that has a viral viral component to it. One of the best ways that you can involve additional people within a stakeholder group is to have some kind of intro viral mechanism in place in the way that you share content. So the most traditional way as a sales rep. Let’s say it’s a demo that I’m presenting to a customer. What if I could automate that portion and deliver that as an interactive experience, something that can be consumed on demand and shared on demand? Suddenly, my engagement with two or three people ends up looking like an engagement with 20 to 30 people. This is something we see very consistently with our customers. But however you approach the discovery portion, the idea here is to not solely rely on manual effort and buying a bunch of zoom info licenses. As important as that is. You’ve got to introduce a kind of an intro viral component to the way that you discover, discover not just your stakeholders and key champions, but what matters most of them. And the next one, engage the champion and through them engage each stakeholder. I had mentioned this before, maybe I didn’t show this graph, but this idea that you know, you’ve got lessons as a single vendor, maybe 5% of their direct engagement time. So there’s a principle I want you to remember, you’ve got to learn how to or figure out how to sell between meetings. The basic idea here is if a buyer is going through these high level phases of identifying and uncovering need, then learning about solutions and then making a purchasing decision. You’ve got, you know, sort of these key milestone meetings, you know, you MQL someone potentially to jump on a BDR call there’s a sales appointment. In some organizations maybe pre-sales is brought in to do a technical demo. And then you have closing meetings. There are more meetings that spread out the buying process. But essentially, the idea is okay, you have these live meetings and maybe you still need to have them but what are you doing in between those meetings again, if what you can accomplish in the Discover phase, intra viral content sharing can accomplish what you need to accomplish in the Engage face. But it really is about you know, informing and influencing decisions and thinking while you’re not around, okay, we call it selling between meeting selling in the gaps, whatever you want to call it the way that we approach this in our businesses with demos, obviously, but it could really be any content pieces or assets or levels of engagement that are not dependent on live meetings. Okay, I’m spending too much time on that one. Let me move on to the next one. So ever engage, equip your champion with what they need to sell to the other stakeholders.
I pulled this from one of our motions. This is where I think product marketing is sort of like the underrated underdog of every tech organization. Our product marketing team essentially built all these assets out but product marketing really needs to be the ones to help the sales team equip their buyers with the assets, the content, the answers to questions that they need at different stages and for different stakeholders. I’ll give you access to this and we can probably share some examples from our own business. But this is a good starting point guide if you’re wondering, okay, what kinds of assets should I create to help guide the buying journey? This is a decent place to start. And these are the kinds of assets that your champion can use as they’re trying to engage and build the case internally with their leadership and you know, their colleagues.
Next one’s personalized. I have a bone to pick with the word personalize. You want to personalize the value of each stakeholder but I actually think the more appropriate term is relevancy. So I was recently well, I got pinged all the time from BDRs. I love that they’re so aggressive, because I’ve got BDRs. I’ve been to BVR before. It’s hard work. But oftentimes, I think their attempts at personalization fall short, and I’m talking now from a marketers perspective, but have you ever received those messages that say something to the effect of Oh, I saw you went to this college? Here’s what we’re selling to the long pitch.
There’s a higher value that goes beyond personalization, and its relevance This is Justin Michael from Hype Cycle if you know just Michael from the hype cycle, he talks about relevancy at scale. That’s kind of the idea of the promised land if you can achieve that. But it’s tied into personalization.
That’s one you know, if you have those four first points, the deep points discovery engage, equipped, personalized as sort of your starting point that sets the foundation for you to be a champion to or a coach to your champion and other stakeholders throughout the entire buying journey.
This is really the focus buyer. I need to adopt this shift in and in looking at who’s actually doing the closing and the selling and then arm your buyers. Be the sellers you essentially want your buyers to be the sellers. And you can’t do that unless you’re a coach to them. So sellers need to become buyer coaches. That’s the basic premise.
I won’t spend too much time on this. But if you know this is a good framework, we actually have some really killer thought leadership, including a bunch of questions that you can ask to take action on each of these points, but what does it look like? To be a buyer coachable? You have to be willing and have the confidence to make strong recommendations on next steps again, I said before you can’t just manage a sales process. That’s not entirely wrong. It’s just not entirely correct. You do no better than the buyer does what it takes to close a deal. I mean, think about it. I’m now a buyer, right? I buy a solution for a specific problem once every two to three years. I’m not good at buying. We don’t have technology for it. We’re not trained on how to buy so your buyers that you’re engaging while you might go through you know, five or six deals and a quarter maybe more. They’re doing this just once they’re not good at it. I’ve had multiple customers tell us that like we just don’t, we don’t know what to do. We’re not good at this. This is where coaching comes into play. So yeah, you have to understand their process. You have to understand the journey that they kind of go through because they’re not good at it. It is very asynchronous, but be willing to make strong recommendations based on your knowledge of what actually works with other buyers. It’s kind of a balancing act there. Again, we’ve got great resources for you if you want to pay me to ask for commitments. This is something that most sellers for whatever reason, are intimidated by asking for commitments from their champions. You can’t afford to be intimidated by that. You have to be willing to understand what the steps are aligned to their buying process and then make commitments that you can follow up on , holding them accountable so that they know what to do. Most buyers appreciate this to a huge degree. We actually bring up the implementation process before they get into the evaluation phase because one thing that we’ve discovered as a business is if you lay out to them what it’s going to take not just to buy but to actually get value from your solution.
You create a ton of goodwill and they end up knowing what they’re signing. up for. And we found on multiple occasions that we’re we’ve done that and our competitors have not done that.
They’re easy wins because we’ve essentially mapped out what success looks like. You do this collaboratively with them with recommendations and making commitments and you suddenly have an amazing buying process. It’s aligned with the way that they behave. And then you facilitate and be a resource to them showing what it takes to actually achieve success with those commitments look like what the success of those commitments looks like.
Alright, the basic premise, you can actually read all about this in and Garen has his book he wrote this book selling is hard buying is harder. It’s an incredible guide on buyer enablement, how to get that implemented across your business. I’ll give you this link so you can have it after this event. You want to follow me, go ahead and follow me. I’d love to connect with anyone who’s listening to this and share ideas.
But anyways, really grateful for this opportunity. Buyer enablement is awesome. deliver better experiences not just live demos, man I couldn’t have ended with a better line than that. That’s awesome. Thank you so much. We’ll see you later.