Buyer Enablement Is the Key to B2B Sales

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B2B buyers spend just 17 percent of their time meeting with potential suppliers, while 45 percent of their time is spent researching independently, according to a recent report from Gartner. 

The remaining 38 percent is spent in meetings with other members of the buying group (22 percent) and on other activities that typically don’t involve sales reps.

The report points out that B2B buyers spend 27 percent of their time researching independently online and 18 percent of their time researching independently offline, making buyer enablement key to successful B2B sales. It defines buyer enablement as “the provision of information that supports the completion of critical buying jobs.” 

Ironically, though, more often than not, problems originate not with the selling organizations but with the buying organization getting in its own way. “In many ways the single biggest obstacle to purchasing today is a buying problem that has nothing to do with the supplier at all,” explains Brent Adamson, principal executive adviser at Gartner and editor of the report. 

In this environment, sellers can still win out by helping customers help themselves, enabling them to cut through the clutter of their own organizations, streamline their own decision-making processes, and buy more effectively, he says.

The report identifies two components to buyer enablement: prescriptive advice and practical support. Prescriptive advice involves do-this or don’t-do-this recommendations designed to ease the customer journey; practical support provides the tools customers would use to follow through on the prescriptive advice.

With buyer enablement, sales reps should serve as “information connectors” or “curators or brokers of information rather than individual experts,” the report suggests. More specifically, it recommends that instead of relying on their own knowledge of the subject matter, reps should focus on finding the right tools and data and directing customers to those resources. In so doing, reps simplify the buying process, which, in turn, increases the chances that buyers will make higher-value purchases and decreases the chances that buyers will regret their purchases later on, it says.

Adding to the complexity of the B2B buying process is the fact that when multiple suppliers are involved, the time that the buyer has available to spend with each seller is further split up. If sales reps are involved in just 17 percent of the entire buying experience, all the way from identifying a problem to exploring solutions to picking a supplier and ultimately making a decision, then “if you’re one of three suppliers competing for a deal, you don’t get all 17 percent, you get maybe a third of it, so 5 or 6 percent,” Adamson notes.

“When you start looking at this world of buying and just how complex it’s become, with all the different people involved and the amount of information…as individuals, we have incredibly limited access to our customers to have any kind of impact on all of that complexity,” Adamson says.

It’s incredibly important, then, that sellers spend the limited time available wisely, he concludes. 

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