B2B selling was already going virtual, a trend that was instantly accelerated by the crisis.
As we interviewed Mary Shea PhD, Principal Analyst of research firm Forrester to kickoff our annual EVOLVE 2020 Mediafly customer event, she gave us a unique perspective on just how big the virtual shift has been, and what this would mean for the future.
According to Forrester’s latest post-crisis survey results, 80% of B2B selling is now digital and remote, and will remain steadfast going forward, and this because of an acceleration of three trends.
First, up to 67% of the buyer’s journey was already being performed digitally. Buyers were engaging with sellers less often and often later in the decision making process, and fluidly moving between self-service marketing content and seller engagements. As a result, solution providers were already having a harder time differentiating their solutions from the overwhelming sea of on-line information and options, and with more digital research and ecommerce transactions, this is now amplified.
According to Mary, buyers want to receive consistent information regardless of what channel they engage through, but sales and marketing are sometimes not aligned, adding to buyer confusion leading to delayed and stalled decisions.
Second, with closed offices and work from home remaining popular long after the reopening, on-line meetings are now a way of life. But the old ways of connecting, engaging and selling in person just don’t work in a virtual meeting. Although Mary Shea predicts that in-person meetings will eventually occur once things reopen there will be far less, reserving face-to-face for significant sized deals, long term relationships and workshop engagements. If a meeting does occur in person, as more buyers work from home and live anywhere, these meetings will be “hybrid”: a few folks in the room and even more participating virtually. Sellers will need to be adept at selling in all three venue variants post-crisis.
To add to the engagement venue challenges, Mary Shea discussed how the crisis also reshaped the decision making process. Executive-approval clip levels have been lowered, and the dreaded cross organizational COVID approval committees are involved in all significant purchase decisions. The CFO is now being referred to as the CF”No”, as organizations scrutinize each significant purchase, to make sure it is financially justified, to help the organization “do more with less”, capture precious revenue opportunities and contribute to the bottom-line..
A more digital, remote and economic-focused buyer makes it much harder for solution providers to connect and engage with buyers, inspire them to change, and gain committee consensus and executive approval.
Optimizing the Engagement Experience
In order to succeed in a more digital, remote and economic-focused environment, solution providers will need to evolve their customer engagements to be more effective, and quickly transcend from pitching solutions to selling business outcomes.
Evolving the Engagement Experience (Ex) whether on-line, in-person or hybrid will be key, and we used our Evolved 2020 to introduce a journey roadmap in order to guide optimization, and bring forth customer showcases to show just how quick and easy these Ex accelerations are to implement, and how much they can deliver.
The roadmap introduced five steps to help sales enablement and marketing optimize the Engagement Experience), with specific customer interviews to show real-world examples of the advice in action::
1. More Inspiring Sales Content
One in three buyers admit to falling asleep and one in five buyers would rather go to the Dentist than sit through another boring sales presentation.
Linear and large presentation decks won’t work to capture and hold buyer’s attention especially now in on-line virtual or hybrid meetings.
And beyond presentations, sharing static sales content like traditional one pagers, data sheets, white papers, success stories and the like, is not effective either as buyers seek personalized and dynamic content to help inspire and guide their unique decision making process.
The key to digital and remote selling success is turning big, traditional presentation decks and static sales content into interactive content – with animations, create your own journey navigation, personalized insights, and smaller digestible stories (vignettes).
No More Static Content: Engage Your Customer with Stunning Sales Presentations
How do you elevate your sales content to evolve from linear and static to dynamic and interactive? How do you reimagine a 400 page presentation deck to make it more engaging, usable and impactful?
In this on-demand interview with Greg Bell, Head of Product Marketing from 6Sense and Lisa Feiler, Sales Enablement Operations leader for Givaudan, we show specific examples of how these EVOLVERs were able to take traditional presentations and content and reshape the remote Engagement Experience to be more differentiated and exponentially effective.
2. More Consistent, Personalized and Influential Content Experiences
Forrester indicates that 74% of buyers want sellers to pivot the presentation or meeting to discuss what the buyer wants to talk about, not what the seller has pre-prepared to present. Unfortunately, 65% of sellers can’t find the content they need to accomplish this, and this means they often fall far short of heightened buyer engagement expectations.
Nowadays selling is not just being engaging on a 13” screen but being a good concierge. An evolved seller helps facilitate the buyer’s journey, proactively providing the right insights, advice and content at the right time, in meetings and especially after in follow-ups, to get the decision-making team to the next step in making the right decision. But we have to provide them with easy ways to find and share this content to be effective.
As you begin to evolve content to be more dynamic and personalized, you should also be evolving a method for sellers to more easily find and be guided to just the right content for their selling situation and step in the buyer’s journey. We recommend:
- Providing sellers with a personalized workspace is a good start, presenting each seller with a customized portal which promotes the latest campaigns and important content they should be leveraging consistently in their engagements for high impact.
- Intelligent search is vital, so each seller can quickly and easily find, present or share the right content at the right time. This includes direct search results along with smart content recommendations based on the content being viewed and shared.
- Leveraging AI / ML to automatically recommend the right content is essential, so the seller has specific smart recommendations on what to share or present next with decision makers.
- Ahead of the meeting, or once the meeting is complete, making it easy to gather and share the content via a share link (we call it a collection) can assure that the customer is prepared, and what was presented in the virtual meeting is reinforced.
- And making sure the customer consumption is tracked so the seller, marketing and enablement team know who opened the collection, how long they spent interacting with each element and page, and who they shared the content with on the customer’s ever-expanding buying committee.
Don’t Waste a Crisis: The Time is Now for Transformation
How much are leading companies accelerating their sales enablement programs to create a more consistent, personalized and influential content experience for customers?
Host Andrew Miehl (Chief Customer Officer for Mediafly) had the pleasure of interviewing Eric Spenske, VP Marketing for Givaudan and Maggie Farnik, North America Sales Trainer at Guerbet discussed how they needed to accelerate their sales transformation programs to succeed despite the crisis, and how they focused on the customer engagement experience to achieve outsized selling success.
3. A Value-First Approach
Unfortunately, according to Forrester, buyers’ indicate that 80% of sellers still pitch their products / services, while only 20% are focused on what buyers really care about: personalized help assessing their challenges and a focus on the business value outcomes that can be achieved with proposed solutions..
The right selling approach, especially with economic-focused buyers, executives and committees, is to proactively put value-first. As a key part of this process, your sellers should be empowered to co-create a business case with every customer, to clearly communicate and quantify the cost of “do nothing” new and the business value your proposed solution can uniquely deliver.
Fail to proactively provide the financial justification and your proposal will likely end in “no decision” or get postponed until the dust clears and certainty returns. This could be months.
So, many organizations turn to a spreadsheet-based tool to help sellers deliver financial justification, but sharing a complex spreadsheet in an on-line virtual meeting and working interactively with the customer through all the rows, columns and fields is clumsy. The engagement becomes all about the numbers, and the overall value story is all too easy to lose. Data from every engagement is difficult if not impossible to capture. Adoption by more than a few value specialists won’t give you the scale you need to get value into all the deals where it’s needed. You get the idea … spreadsheets are so yesterday.
The good news is that you can evolve from spreadsheets to an interactive business value assessment tool to help all sellers take a value-first approach, with:
- Interactive discovery of the prospect’s challenges, current state and opportunities
- A tally of “do nothing” differently costs
- An estimate of the potential business value benefits from your solution – a tally of the cost savings / avoidance, productivity / process improvements, risk avoidance and business growth your solution can help provide
- A quantification of the cash flow your project could generate, comparing potential business value benefits versus required investments, risk adjusted to account for implementation and adoption optimization, and summarized into the key financial measures of ROI, NPV savings, and payback.
- Relevant success stories, to show how others just like your prospect have achieved similar significant benefits.
The seller can use the interactive business value assessment tool with the customer to drive virtual interactions to gather data, review and refine results. Assessment reports can be combined with other content, and the collection sent to the buying group, tracking views, time spent and sharing.
And this is not just for sellers anymore. If you are selling “as a service” solution, the justification has to continue post the initial purchase. Renewals are not guaranteed and expansions more than difficult unless you can prove the value delivered from investments already made. Prior to renewal, and hopefully on a regular basis, an evolved approach means you are providing a tally of the realized ROI that your solution delivered, so that come renewal time, or better to fuel expansion selling, you have quantifiable proof on the savings and business value delivered to work from.
Scale your Value Selling Faster than Ever Before
How do you develop a world class value selling and ROI program, scaling it worldwide in only a few weeks?
In this interview with Michael Ketchmere, Head of Business Value Consulting with Xactly, Dan Sixsmith (VP ValueStory Sales and Sales is King podcast host) explores how Michael and his team were able to accomplish this fast launch and the success he and the team achieved as a result.
4. AI / ML Driven Automation
Every seller I connect with is more strained than ever, jumping from virtual meeting to virtual meeting with little time to prepare for and process each customer call, keep up with the additional internal meetings, and manage the new sales processes changes and steps.
Estimates are that less 60% of selling time is spent on overhead related tasks compared to actual selling time with the customer. Not too many other resources face such a poor ratio of overhead vs. on-task.
If we are to get the most productivity from our sellers, it is vital that sales leaders and enablement automate as much as possible, and eliminate as much overhead as possible with automation.
As well, without good data, it is hard to have the intelligence you need to act, refine and optimize. Relying on strained sellers to manually enter data was tough pre-crisis, and more so strained now.
In order to improve selling time and data integrity, you can leverage CRM integration with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to automate key sales tasks, especially those related to data entry, helping to reduce the amount of time sellers squander on overhead to maximize selling time and to dramatically improve data quality.
For example, a Meeting Assistant can intelligently leverage information from your calendar, CRM and sales enablement platform, recognizing that a meeting is occuring, and automatically recording key information about the event into the CRM system, including attendees and the content presented and shared all within the virtual meeting, eliminating post meeting note taking and tasks, as well as ensuring CRM data quality.
How to Communicate and Quantify Your Unique ValueStory
How do you best differentiate your solution in a very competitive new market?
In this interview with the dynamic CMO, Latane Conant of 6Sense and Nathan Jackson, CEO of Presentify (now a Mediafly company), we dive into the complete journey of how 6sense was able to reimagine their customer engagement experiences, leveraging an interactive, value storytelling approach and intelligence as the foundation for competitive advantage and accelerating sales success.
5. Agility Borne from Intelligence
Accelerated sales transformations, new messaging and evolving sales enablement are key to meet changing buyer needs and deliver better digital / remote engagement experiences. But how do you know that you are getting it right and that all the hard work and precious investments are delivering?
All eyes are going to be on marketing and sales to deliver despite the tough environment. You’ll be asked every week (if not every day) if the new campaigns, sales plays and content are delivering, and that deals are progressing as planned.
All this while the environment and market are casting a fog and obfuscating what is real and what is fiction.
This is where digital engagement insights come into play, to clarify the truth from real data and CRM integration, and provide you with the visibility and agility you need to know what is working in order to accelerate positive investments, and quickly know what is not to remediate or reinvest in what is delivering best.
As a CMO, you know that some of your content isn’t worth investing in, but it can be difficult to discern which content isn’t performing and should be retired and which requires additional investment. Content analytics can help clarity what content is being used and consumed, and whether it is “moving the needle”, is crucial in order to fine tune content investments and campaigns.
As a sales leader, you are pressed to deliver accurate forecasts and predictable sales performance, but this can be difficult in a vetting motion that relies on anecdotal information and reporting. Having sales dashboard reports to communicate for real how sellers are doing versus the sales process, and how engaged customers really are is critical to predictable forecasts and performance.
As a sales enablement leader you need to on-board, replicate and scale selling success across the organization. Enablement analytics can help the sales enablement pro determine what excellence “looks like”, for proper capture, distill and repeat.
On-Demand: Make Your Content Work HarderL Leverage Sales Content Intelligence to Drive Predictable Sales
Having the right analytics is critical for marketing, sales and enablement leaders, in order to instill agility via an accurate understanding of what is working or not, and guidance as to what to do next to best improve.
In this on-demand session, catch the ROI guy Tom Pisello interviewing Mediafly’s CMO Isabelle Papoulas, sales leader Dustin Zweck, and sales enablement leader Elise Oldenberg to see exactly how they are leveraging sales content intelligence to answer these questions, improve agility and boost predictable sales performance.
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