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Focus on Enablement and Critical Skills to Lead Sales Through Disruption

May 18, 2021

Contributor: Swetha Venkataramani

To quickly and effectively respond to disruption, focus on both dynamic buyer and seller enablement as well as building new critical skills.

Pandemic-driven disruption prompted rapid changes in B2B buyer relationships. However, disruption is nothing new to sales engagement and continues to require constant iteration of resources to drive frontline effectiveness and make it easier for customers to buy.

In fact, research shows that disruption is essential for driving demand. In the prepandemic 2019 Gartner B2B buyers survey, 93% of buyers stated that their purchase was a result of some kind of voluntary or involuntary disruption, whether that be changes to business operations, market environment or organizational structure. These types of changes, although especially amplified by the pandemic, will continue.

“Disruption is at the root of what drives customers' needs, but we as sales leaders cannot let our customers wallow in uncertainty,” says Brian Cain, Director, Advisory, Gartner. As customers navigate disruptions and their responses to it, it creates a lot of demand. Unfortunately, however, there’s also a downside to disruption: uncertainty and a decision paralysis that comes along with it.

“Think about the fact that customers who experience moderate to high levels of uncertainty are 30% less likely to complete their purchase and 42% less likely to make a high-quality deal. Sales leaders have the responsibility to ensure that customers do not wallow in uncertainty,” says Cain. Disruption requires sales enablement to frequently evolve and create new resources to mitigate any accompanying uncertainty.

The two sides of sales enablement through disruption 

In recent years, chief sales officers (CSOs), sales enablement leaders and other stakeholders have significantly expanded support offered to frontline sellers, but 76% of sellers report that this increased support also adds complexity to their jobs. “Instead of simply adding support, sales leaders should be hyperfocused on simplifying the enablement ecosystem,” explains Cain. To drive commercial impact, sales enablement leaders must:

Enable the buyer

The sales enablement function is almost exclusively focused on the needs of sellers. While this strategy has often resulted in significant commercial gains, today’s B2B buying realities mean sales enablement functions should be deploying tools and resources directly for buyers, helping them complete critical buying tasks and simplifying their buying experience.

For digitally savvy buyers, that means collaborating with marketing and product to deliver value through digital and omnichannel sales models, creating seamless B2B virtual experiences and bringing targeted analytics into play.

76% of sellers report that sales enablement adds complexity to their jobs.

Download audit: Buyer Enablement

Enable the seller

In addition to hardware and software that enables reps to be effective in a virtual environment, create sales enablement tools for sellers that help them drive confidence among buyers — enabling them to make sense, for example, of the overwhelming amount of information that buyers will encounter from various sources. Still, be cognizant of the complexity of the broader support ecosystem before making any investments.

Learn more: Virtual Selling Framework 

Enable critical seller skills for disruption and recovery

Foundational selling skills such as stakeholder management, business acumen, objection handling and account planning remain essential, but two new critical skills have emerged: Sense Making and virtual selling. 

Sense Making

Many buyers today say they prefer a rep-free buying experience and would like to do their own research, but half of buyers also say the amount of trustworthy information they come across is overwhelming. Sellers should guide customers to evidence but help them prioritize simplicity over comprehensive detail. Simply put, help buyers make sense of the information in front of them.

Sales enablement leaders must focus on arming sellers with information needed to develop evidence-based hypotheses, which offer perspectives on changes in the customer’s market and help drive customer engagement in an uncertain environment.

Guide sellers to employ a Sense Making approach to increase customer confidence by connecting customers to relevant resources, clarifying any questions or uncertainties the customer may have, and collaborating in their learning process.

Virtual selling

CSOs predict a 2.5X increase in the proportion of virtual sellers given the increase in digital buying. Don’t just duplicate traditional selling approaches for a virtual world; seek to engage customers virtually where attention spans are lower and customers may also be more reluctant to share skepticism and challenge viewpoints.

Sales enablement leaders should help prepare sellers for virtual selling by leveraging social media to create and nurture relationships with prospects, carefully planning for virtual sales calls and determining the choreography for in-meeting interactions.

Also, it’s crucial to communicate the importance of digital initiatives to leadership, model digital behaviors and mindsets, and guide sellers to exploit new and existing technologies.

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