The world of enablement continues to evolve. As sales organizations, market complexity, and product portfolios grew, sales enablement became a critical competency for technology businesses (heck, they even have their own society). While critical, many efforts were very inward facing, a reframing of product training with a new name. Results, mixed. But don’t get me wrong, great sales enablement still matters.
But it is not enough.
A few years back, Gartner defined a new approach, buyer enablement. Our research into B2B buying revealed clearly that complex buying situations challenge buying teams, beyond just product selection. They struggle to build confidence in their decision process, to build consensus, to secure funding (vs. competitive projects), and to make sense of the volume of information–information that is actually perceived to be high quality. It became clear that marketing teams needed to focus on creating tools that helped customers get buying jobs done, and build confidence. With that effort, we also added a layer into sales enablement around sense-making, taking ownership of helping buyers make sense of a high volume of high quality information.
But that is not enough.
The fundamental thing that never gets stated enough is this. No customer “rings the bell” to celebrate a purchase. “Hey everyone, stop working, I just wanted to let everyone know that IT just bought a new SD-WAN service. Let’s here it for the IT team.” That doesn’t happen.
For your customer, the vast majority of tech purchases are just a waypoint on the road to a change. The purchase may get them further down the road, but there is a long way to go.
Customers know this and it shows in their buying behavior. From trials to a desire to study what might be thought of as post-sale content (implementation guides, product documentation, training) before they buy, customers are thinking beyond the purchase. We call it wanting the “after-sale experience before they buy.” And even with this customers struggle to get value, as discussed earlier, only 27% of a collection of high tech purchases we studied were “high quality deals” –low regret for customers and good for vendors. Admittedly, many of the other 73% of the deals showed customers that weren’t as aggressively seeking the after-sale experience, so there is work to do.
And that points to the best enablement answer. Not the only one. You need sales enablement (and sense-making training). You need buyer enablement.
But, the term that should be on ever tech marketer’s mind going forward is “Change Enablement.” Change enablement is content, tools and program that help buyers:
- More thoroughly evaluate the challenges facing their organization
- Identify incremental steps to achieve goals
- identify potentially contentious decisions earlier in the process
- Prepare for potential risks
- and understand the tasks and resources needed to achieve value.
Change enablement is happening, in pockets, but not with that moniker. We need to elevate it. As my last post shared, we sometimes focus on the individual, but buying is an act of organizational change and we need to help buyers build confidence to make high quality decisions (that lead to high quality deals that put you on a path to growth). As the chart below shows, Change enablement drives a 10% improvement in the quality of decision-making–the highest we found. When coupled with buyer enablement and sensemaking, you can acheive a 24% improvement. That is good for everyone.
There is really no question that we can no longer simply focus on winning business. Between the issues of competition, subscription based buying, and technology expansion to every aspect of the business, we have to focus on value–and the path to value. Change enablement will start to address that road to value, before we even get to the buying waypoint–but it may get you to that waypoint sooner than you would think. (Bonus: A focus on this will also help everyone in your organization recognize the real challenge for customers–successful change).
Change Enablement. The Best Enablement Answer.