The key to any good collaboration across a B2B commercial organization is the ability of Marketers to impact how Sellers spend their time.
Most B2B marketers I interact with allocate significant resources to sales enablement. It’s an instinctive effort – ideally making sales or sales cycles more efficient.
At some point, though, sales enablement stopped being about enabling actual sales. Instead, it became about stuffing seller toolboxes with ever more personas, product RTBs, vertical appropriate copy, and customer testimonials. If there is a debate over where the long-tail of content has no value, sales-enablement deserves consideration.
This was painful when B2B buyers actually spent time with our sales people. As far back as 2017, however, buyers were telling us they only spent 17% of their time talking directly to reps.
We’ve continued to track buyer time expenditure. Here is a more nuanced view that was obtained from a survey of large enterprise buyers:
It is clear to us that buyers need access to information on their own time, but many commercial organizations simply looked to marketing to create ever more content for precious in-person glory. Marketing complied.
I’ve heard a raft of reasons on client calls: sellers need to make the most of in-person meetings; we’re measured by whether sales people use our collateral; we don’t know what buyers want; we can’t connect digital downloads with conversion; we don’t have a marketing automation system; we can’t track digital consumption after we hand off the lead.
Of course, this isn’t the case for all commercial organizations. In our research into what unlocked stalled deals, fostered buying group consensus, and engendered more account growth, Gartner came across a number of content types that helped buyers gain certainty and make decisions across the buying journey.
We labeled this Buyer Enablement content. It works because it helps buyers help themselves on their own time and at their own pace. Importantly, it often made there buying effort easier, and there was a correlation between who provided that ‘ease’ and who got the deal.
What troubles me here is that even those organizations who want to get started with buyer enablement via digital channels can stall at the starting line. It appears to be a daunting task to determine what type of content to create first. Clients tell me that when you start to lean in on buyer enablement, the content opportunities can be overwhelming.
Start With Objection Guidance
My prescription is simple when it comes to getting started. Begin with documenting common objections because they are common to you, not to your clients and prospects (and therein lies the value).
All commercial organizations know the objections that clients and prospects have about their solutions. This makes it one of the lightest lifts in terms of digital content creation.
But the true value comes from the clarity of usage around such content. The consumption of objection guidance reveals some specific buyer activities:
- A stakeholder is interested in advancing your product or solution to others in the buying group and wants to think through likely objections before speaking up.
- Stakeholders are trying discuss your product or solution more deeply and need to get past common objections and surface some that are unique to their own circumstance.
- Objections have been made, and a stakeholder is motivated to consider how to face those objections down (the champion you didn’t know you had).
Now there may be more reasons to read objection guidance, but in the three situations outlined above, none of them happen with the sales rep on the line or in the room. But every sales rep would want to know they were happening.
At a high level, the intent of a digital marketing is to obtain signals about sales readiness that helps the commercial organization invest its time wisely. Consumption of objection guidance is more than a digital breadcrumb among many. It can offer a clear signal of what a prospect or client organization is doing. That is much more valuable than a lead that is blindly scored by all content consumption.
Examples of objection guidance appear in nature. One I like to feature in my calls is SugarCRM’s effort to help buyers with Navigating Naysayers.
Any one piece of content can be improved, but this one stands out for simplicity and ease of deployment.
I find that Objection Guidance works for small and large businesses. It even works for global orgs with multiple BUs trying to deploy a new marketing automation system. Why? Because it is the same content type, but adapted to different products, solutions, sectors, and markets. It provides an entire organization with a common starting point. That makes evaluating the impact of B2B digital marketing a lot easier.
And if you can’t get started, you’re not going anywhere.