June 29, 2021

Buyer Engagement: Delivering the Best Buyer Experience Wins

**This post is part of a series based on Showpad’s 2021 Modern Selling Study. To dig into all the data, visit the study homepage.

Engaging buyers in an effective way requires sales professionals having access to the right content and messaging for their targeted buyer roles and their business challenges. Additionally, it’s crucial that they can tailor their approach and their messages in each buyer interaction in a valuable, relevant and differentiating way.

Buyer engagement is all about delivering an interactive, impactful and inspiring experience for buyers. An experience that proves a solution’s business value to multiple buyer stakeholders along the customer journey.

By capturing data regarding buyer engagement, sales professionals, enablement teams, content creators across functions and specifically marketing as well as sales managers can learn what works and what doesn’t. This will help them to improve their approaches regarding messaging, content, onboarding, training and coaching to drive better buyer engagement at all stages.

Our 2021 Modern Selling Study gives us some hints regarding the challenges for buyer engagement specifically beginning with the changed buyer behaviors since the start of the pandemic.

Changing buyer behaviors have forced sales teams to adjust their approaches fundamentally

Putting buying decisions on hold was most likely a safety mechanism during 2020. However, reprioritizing buying decisions is a changing buying behavior that’s most relevant for both sales and enablement teams.

We learned that 84% of organizations said they were forced to undergo significant digital transformation since the pandemic. This strong trend has also impacted their buying decisions. Facing a pandemic, a new normal that will be digital first, forced organizations in most countries to rethink and reprioritize their buying decisions. What’s most valuable now might be different compared to what was considered to be valuable and relevant before the pandemic.

As a natural consequence, for some projects, budgets were cut while budget was made available for projects and buying decisions that created value in the context of surviving in a digital first world. And of course, decision criteria were also adjusted to a new reality and to the requirements of a new reality.

To bring it all together, reprioritizing buying decisions creates more than only selling challenges. Organizations that offer products and services that have nothing to do with digital transformation or don’t operate in a digitalized business model will most probably face substantial challenges to reinvent their organizations altogether.

Selling challenges directly linked to buyer engagement

Now, let’s look at selling challenges that directly impact buyer engagement. Of course, accessing relevant content is a prerequisite for effective buyer engagement. However, this challenge was discussed in depth in the sales content management domain blog post.

More directly linked to buyer engagement, is the difficulty to drive and measure engagement on remote calls and a lack of visibility into how prospects interact with content, and not knowing if different online meeting formats are required.

Challenge #1: Difficulty to drive and measure engagement on remote calls

Driving engagement in face-to-face meetings is different from driving engagement in remote and video-based meetings. The challenge is that it’s harder to get people’s attention and to keep them engaged at the same time. This challenge increased from 19% prior to the pandemic to 28% since the pandemic. People may switch off their camera or do something different in parallel – challenges you won’t experience in face-to-face meetings. That means that communication and engagement skills are more important than ever.

Not being able to see all gestures, mimics and only a fraction of participants’ body language are the key challenges of virtual meetings. Providing training and practicing sessions to improve these skills is a priority for enablement teams.

Challenge #2: Lack of visibility into how prospects interact with content

This is a classic buyer engagement challenge that increased from 10% up to 16% since the pandemic. While the numbers seem small, be aware that this was a “click all that apply” question. So, it’s a serious challenge we hear almost everyday when speaking with customers. This challenge can easily be addressed with the right technology and the built-in analytics.

Many organizations still share content with their prospects and buyers via email attachments. And in this scenario, the email system is not embedded into the CRM nor the enablement platform. As a result of this procedure, you don’t know what your prospects did with the content or if they even opened the message and engaged with the content in any way.

The quick solution here is to work with an enablement platform and specific shared spaces where buying teams and selling teams collaborate, share content and engage with each other. Also embedded email systems are a great way to solve the lack of visibility problem, as the related analytics are instrumental to better understand what content types work and why others are not being utilized.

Analytics are not only important for content creators but also for the value messaging experts and sales readiness teams when it comes to honing the messages and improving content.

Challenge #3: Not knowing if different online meeting formats are required

Often underestimated, but definitely important: meeting formats that worked offline are not necessarily the best to drive engagement in a virtual only format. A three hour on-site workshop to discuss endless requirements might be better split up into several 30 or 45 minute slots with a smaller, more targeted group of attendees only.

Especially early in the pandemic, organizations didn’t really know if the lack of virtual engagement skills or the wrong meeting format were the main challenges. Usually, the former is more relevant and impactful and needs to be fixed first. The question of the right meeting format is more technical in nature and can be swiftly addressed and changed.

Churn rates are also an indicator of buyer engagement through their customer lifecycle

Buyer engagement doesn’t necessarily end with a closed deal. In fact, buyer, then customer engagement, begins right after the deal and is most relevant throughout the customer’s lifecycle.

Half the study participants (50%) said that their churn rates had significantly increased since the pandemic. To be precise, 27% experienced churn rates up to 10% and 51% reported that their churn rate had increased between 11% and 50%.

Engaging buyers and customers effectively is a challenge for all customer-facing roles and goes right into the broader focus of revenue enablement that includes customer success personnel as well. And that requires that the enablement initiative is specifically focused in a tailored content and readiness approach for the customer success personnel.

Creating value for customers and ensuring that they receive the value they desire and can integrate into their business plan is crucial for long lasting happy customer relationships.

How buyer engagement can help to address these challenges

Focusing on effective buyer engagement within a holistic sales enablement initiative can create lots of value and insight that can then be used to improve sales content management, sales readiness and sales effectiveness.

Here are a few buyer engagement recommendations that can get you started.

  • Focus on driving adoption across the sales force to always use enablement technology when sharing content with prospects and buyers. It’s the only way to get data back and to continuously improve content, messaging, onboarding and readiness programs, as well as sales coaching.
  • Learn from analytics, and also leverage your customer surveys to get a holistic picture of your buyer and customer engagement along the entire customer journey.
  • Make sure that new options on enablement platforms are leveraged that allow customers to be part of an interactive experience rather than being presented a ton of slides.
  • Feed analytics, feedback and learnings back to the sales content and the readiness domain to ensure that all areas can improve together.

*Survey demographics

Showpad conducted the 2021 Modern Selling Study, a global survey at the end of 2020. More than 400 organizations were involved in the survey that covered the US (56%), the UK (23%) and the DACH regions (21%). Organizations came from various industries such as technology, manufacturing and finance. We interviewed sales (45%), marketing (38%) and enablement roles (17%). And also at a hierarchical level, our study participants covered practitioners (20%), manager and director level roles (63%) and executives (18%).

Visit our 2021 Modern Selling Study hub and discover how the pandemic has impacted every area of enablement.