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Leading sales organizations use guided selling solutions to increase their win rate. Is it a hype or not? Let’s demystify this trending sales topic.
Let’s begin with a definition. Guided selling is an adaptive process, typically implemented as software, that uses a wide variety of contextual data to provide recommendations—either to your potential buyers or to your sales team—for each sales transaction.
If you have a no-touch sales model (e.g. e-commerce) you need a simple guided selling solution that will help your potential customers to choose the product/service on your website, best fulfilling their needs and hopefully guides them to buy.
However, if your sales model requires salespeople to take care of your prospects (i.e. low to high-touch sales), you need a more complex guided selling solution that will help your sales reps actively guide your prospects to a buying decision.
But why do you need guided selling in the first place?
Gone are the days when the seller held all the cards and could lead the buyer’s journey from beginning to end. Sales reps now have to figure out how to succeed in an age where the buyer is firmly in the driver’s seat. With many resources at their fingertips, buyers are no longer reliant on sales to educate them on products. They have done a great deal of research before ever engaging with a seller, and as a result, they expect nearly instant responses and personalized communications when they are ready to interact with a sales rep. Your salespeople cannot afford a misstep or the buyer is likely to move to a competitor at a moment’s notice.
Buyers are more sophisticated than ever and sales reps must adapt. Modern buyers are more challenged by complex business issues than ever, especially in the B2B context. And the same is true for your sales reps. They have to navigate longer, more complex sales cycles, and keep up with the changing needs and expectations of prospects.
Your sales team face all these challenges but they have less and less time for selling in the workday. Today, on average a salesperson spends two-thirds of his time on non-selling tasks rather than on building new customer relationships. Why? Because all those tools that have been implemented to help them, give sellers significantly more administrative work. This means that when they are selling, they need to be engaging with the buyer as effectively as possible.
Marketers create volumes of content in an effort to support sellers and provide the assets that will move the needle on sales. But without insight into what content is performing well, marketers are unable to use data to create and update assets reps need to have successful engagements with prospects. This is why good sales and marketing alignment is an indicator of company success, with 74% of high-performing organizations having strong alignment across both departments.
The concept of guided selling was created in response to all these indicators. As Forrester’s Mark Lindwall clearly articulates, you have to “revamp your selling system to hire, train, equip, develop, and support salespeople who guide your buyers [to] solve their complex problems.” And that’s where guided selling comes into the picture.
But wait for a second! It sounds like it’s the same thing as sales enablement, right? No, not really. Sales enablement is a broader concept. It has evolved from solely a sales support function to an umbrella concept that covers training, onboarding, and guided selling. Therefore, guided selling is a part of sales enablement. Actually, it is an essential component of delivering enablement to a sales team, providing information to reps that they can use to keep buyers moving toward a purchase decision.
When done right, guided selling provides a holistic experience for sales reps allowing them to respond to prospects as needed throughout the buying journey and is adaptable enough to allow for the variations that are bound to occur.
At the foundation of a guided selling solution, there is always a well-built sales playbook. It aligns your sales process with the buyer’s journey as it lays out the steps of the sales play. It precisely tells your sales team what to do and what to communicate in a given sales scenario
Sellers today spend a lot of time researching. Guided Selling helps increase time selling by automatically recommending relevant sales content to sellers at the time they need it. Recommendations are based on data like the prospect’s title, stage in the sales process, and vertical industry in which they work, etc.
Most tools in the market enable continuous improvement by collecting content usage data such as what content was used at which stage of the sales cycle to win business. And when you combine this information with data from your sales system, you can populate reports and dashboards from pipeline velocity to competency progression, and sales asset ROI. By understanding which content assets are most helpful to sellers and prospects, you can create a virtuous cycle where the most relevant, helpful information is promoted to sellers when they need it, helping them grow their sales success and with it business revenue.
The average sales team has 5-7 sales tools in their sales stack. Therefore, your guided selling solution should deliver assistance to your sales reps via the systems where they live. Integrating guidance into the workflow of reps puts all relevant content, training, and tools at their fingertips and in context. This makes it easier for them to have effective sales conversations, and increases sales content usage, time selling, and win rate.
Every buyer and sales conversation is different. An effective guided selling tool needs to be dynamic and adaptable to unexpected changes in the sales interaction, to shifts in stages, or to moments when new stakeholders join the conversation. It should be more like an interactive map that gives sellers the ability to find and share what the prospect wants and needs in any given scenario while continuing to navigate effectively through the sales process.
If you are a retailer, guided selling systems have an important part to play in making your online user experience more interactive and product presentations more exciting. They can understand a shopper’s needs, recommend specific products, and provide information to help the shopper feel confident about the purchase. If you are selling complex solutions, your guided selling tool can have a part to play in demystifying your products.
Guided Selling boosts sales confidence and increases retention of information. For this reason, some organizations extend Guided Selling to onboarding and training, recommending reference aids and digital tutorials to help salespeople continue to learn and close knowledge gaps. Leading sales organizations are integrating short reference aids and training bursts that complement collateral into their intelligent content recommendations.
Because suggestions are built using best practices (ideally leveraging what the organization’s top performers do), guided-selling applications can act as virtual mentors, allowing new reps to benefit from the best reps’ experience and wisdom. They can alert reps to missing information or other issues that could put a deal in jeopardy. These tools also can track what steps new reps took and what assets they utilized during the selling process, allowing managers to review this information and hold additional in-person coaching sessions if needed.
Today, most sales enablement software provides guided selling capabilities to some extent. How about your sales stack? What are your plans to take your sales process to the next level?