Guided selling can empower your sales team to execute sales and develop relationships with your distributors faster, driving a better employee experience and enabling your company to stay competitive.

Wanda Roland

Wanda Roland, vice president and alliance leader, digital customer experience at Capgemini

Gartner said that 2021 would be the year of guided selling. What does that mean?

The traditional view of guided selling is that it’s a seller-centric process. I see guided selling as an integrated and interdependent buyer/seller-centric process. Incorporating technology to guide the sales team through the buyer/sales journey allows the seller to have an in-depth view of the buyer’s needs to create a more personalized interaction and engaging buying experience.

Guided selling engagements are omnichannel by nature because the B2B buyer now wants to be engaged the way B2C buyers are—in the channels they prefer. Remember that 80% of B2B supplier-buyer interactions will be digital by 2025, Gartner says. Guided selling can also enable your sales team to execute sales and develop relationships with your distributors faster, driving a better employee experience and enabling your company to stay competitive.

What’s driving the transition to guided selling?

B2B sales are experiencing a rapid transformation because of the pandemic. We went from in-person selling to completely remote selling and now we’re doing a combination of selling remotely and in-person (“physidigital”). Meanwhile, new models like B2B subscription commerce are gaining more adoption. B2B subscription commerce incorporates and integrates technology and business processes that continually power digital product sales for a business. B2B organizations need to retrain their sellers on engaging with buyers in this new model to be more responsive, customer service-focused, and competitive.

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The buyer’s journey is different as well. Digital is the preferred channel for B2B buyers to research, order products, and request and receive service and support. Organizations need new business processes and tools to guide their sales teams to engage with their buyers digitally. Sellers need to understand the entire buyer’s journey to provide a seamless, personalized experience. This can be done by mapping out the buyer and seller journey and building a guided selling process to map these experiences. Once understood, creating self-service products and pricing ecommerce portals, enhanced artificial intelligence (AI) analytics for the next best action, and personalized customer support makes a rewarding buying experience. Additionally, offering an on-demand, personalized and guided experience through the entire lifecycle ensures brand and customer loyalty.

A framework for guided selling implementation

Shifting to a guided selling model first requires an assessment of your buyer/seller maturity. We recommend assessing maturity in five key areas:

  • Buyer journey: Are your buyers looking for product demos, or do they want a partner with a shared view of milestones and activities?
  • Sales intimacy: Are you doing one-to-one transactional sales, one-to-many solution sales, or ongoing partnerships?
  • People: Maturity in this area ranges from establishing rapport with customers to being an industry influencer.
  • Forecasts and coaching: Are you at the one-on-one stage, using data-validated projections or using AI forecasting?
  • Technology: Does your selling stack consist of email, a videoconferencing platform and a CRM, or do you have comprehensive collaboration software for sales?

Depending on the level of maturity, your organization’s enablement may be:

  • Ad hoc focused on customer acquisition with low sales representative efficiency.
  • Managed, with lots of content but a lack of unified data and consistent customer engagement.
  • Reactive, with organized content, defined training for reps, and more time spent selling.
  • Data-driven, with closed-loop metrics and above-average attainment, onboarding, and deals.
  • Optimized, with closed-loop metrics and industry-leading results.

Most organizations are at various levels of maturity, depending on the element. Identifying those gaps can be a good place to start building your guided selling vision and outlining the steps you need to take to reach your vision.

In addition to assessing your maturity, there are some best practices and technologies to keep in mind while building a guided selling implementation roadmap.

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CPQ in guided selling

CPQ stands for configure, price, quote. This tool is helpful to the guided selling experience for buyers and sellers. We’re finding that some B2B buyers now want to be able to go into a dealer or distributor’s portal and configure their orders, get pricing and quotes, and check out. However, sellers can also use their dealer portal to engage with buyers. Together, they can explore the components, identify requirements, go through the CPQ process, and check out or set up subscription billing.

The role of AI in guided selling

There are two areas where AI supports guided selling. The first area is what we call the dark funnel: B2B buyers who haven’t been engaged with yet and who are researching your company and your products or services.

They’re anonymous, but we know that they’re in the market. We can see that such buyers look at products online, get recommendations from peers, read articles, and look at other content to educate themselves. Once they do engage with you, they’ll be a more experienced B2B buyer.

Ideally, by the time those potential customers reach out, you’re also using AI in another area: to evaluate the likelihood that this person will buy and decide where you want to put them in your forecasting. B2B organizations with a mature guided selling buyer/seller model use analytics and AI for coaching and automated forecasting and risk assessment.

Despite the crucial roles technology plays in guided selling, it’s vital to avoid approaching guided selling with technology as the baseline. Start with the maturity assessment, identify your gaps, create your roadmap, and then identify the technologies to help you build your guided selling program.

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Capgemini is a technology services provider and consultancy.

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