Adopting a Self-Service Sales Model in Your Organization

Research shows that 99% of B2B buyers would make both a new purchase and complete a renewal in an end-to-end digital service model. Additionally, a majority of respondents are very comfortable spending $50k or more entirely through self-service channels. It’s clear: Buyers want a self-service purchasing option.

This shift is not temporary, and it was well under way before we embraced remote selling. As early as 2017 two-thirds of buyers preferred finding information on their own instead of getting help from sales reps.

That doesn’t mean that salespeople are no longer a valuable part of the buying process. It means that relying on a salesperson to guide a lead through all stages of the lifecycle is no longer effective. If you want to achieve growth goals, you must adapt or risk losing your buyers to those who are providing self-service options.

Read on to learn how to balance changing buyer preferences with a hybrid sales model that works for your organization.

What does the change in the buying journey look like?

Today, up to 80% of B2B decision makers prefer remote human interactions (or digital self-service) instead of in-person interactions. An ANNUITAS Research Interviewee cites their experience with these new preferences stating:

“Self-service is a big trend that is going to keep pushing. People don’t want to deal with a salesperson until they do. And then they want to talk to someone instantly—and they want it to be world class.”  – ANNUITAS Research Interviewee

Buyers spend nearly half their time researching independently; another 22% is spent talking to other decision makers, and only 17% of their ‘buying’ time is spent meeting with potential vendors.

That spells out two things:

  1. Your prospects are looking for ways to find solutions on their own.
  2. Your sales team has a limited window for meaningful conversations with your prospects.

People want the option to discover solutions on their own and talk to a sales rep only when they’re ready. So how can you accommodate this need? You must both provide journeys of self-education and understand what “ready to talk” means to your customers.

How to Incorporate Self-Service Options

Provide Journeys of Self-Education

Recall that buyers spend nearly 50% of their buying time researching independently. Giving your buyers the option to guide their own path to purchase requires meeting their needs at every stage of the buying journey.

If you haven’t already, start by understanding the personas you target and the buying stages that each persona will move through.

If you don’t know what their needs are, just ask. We recommend that teams regularly conduct first-person interviews with customers and prospects then validate the results against third-party research.

Read more: 8 Deeper Questions to Ask to Understand Your Buyer

With this information in hand, sales and marketing teams can build a flexible model of engagement that guides users through a journey while unobtrusively tracking sales-readiness.

At ANNUITAS, we call this a Conversation Track Architecture. Conversation tracks translate customer targeting and segmentation into a viable, repeatable conversation thread by customer journey stage. We do this by building an architecture that finds a common set of paths and creates a scalable basis for orchestrating targeted interactions with prospective customers across engagement channels and across buying stages.

For more on this, read our guide to operationalizing go-to-market strategy around the customer journey.

Understand The “Ready to Talk” Moment

ANNUITAS Research has shown that at the moment buyers are ready to talk, they want instant access to high quality conversations with a salesperson. But how do you know what that moment is?

Understanding and actioning on the moment that a buyer is ready to talk is only possible with a Lead Management Framework. A strategic Lead Management Framework, layered with conversation tracks, allows you to accurately qualify leads as they move through the funnel, measuring interactions along the way until that “ready to talk” signal arises. This is how you contact leads at the right point in their journey.

An effective Lead Management Framework measures sales-readiness against a discreet set of requirements agreed upon by all parties involved in the buying process (not just leadership).

Start by carefully considering the triggers that indicate readiness-to-buy in your offering and consult across functions to mutually agree upon what those triggers are.

Find the answer to questions like:

  • What is a marketing qualified lead called, and what does it signify?
  • How is a sales-ready lead defined?
  • What counts as a disqualified lead?
  • At what point in the lead qualification process does inside sales reach out?

Readiness indicators may be highly specific to your organization but, in general, there is a greater level of self-sufficiency in the earlier stages of the buying process. Once the buyer approaches the sales-ready stage, it’ll be time for your reps to enter as buyers start looking for more hands-on engagement.

As quoted by ANNUITAS CEO, Adam Needles, “the lead qualification process should focus less on demographics and firmographics and instead be able to identify sustained buyer engagement and understanding where the buyer is in the buying process.” 

Holding space for these conversations—and documenting the results—means that you’re more likely to only contact a lead when they’re ready to talk.

Learn more about Lead Management Framework here.

Maximize the 17% Window of Time

Recall that buyers spend only 17% of their buying time meeting with potential vendors.

The success of a hybrid self-service model hinges on your salespeople being prepared to have the right conversation. You must train your reps to understand that buyers are more self-educated now than ever before. Prospects expect a salesperson to pick up where the digital journey ended, adding value to the conversation – not repeating basic information that the buyer has already learned.

You should lean on your inside sales team to add value to the buyer’s previously self-sufficient journey, but you must ensure they have the right tools to make the conversation meaningful from the start.

Train teams to find insights that will inform conversations. Look for things like:

  • Which content pieces has the lead engaged with?
  • Are there any pieces that have been read more than once?
  • Which content pieces have been forwarded to colleagues?
  • Are multiple people from the same account looking at the same content or different content?
  • Does the substance of the content the lead is engaging with correspond to the answers provided in progressive profiling questions?

You can read more about applying these questions in our guide to maximizing the impact of your inside sales team.

Read More: Translating Online Behavior Into Personalized Conversations

Adopting a Hybrid Model

Digital self-service sales models are not going away. Those who embrace the model and adapt it to their own go-to-market strategies are the winners in today’s landscape. Those who don’t will continue to fall behind, struggling to scale sales operations and remain a relevant choice among savvy buyers.

You may not be able to provide self-service options overnight, but you can begin to diversify your sales model now. Start by really taking the time to understand your buyer’s needs, then offer paths of self-education, and train your sales teams to have the right conversations at the right time.

Looking for more help on how to adapt your sales strategy to new buyer behaviors? Read our guide to making the critical shift from tactical demand generation to strategic demand generation.

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