Sales teams operating without a guided selling process in 2022 are like motorists still unfolding maps in their car to plan their route today. Why rely on a static map when Waze provides turn by turn navigation information in your ear, updates on changing traffic and faster routes in real-time, warns of accidents and taps into a community of road users offering advice based on their experience of the roads ahead?
Guided selling integrates software and AI to help AEs sell more effectively throughout the entire sales cycle by recommending the best content, actions, and communication tactics for any given sales situation. It acts as a dynamic interactive map tapping into best practices with AI identifying the relationship between action and results.
Guided selling is a smart system that reacts to each deal dynamically, providing sales reps and leaders with the information and guidance they need on-demand. This enables AEs to always know next actions, ensures they are permanently up to date with changes to their sales opportunities, and allows them easy access to the materials and techniques to advance their deals as effectively and efficiently as possible.
In a December 2021 report, Gartner predicted 75% of B2B sales organizations will supplement traditional sales playbooks with AI guided selling solutions by 2025.
Gartner stated “Sellers can no longer exclusively rely on intuition-based selling to push a deal over the finish line.”
Elizabeth Beard of the Gartner Sales practice said “Progressive sales organizations are already using AI to determine what content resonates with buyers and then recommend tools and content to share with the buyer now. This helps to connect buyers with information to better answer their questions – filtering out the noise – and provides a better customer experience”.
AI-based guided selling has four primary components according to Gartner (please see diagram below) and comes in two forms: prescriptive (recommended next best actions such as what content to send next to a prospect), or predictive (insights that reveal statistically relevant indicators about sales process steps).
So why is guided selling such a critical component of B2B sales today?
- Sales organizations need to align buyers and sellers. The goal is to create a consistent dynamic sales process providing sellers with intelligent recommendations of how to best add value in response to buyer-driven signals in real-time.
- Buyers expect value with each engagement with the company. When the communication consistently adds value, sellers can more easily move into the coveted “trusted advisor” position that helps them win more deals.
- Companies need to respond quickly and with the appropriate messaging to the requirements of the prospects to keep the sales momentum going and make every interaction meaningful. Delays and incorrect information due to lack of knowledge seriously harms the success of the sales process.
AI-based guided selling is a constant reliable companion for AEs, leveraging analytics to provide the best advice.
While developing an advanced sales technology roadmap, sales leaders must prioritize where AI-based guided selling functions would be most relevant by identifying the least efficient parts of the sales value chain. This can include processes that require a lot of educated guesswork or are time consuming, such as what to do next on a complex B2B deal or how to respond to a set of technical questions over email.
What are the key goals in a guided selling set-up?
1. Automate the sales playbook to support sales success
Guided selling begins with a strong foundation of methodologies, blueprints and plays. It aligns the sales process with the buyer journey by laying out the steps to follow. It precisely tells sales teams what to do, how to react and what to communicate in a given sales scenario
2. Enable real-time response
An effective guided selling platform must be adaptive and dynamic, linked to data and responsive to changing circumstances in real-time.
3. Recommend relevant sales content and generate proposals
We spend too much time on admin and research before engaging with buyers. Guided selling helps increase efficiency by automatically recommending the most appropriate content to share based on the scenario and the buyer personality and produces individualized sales proposals for customers quickly and efficiently.
4. Support onboarding & training
The aim is to boost sales confidence and increase information retention so reps continue to learn and plug knowledge gaps and focus on integrating short reference aids. The guides act as virtual mentors, allowing new reps to benefit from the experience and wisdom of the top performers.
5. Integrate with existing sales stack
The system will learn from historical data and serve up the training, content and recommended next steps most likely to yield the desired outcome based on contextual clues. The guided selling software must synchronize with the CRM, sales communications and engagement analytics to confirm ROI and know which sales collateral is most effective at each stage.
In a guided selling framework every buyer engagement generates data that gives insight into sales activities and their impact. How and when was a specific content asset shared? How did buyers interact with specific content?
By assisting with the management of routine tasks, guided selling also helps identify patterns that lead to
more intelligent decision-making in the sales process, allowing reps to adjust faster to various sales scenarios
and drive revenue growth for the organization.
Ultimately the success of any tactic is judged on the results.
According to a McKinsey study companies that take advantage of guided selling platforms to continuously
test and improve their sales processes drive significantly more revenue than their competitors and were
three times as likely to report revenue gains greater than 10 percent.
And high-performing sales teams are 2.3 times more likely than underperforming teams to use guided selling
according to Salesforce State of Sales report.