Guided selling gives sales reps and buyers a clear roadmap through an increasingly complex sales environment. It guides them step-by-step along the path to purchase, providing intelligent recommendations along the way.
As we’ll see, guided selling can be used in various industries and selling scenarios (in-person and online.) This article focuses on guided selling for B2B companies. Read on to find out how to harness guided selling technology to get more B2B buyers to “yes” more quickly.
What is Guided Selling?
Defining Guided Selling
The concept of guided selling is not a new one. It’s the process that good salespeople have traditionally employed to understand customers’ needs and match them with optimal products and services.
Guided selling systems work by guiding customers step-by-step through a rational series of decisions that lead to an informed purchase decision. Customers are typically asked a succession of targeted questions about their preferences and opinions regarding the purchase at hand. And their answers reveal increasingly granular information about their product requirements.
Guided selling technology is valuable for B2B and B2C. But it’s most beneficial to companies selling complex products where technical choices have to be made. It fulfills the role of a knowledgeable, seasoned salesperson – an increasingly scarce and expensive commodity in today’s world.
How Guided Selling Works
Although the concept is always the same – guiding buyers towards optimized product selections from potentially massive catalogs – the best practices for guided selling differ according to the selling scenario.
With in-person sales, the salesperson asks the customer a series of structured questions designed to elicit critical information about what they want to buy. As the salesperson enters the answers into the guided selling system, it narrows down available choices and configures the most appropriate product.
In low- and no-touch sales models, such as B2B eCommerce, the guided selling process must be totally automated. Guided selling technology offers customers a series of product choices and leads them step-by-step through the selection and configuration process via automated product recommendations.
The path through these choices can be based on simple algorithms, where choice A always leads to product B, and so forth. But more advanced guided selling systems employ artificial intelligence (AI) technology to provide more accurate product suggestions.
AI-Based Guided Selling
AI-guided selling is highly sophisticated and leads to higher conversion rates and higher ticket values.
This type of system uses natural language processing (NLP) (here’s a good introduction) and machine learning to analyze historical sales and customer data. This data analysis enables the system to make more accurate predictions of customer behavior in given situations and offer recommendations to help sales staff more effectively close more sales.
You can think of AI-based guided selling as made up of four key stages, as broken down by Gartner below:
- Customer engagement, where the system detects initial customer interest
- Customer verifiers, where the system collects signals from the customer
- Correlations and benchmarks, where those buying signals are correlated with dependent variables
- Next best actions, where the system takes this data and turns it into predictive and prescriptive selling suggestions
Why Guided Selling is So Effective in B2B Sales
B2B companies typically have a wealth of data about their products, customers, and sales. But they often lack the tools to extract the most valuable data-driven insights. Guided selling solutions help realize the hidden value. And it’s a win-win for both sellers and buyers.
Benefits for B2B Sellers
By building analyses and recommendations from existing data sets, AI-based guided selling produces the following benefits for B2B sellers:
- Solves sales enablement challenges
- Reduces sales complexity
- Increases process efficiency
- Enhances upselling and cross-selling
- Helps new sales reps get up to speed more quickly
- Allows sales reps to adapt to change more easily
- Reduces rogue pricing
- Provides a better understanding of consumer needs and behavior
- Imparts greater visibility of crucial data for both sales reps and sales managers
- Offers real-time guidance
Benefits for B2B Buyers
Guided selling benefits B2B buyers, as well, in that it:
- Provides more intelligent product recommendations
- Reduces ordering mistakes
- Significantly shortens sales cycles
- Enables sales reps to become trusted advisors
- Enhances customer satisfaction
Guided Selling for B2B eCommerce
According to Sana’s B2B Buying Process Report, 75% of B2B purchases are already made online – and buyers want to move even more of their business to eCommerce. They want to self-serve, regardless of product complexity and price.
For those self-service online B2B buyers, then, guided selling is essential. Without access to a trained sales rep, they have to get all the guidance and advice they need from the website itself. And this is where guided selling comes to the fore.
Some AI-based guided selling solutions lead online buyers through a series of calibrated questions and options that narrow down vast product catalogs into perfectly optimized customer-specific selections.
Others use visual product configurators. Rather than answer questions, buyers interact with a 3D visual representation of product options and assemble products visually per advanced product and pricing rules. Buyers get to see a lifelike product rendering before they click the Buy button, which increases their confidence in the process.
When done properly, guided selling is smart and seamless. It lightens the load on your in-person sales teams and provides valuable customer feedback for B2B sales management. Every website interaction is recorded, so you’ll know which parts of your site are working best and which products and options are most popular. You can tweak your product offerings and online experiences accordingly – increasing conversion rates and online revenues over time.
What is Guided Selling in CPQ?
Guided selling is an essential component of every robust CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) solution. It lies at the heart of Epicor CPQ, which is a visual CPQ explicitly designed to help sales reps and buyers configure the most complex, engineer-to-order products.
With Epicor CPQ, manufacturers begin by programming a series of product and pricing rules into the software’s back end. It sounds complex, but it’s really not. Even non-technical users can build the most advanced rules using the Snap rules engine – there’s no coding required.
These rules guide the sales process. They show sales reps exactly which products and options to select for each customer. They specify which questions should be asked and when. They eliminate errors, maximize engineering efficiency, and increase deal sizes with upsells, cross-sells, and intelligent recommendations.
For online sellers, product rules guide the eCommerce sales process too. Manufacturers can embed a 3D visual product configurator into their website that empowers buyers to configure highly complex products without any input from sales or engineering. Epicor CPQ holds their hand the entire way while maintaining the illusion of total freedom of choice and flexibility for the buyer.
Once the guided selling process is complete, the CPQ system calculates dynamic pricing and generates price quotes. Sales reps no longer have to use product pricing formulas in Excel spreadsheets; instead, everything is completely automated.
Epicor CPQ also features CAD and design automation that automatically sends configured product designs directly to your engineering and manufacturing departments. This streamlines the entire end-to-end process, from shopping cart to shop floor.
How Guided Selling Works in the Real World
Many B2B customers are using Epicor CPQ and its in-built guided selling solution to increase their B2B sales. Some of the more notable successes include:
- Merck Millipore, a manufacturer of medical devices, used Epicor CPQ to realize a 99% increase in quoting and a reduction in sales cycle time from 3 weeks to just 1 hour.
- Timberlane, which manufactures custom exterior shutters, replaced its prior quoting tool with guided selling Visual CPQ from Epicor CPQ and now realizes 100% accuracy on all of its custom orders.
These are just a few examples of how Epicor CPQ with guided selling is helping B2B companies improve their operations and bottom lines. Contact Epicor CPQ today to learn more about how guided selling can help your business sell more and sell better.