Guided Selling: this is what you should know

Blog 8 min.

Guided selling is a term that is becoming increasingly well-known. It originates from e-commerce, but has since become more and more important to B2B-businesses. Especially when you are looking to sell complex products, guided selling is well applicable. In this blog we tell you all about what you should know about guided selling: what it is, how it works and what its advantages and disadvantages are.

What is Guided Selling?

Wikipedia provides us with a clear description:

“Guided Selling is a process that helps potential buyers of products or services to choose the product that best suits their needs, and hopefully gets the customer to buy. It also helps product sellers to actively guide their customers to a purchase decision, and as such increase their conversion rate.”

What guided selling is all about, is putting the end user at the center of the sales process. You no longer ask a farmer looking for a new potato harvester whether he wants an extra large diesel tank. Instead, you ask him what size his field is so that you yourself can advise him about the optimal fuel tank. You want to secure your best salespeople’s and advisors’ knowledge, and make said knowledge available for everyone in- and out of your organization. This requires necessary software, to optimally support potential customers and your salespeople in making the right decision. Very simply stated it is a way to use available data to sell more.

Guided selling fits in a bigger picture, where digital techniques have a large role. These techniques are employed in lots of different ways to help potential buyers make the right decision, and as such take away possible choice stress. Using a visual configurator is another example of doing this.

How does Guided Selling Software work in practice?

A definition never says as much as practical examples. We will gladly demonstrate what guided selling can look like in practice.

Imagine you’re creating a cooling system for trucks and vans. Butchers can use them to deliver their wares without said wares expiring. Normally, a butcher would reach out to a car dealer and choose the van he thinks he needs. The car dealer doesn’t have an answer to the question whether a cooling system can be installed in the van. As he sells cars, not cooling systems.

Using smart software, the car dealer can easily and quickly choose the correct cooling system. He manages this by using a few simple questions about usage. For instance, the type of car already implies the volume that needs to be cooled. By asking what needs to be cooled, we learn about the cooling capacity. And by asking the end user how many times an hour the door opens and closes, we find out how much cold is lost. All reasonably simple questions, but with a beautiful outcome: the software tells exactly which cooling system most fulfills all wishes and demands. It could also be that the outcome is that a heavier engine is needed. The system will then also indicate that.

In short: you don’t ask technical questions a customer might not have an answer to, but concrete questions which they can in fact answer. Smart software then translates these answers to technical details, with which the underlying logistic process can be directly started.

Bringing sales and engineering together

An important condition to make guided selling succeed is that what is recommended to the customer can in fact be built. This means you need to come up with a sales model that is fully validated by engineering. You do this by establishing rules that indicate when a certain answer to a functional question leads to a certain technical specification. For example, when you sell industrial packaging machines with a light or heavy frame, you would ask the customer what kind of options they are looking for. Should the total weight of the packaging machine be above 3000 kilograms, you would no longer offer choice in frame. As the light frame would not be able to handle this weight, so the heavy frame is automatically picked.

Advantages of Guided Selling

This leads us to a number of advantages that come with guided selling.

End user feels understood

The biggest advantage is that the end user gets the feeling they stand at the center of the process. Not only because they finally get exactly what they need, but also because you are asking questions that can easily be answered. This builds trust and a positive impression, which more easily convinces them to buy from you.

Fewer errors in the factory

Back to the packaging machine with the light or heavy frame. Imagine the salesman makes a mistake, and sells the light frame with so many options that the weight ends up above 3000 kilograms. If you don’t monitor this closely, it could very well be that you find out you are producing something that cannot be sold. You will have to deliver a heavy frame for the cost of a light frame, as this obviously is not the customer’s fault. Using guided selling, you prevent these kinds of problems. A labor intensive solution would be to capture all possible compositions manually. But as soon as you improve the light frame and it can handle 3200 kilograms instead, you would have to go over all possible solutions again, and adjust them accordingly. A better solution is to choose for software that automatically saves the logic between the different options. In that case you would only have to edit one variable; the maximum weight that the light frame can carry. After that, everything would be able to proceed as usual.

Knowledge assurance

Because of the steps you take to automate your advising work and capturing your sales model in rules, you kill two birds with one stone. During these processes, you simultaneously record a large amount of knowledge. Making training for new advisors easier and faster. With appropriate software you can directly implement new insights and make them available for all of your salespeople, dealers, or customers.

Sales engineer can get back to R&D

Remember that one R&D specialist you hired to further develop your products? Because of that full order portfolio they are working solely on sales. Until you start employing guided selling: because the sales process goes much more smoothly, your R&D can get back to what you hired them for. For instance: basing the rest of the product range on modules, so that they can be taken along in your guided selling-configurator.

Disadvantages of Guided Selling

We want to bring you a complete and honest image of guided selling, so we think we should also acknowledge disadvantages. But to be honest, we cannot think of many. It does take effort to pan out the model entirely, and to capture it. Thinking of and predefining the accompanying logic between different questions. And yes, that takes time. But this time is won back easily as soon as your guided selling is optimally designed, that we promise. Just like the money that needs to be invested for good software.

To make a long story short: guided selling is a fantastic opportunity for many businesses. Especially with selling complex products, it pulls its weight. With guided selling your salespeople’s and engineers’ work alike becomes more enjoyable and easier, and you bring your end users more satisfaction and a big smile. What’s not to like?

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