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Guided Insight Selling 2021 - Brief by M. Allen

In recent years, it has become commonplace for drivers to have a built-in GPS navigation device in their cars. It’s not that we’ve lost the ability to find our way, but the dynamic, real-time guidance from such a device saves time and avoids frustration. Many drivers use GPS even when they’re heading to a familiar location, because the system analyzes information on changing traffic conditions to provide the best route.

Over the last several decades, the sales process has been used to guide sales reps trying to convert leads into opportunities and opportunities into closed business. However, many sales processes tend to impose a rigid, linear view of buyer engagement that does not alter itself on the fly like a GPS might. In this brief, we introduce the concept of dynamic guided selling, which leverages automated activity capture and the analysis of buyer and customer interactions to deliver sales insights and intelligence that sales reps use to win more deals.

Dynamic Guided Selling Insights

M. Allen defines dynamic guided selling as the automated collection of seller activities and buyer interactions, both human and non-human, and the application of analytics leveraging AI capabilities to enable the delivery of near-real-time, context-sensitive, role-specific guidance and coaching to sales professionals. Dynamic guided selling caters to the needs of buyers and sales reps by providing personalized guidance to reps and tailored responses for buyers through the entire selling process.

Many sales organizations are acting on limited information as they attempt to understand and improve their buyer-aligned sales processes and sales execution. Dynamic guided selling leverages technology to identify critical areas of buyer behavior, which can be acted on to better position sales for success. Delivering this type of insight requires revenue operations to provide near-real-time analyses to sales reps that guide them toward the best actions. Five areas should be constantly monitored for potential changes:

Buyer personas. As opportunities enter the pipeline, exit the pipeline, or close, identifying the various personas involved in buying decisions and how they interact with the organization can provide powerful intelligence. Have new personas been identified? Have known personas become more or less influential? To optimize buyer engagement, develop a system that pulls this feedback from all digital and non-digital customer interactions and applies it to active pipeline opportunities.

Buying cycle inflection points. A buying process advances as the buying group collects and synthesizes enough information to take the next step; this is a knowledge inflection point. Each individual buyer and each buying group may have a unique set of knowledge inflection points that reps must help manage to move it forward. Opportunities that stall at certain stages of the sales process — or an increase in lost opportunities at certain stages — should be systematically analyzed and adjusted to maintain alignment with buyers.

Sales activities. At each stage in the sales process, reps should be equipped with a set of defined sales activities (e.g., intro presentation, product demo) to help them engage buyers. If the buyers and knowledge inflection points have changed, these activities should automatically realign. Sales reps require a new type of engagement with technology that is based less on learning static, step-by-step actions and more on how to adapt as the system supporting them evolves with the buyer. For example, if a new procurement role has emerged, the system analyzes it, along with the actual buyer, to discover any existing information. Based on this analysis, a strategy is implemented that sales reps can use to effect the change. Sales reps need to be comfortable adjusting to a process change before they can use it to win.

Observable buyer outcomes. An observable outcome is a measurable, verifiable, and specific response from (or an action taken by) the buyer that indicates the buying process has advanced, thereby providing evidence to justify moving the opportunity to the next stage of the sales process or pipeline. Sales operations should use the sales force automation system to capture observable outcomes for each stage in the sales process. If buyer alignment is lost even after defined observable outcomes have been identified, perform a rapid diagnosis to identify what has changed in the buying process. Communicate with the sales rep so he or she can validate the change and take action or correct the observable outcome. Opportunities lose velocity and may reverse direction in the pipeline if sales actions are taken on the basis of incorrect interpretations of buyer signals.

Competitors. New organizations continually enter the marketplace, and existing companies often shift their focus to pursue new buyers. By adding competitive intelligence to the sales intelligence system, sales operations highlights current opportunities that may be at risk of a competitive attack. Timely competitive intelligence also enables a feedback loop that can identify value proposition gaps that may be addressed with sales enablement content updates.

Delivering Intelligence to Manage Change

As sales operations identifies changes in the sales process, sales leadership and revenue operations must play key roles in guiding reps to effectively respond. These include:

• Sales manager coaching. As reps are asked to rapidly recalculate how they manage the sales process, sales managers must learn how to leverage new insights generated from sales intelligence systems. They must direct the sales team through new activities, skills, or conversations, helping them become competent and confident in a more adaptive, less linear environment.

Content. Sales analysis should reveal which content is working, allowing sales enablement to take a more proactive approach to addressing gaps. For sales enablement teams that already proactively deliver content to meet the knowledge needs of each opportunity, understanding how buyer changes are affecting the sales process allows them to respond quickly with precise changes to content.

Technology. Without a strong infrastructure that can quickly deliver analysis outputs, it is impossible to deliver the sales intelligence needed in an environment of increasingly dynamic buyer interactions. AI and machine learning are important success factors — sales tools must have the ability to deliver intelligence when and where a sales rep needs it. For example, a sales rep who receives real-time feedback on the progress of a sales call from AI analysis of the conversation can adjust his or her presentation to improve the interaction with the buyer.

M. Allen For years, we have helped B2B organizations deliver substantial benefits by aligning sales and buyer processes. Many sales organizations have listened and reaped the rewards, but the journey to closed business is still a hard road for sales reps. Buyer behavior is changing at such a rapid rate that only constant and deliberate analysis can provide accurate guidance. This requires a coordinated effort among revenue operations and sales leaders to deliver high-quality sales processes and technology to sales reps before they make wrong turns or get stuck in traffic within the sales process.

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