Sell More and Support Customers Better with Guided Buying and Guided Selling


B2B companies continue to embrace digital commerce, of course. They’re prioritizing digital portals and increasing investments in digital sales channels. Today, one-third of B2B companies are already seeing half of their revenue coming from digital. That’s not surprising, but the specific focus of B2B investment today is interesting. New global data amassed in the State of Commerce Survey from Salesforce found that customer self-service online is a close second only to the broader category of digital commerce. Across nearly every industry, B2B companies are transforming their commerce operations and focusing on guided buying and guided selling. By modernizing their enterprise in this customer-centric way, B2Bs are driving efficiency higher than ever, at the same time elevating buyer experience and customer satisfaction. Following are a few practical insights on the state of self-service and the why and how of guided buying and selling.


First, consider the rapid pace of change in self-service.

The B2B self-service capabilities (and customer expectations) have undergone a massive transformation over the last 5-10 years. Fifteen years ago, B2B distribution organizations believed they needed the expertise of product and service reps to help customers feel confident in their buying decisions. No wonder, the systems weren’t there yet to risk putting everything online. The fear then was that self-service would lead to a tidal wave of wrong orders, pricing issues, and availability fumbles. But that’s all changing fast.

The path forward has been with side-by-side, parallel systems in on- and offline channels, each with unique SKUs and pricing. Separate data sat in e-commerce and other tools that support sales reps. But the systems have steadily gotten better over the past decade. Today, companies are saying they need self-service because they can’t find enough reps to talk customers through the buying process. Buyers, too, are expecting more and better self-service all the time. Just this year, there’s been a sharp increase in buyer preference for self-service capabilities.

Virtual business and remote sales are becoming the norm. 79% of “high performing” companies are organizations that are successfully managing remote sales. One key performance indicator is AOV. Salesforce survey respondents estimate that the average order value of self-service orders is now about half that of in-person purchases. Increasingly, there’s a case for combining traditional and digital sales models for B2B organizations.


The tools are catching up and continually getting better.

In recent years, we’ve seen less separation of channels and more of a connected view of all sales interactions.

Today’s systems and software are making that possible by providing more seamless underlying data structures. So, businesses can have a single common catalog and configuration repository maintained for all channels. That gives organizations the ability to do things like launch product in every channel at once. It enables quick agility to sell something in one channel only or to provide changes to things like subscriptions via self-service. These are just some of the empowering capabilities of guided buying and guided selling throughout the entire customer journey.

From a buyer and customer perspective, the end-user of these systems expects to get the same information online as they do from reps, partners, or other ways they purchase. Platform innovations are now bringing together and connecting everything across CRM and e-commerce. So, all channels can be served a common set of configuration and product price rules. This allows B2B companies to provide an inherently connected self-service experience whether buyers go through reps or a commerce portal.


Software like Salesforce RLM (revenue lifecycle management) is leading the way.

New solutions like Salesforce RLM (Revenue Lifecycle Management) and CPQ are improving self-service by providing customers and sales teams with intuitive tools and portals to manage their own orders, billing, and subscriptions. With self-service capabilities, customers can easily configure and price products, generate quotes, and handle renewals or changes to their services without needing direct assistance from sales representatives. This reduces the need for manual intervention, speeds up transaction processes, and enhances customer satisfaction by offering a seamless, user-friendly experience. The automation and integration within Salesforce RLM ensure that all customer interactions are efficiently tracked and managed, further supporting a streamlined self-service environment.


Buyers and sellers benefit equally from assisted self-service.

Guided buying and guided selling tools are having surprising benefits on both sides of B2B transactions.

B2B buyers have a strong expectation for being able to order and reorder product via self-service. They don’t feel they should have to talk to anybody for products they already know about. Guided buying helps customers better understand what is being sold and why. It reduces customer support time to find correct products and Increases revenue from the sale of kits. The digital self-service experience often relates to researching and making buying decisions. According to the Salesforce survey, B2B buyers say e-commerce self-service is especially critical in the very early stages of buying. It helps them figure out what to ask their sales rep or distribution partner. More and more, customers are indicating that they want an online interface to complement their sales engagements. They are expecting the ability to research and evaluate, as well as to order and reorder via self-service.

B2B Companies are realizing that the same kind of capabilities that they provide for self-service buyers are almost always needed by their own reps and distribution partners. For companies, these tools reduce the cost of sales and accelerate quote to cash. Guided selling gives Sales a systematic way to configure and build solutions while freeing up reps to focus more on selling the larger deals. Guided selling tools also give a tremendous amount of lift in terms of helping employees to accelerate what they do as well. Guided selling makes it easier to continually train and retrain which helps employees, reps, and distribution partners get smarter about the products and services they sell. Employees can learn and always access current product and service information just as easily as buyers, including pricing, availability, and the latest ways to configure product offerings.


Soon the day may come where “B2B” commerce is just commerce.

Salesforce is helping to accelerate this transition. Their commerce system was built in the middle of a core CRM platform that’s fully connected. It shares the same data with broader catalog and configuration systems. Advances like this are making next-level self-service much more feasible for companies to finally achieve a common system for everyone in every channel.

As companies continue to centralize investments in common systems, guided sales tooling, configuration databases, streamlined orders and quotes in all channels, the idea of “B2B commerce” may just fade away and simply become “commerce.”


Tips for adopting guided buying and selling.

If you choose to move forward with guided buying and selling for your business, start by asking yourself some foundational cash-to-quote questions. These relate to what your B2B organization is doing to find, win, and keep customers. For example, how are you supporting your customers to discover and research your offerings in a digital first world? How easy is it for new customers to order complex or configurable products from you? And how fast can your customers re-order or make purchases from you as well as track and manage their orders and account?

Before starting your implementation, check the following boxes first. These are three critical success factors for guided buying and guided selling.


  1. Get Alignment: Identify and prioritize your major change elements. Develop a clear strategy and ensure alignment between middle management and leadership, as well as across major functions. Clarify your vision, objectives, and goals. And specify needed talent and budget.
  1. Manage Change: Resist the temptation to do everything at once. Even with high-level alignment you need to prioritize what to do and where to start. In some cases, the best path is the one of least resistance while in others it’s best to tackle the biggest challenge first. If you’re not sure, we can help you develop the optimal strategy with our Advisory Services.
  1. Product and Pricing Data Quality: Evaluate the health of your product and pricing data – you’re guided buying and selling can only be successful if the data is accurate and accessible. Take a critical look at where your data is stored, manual processes surrounding the data, and where it needs to live to support your future state.


This is just a quick overview of guided buying and guided selling.

Get the full story in a free new webinar from Salesforce and Pierce Washington: Powering Self-Service with Guided Buying and Selling

You’ll hear one B2B company’s firsthand Salesforce implementation experience and you’ll see a live demo of Salesforce RLM (Revenue Lifecycle Management) and CPQ. In less than one hour, you’ll learn more about guided buying and selling and you’ll gain real-world insights that can benefit your own assisted-selling transformation.

Tune in to our on-demand webinar here.