Guided selling 101: tips for e-commerce teams


March 14, 2019

The reported death of the B2B salesman means guided selling is essential for e-commerce success.

The path to purchase for B2B buyers involves many twists and turns, but when services or guided selling is available across touchpoints, the path to purchase often drives conversions. However, with today’s consumers expecting a seamless and compelling first buying experience across all channels, e-commerce teams often fall short in delivering full-service assistance. Especially when it comes to high-consideration purchases.

Death of a B2B Salesman

According to Forrester’s Death of a (B2B) Salesman more and more B2B buyers prefer limited, if any engagement with sales. This data from Forrester shows the majority of buyers are fully embracing the idea of self-service during their buyer’s journey. With the rise of self-service in commerce in general, this shift in B2B is significant. It ultimately removes the sales rep from the decision-making process and leaves many organizations wondering how to engage buyers, if at all.

This new buying behavior creates a need to guide the buyer to the right products and configurations via the digital touchpoints they interact with. To be successful in delivering guided selling, the digital channels must start anticipating buyer needs, facilitating analysis of requests, and fielding any additional information that sales reps would otherwise provide. Are you worried yet?

Guided Selling Opportunity

Guided selling is often used in the context of high-consideration products that are built to order. The concept often uses software tools for Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) where the result is a quote for the order. A configuration or a CPQ tool needs high-quality data and relevant content to provide the right guidance to enable a buyer to make a purchase and for the product to be configured properly. Customer experience still matters, the purchase still needs to work.

For these high-consideration purchases, buyers tend to eventually talk to a sales rep or solution engineer during their buying journey. However, as the buyer is likely armed to the teeth with knowledge, the sales rep must prepare the additional tools, content, and expertise to provide incremental value to the customer to close the deal.

Guided Selling Benefits

The practice of guided selling is also needed to assist the buyer for low-consideration purchases, like when they are looking for a spare part, accessory, or an off-the-shelf product to replace existing equipment. This type of guided selling doesn’t require expensive CPQ and configuration software. However, it does require clear navigation to assist the buyer in finding the right product in their own context. It also requires high quality product content that is explanatory, relevant, and establishes trust with buyer.

Regardless if you are selling low or high consideration products, establishing value early in the process is key to driving sales. Value can be achieved by understanding the buyer’s context. This allows the marketer to provide the best guidance and the right content to buyers do their own research and then place the order with you, rather than a competitor that better meets their needs.

This process of guided selling creates benefits including happy customers, higher sales, and fewer returns. It also forces e-commerce organizations to build a high performance content factory with accurate product data and process that support it.

Meeting complex customer needs is ever-evolving. However, if buyers want self-service, make sure you enable it via a clear path to purchase. Never force your process or path on buyers, that never works out well for either party.

Want to learn more about how to create killer content with context to drive conversions on product pages? Listen to our webinar with Forrester analyst, Sucharita Kodali, to hear strategies and tips.


Erika Goldwater, CIPP

Director of Global Communications

Erika Goldwater is the director of global communications for inriver. An industry veteran, Erika lives and breathes B2B marketing, content, public relations, and data privacy. She’s a Boston marketer who hails from Baltimore.