Just as the digital revolution changed consumer buying habits, so too has business-to-business selling. It’s become a much less linear process and in some instances, negates the need for sales personnel altogether. Why? Because nowadays, customers research, evaluate, select and share their experiences about products with each other creating a mass of peer reviews and alternative authority figures who are just begging to be heard.
To compensate, a larger proportion of business people are filling vital roles in the decision-making process, which means the path to closing sales has become much more complicated.
In order to understand how to communicate with this new breed of informed buyer, you first need to understand the stages of the buying cycle.
Stage 1- Unaware
The fact is, a high percentage of your prospects spend the majority of their time swimming in this part of the pond. They are blissfully unaware of what they need or that your solution even exists. It’s common to find them satisfied with where they are right now.
Action: Any noise you’re currently making is going to fall on deaf ears. The types of content they’ll be responsive to at this time will be checklists, stories and Q&As.
Stage 2 - Problem Aware
It’s only when your prospect becomes ‘problem aware’ that they can start taking action. We as marketers and business owners need to understand what triggers this change in buyer awareness, in order for us to target them more effectively.
Action: The idea here is to help the prospect commit to change through sharing content that challenges and creates impetus. This is achieved through careful positioning and appreciation for how it will be searched for.
Valuable topics for conversation could be ‘Understanding Costs’ or ‘Implications and Consequences of Not Undertaking the Project’. Demonstrated through the generation of, ‘how-tos’ and comparison content.
Stage 3 - Solution Aware
By this stage in the process, the prospect has moved into a position whereby they are aware and consequently now making others aware of the problem. They have built a level of consensus and decided they should take action.
Action: By the time you reach this stage, there can be up to 6 others involved in the decision-making process. Your role is to add value and challenge their existing understanding. Effectively you’re shaping the decision-making process.
You do this by convincing them of a unified solution, through the creation of ‘solution aware’ content. This content should be making them aware of the pitfalls and shortcomings, whilst helping to guide the way.
Stage 4 - Product Aware
At this stage, the prospects have likely researched and committed to a solution and created a shortlist of vendors who can deliver what they need. Even at this stage, it’s likely they’ll have not contacted you.
Through this approach, you’re effectively convincing each decision-maker that your solution is
a) superior to all others and
b) individually tailored to their needs.
Stage 5 - Fully Aware
This is where the magic happens, rather, the decision is made. However, even in a complex B2B sale, the prospect is likely to have done some research prior to their engagement, which means although they reveal themselves to you as a “Hot Lead” your content and sales personnel need to be expert.
Action: If the sale is complex or a solution is transformational, your content will need to reinforce the needs and benefits of change as the value may not be transparent to the buyer.
Here, content such as head-to-heads, case studies or even buying and installation guides are imperative to help the sale over the line.
If you want to learn more about the buyers cycle or discuss content options in more detail then give one of our marketing nerds a call on 01202 684 009 and either arrange to pop in for a coffee, discuss training options.
Alternatively, you can download our latest e-book to learn more about Inbound Marketing and the buyers cycle.