Business markets are different to consumer markets in a number of ways.
- There are far fewer business customers than individual customers as each business usually has been created to serve a purpose.
- A business is a collection of individuals, and they often make collective decisions.
- They have developed processes to manage the way in which they operate, and their buying processes will support their operations.
- It takes longer for them to make a decision, as they are usually dealing with complex and inter-related issues.
- Finally, the one question businesses always ask is what is the payback from this purchase?
Each purchase must serve a purpose
Most businesses do not buy on a whim. Purchases made by businesses usually need to be justified – and this is done by making sure there is a need for the product.
How will this help my business is the question we need to answer.
This means that you need to show how your product fits into your prospect’s business. Unlike an iPhone, which talks about how good it is and makes you want it, your content must focus on your prospect’s specific needs.
There are several people involved in the buying decision process
Any purchase that is over a minimum threshold will usually involve other people in the business in addition to your main contact.
Not all of these individuals are on your side. They could respond to your approaches with a number of emotions:
- Some may not know about you
- Some may not like the idea
- Some may have had bad experiences with companies like yours
- Some may be fearful of the change this means for them
Describing your product in just one way will not address all these needs and fears. You need to rework, reuse and reposition your content so that it can be used to make it easier for all these individuals to buy into the product you are putting in front of them.
You may go through a number of processes during the sale
It would be nice if you spoke to one person and that person made the decision and you could get the sale away.
But that’s unlikely.
Instead, you probably need to go through a number of processes – let’s call them obstacles or hurdles if you prefer. From companies that have an email only contact policy to a strict tender procurement schedule, there are a variety of things that can trip you up.
If you have the right content in place, you can approach these hurdles with less effort. Email only policy? No problem, here are a set of emails to five senior managers asking for a referral to the person who manages this process. Tender to complete? Use a combination of existing content with personalised additions to show you have read the brief and understand the requirement to stay in the process.
Use your content efficiently. A good content library can be your hardest working salesperson.
Sales cycles are getting increasingly longer
You have to be prepared for a long sales cycle. In high value sales, it can take 18 – 24 months to go from initial contact to first contract. Quite often, you can start a contact with a salesperson and find that that person has moved on and you have someone else following up and trying to close the business.
With good content, the relationship is stronger between your company and the prospect. The salesperson uses the content to educate the prospect about your company, and if you have to change the point of contact, the prospect is still familiar with your material and the transition is easier.
Sales increasingly fall into simple and transactional or complex and consultative
The middle ground is vanishing in sales.
Simple products are sold on Ebay and Amazon and the quality of your ads will determine sales.
Complex products require explanation and education, and the quality of your sales material will determine your success.
Either way content is crucial, from tightly worded letter perfect ads to detailed use cases of a product, the way in which you use content to define your product help you sell more.
In business sales, payback is everything.
You might use more complex words like return on investment or internal rate of return, but you still need to show when the prospect will get their money back and start making money.
Content can help you make the calculation clear.
From a clear financial model to a more refined explanation of tangible and intangible benefits, well-structured content can make the case for you day after day, explaining to your prospects why they should do business with you.