How A Strategic Content Strategy Influences Prospects

Posted by LinkedSelling in B2B Lead Generation & Sales Development

In a world where we’re bombarded with 6,000 - 10,000 ads on a daily basis, it can seem impossible to cut through the noise. Add to that the fact that the modern B2B buyer is a sophisticated buyer who does their research, long gone are the days when people easily trusted sales reps.

How can today’s B2B companies build trust that opens the door to real business conversations and selling opportunities?

One way is by using a strategic content strategy to connect at the right time and provide the right information, when the buyer needs it. 

In this article, we’ll cover how to make that happen, along with:

  • Exactly how to cut through the noise and build trust with your prospects in a crowded, illusive marketplace.
  • Why content marketing and key sales collateral pieces are so important to the sales process
  • How to adapt your sales process to the buyer (and why not doing so will leave you in the dust)
  • Which content pieces work best at different stages of the sales cycle

A New Kind of Buyer - Follow Their Lead

First, let’s talk about this modern buyer. You need to know exactly who you’re dealing with in order to strategize a plan to get their attention and start real sales conversations. Back in the 70’s, it’s estimated that people were exposed to 500-600 advertisements on a daily basis. In 2007, it jumped to 5,000, and today, it’s nearly doubled. [Source]

This has created a target you might consider “immune” to advertising; after all “they” say we have short attention spans and can’t focus. It would make sense considering the bombardment we all face everyday. Of course, that’s not the full truth…

Like Jerry Seinfeld said in his comedy skit, 

I love how he puts that. Another way to look at it, is that people will pay attention if they’re interested - even in this time of overcrowded “noise”. We’ll get into how to do that down below, but for now, consider a few other factors that contribute to the qualities of the modern buyer...

  • According to a Forrester report, 59% of buyers conduct research online instead of interacting with a sales rep because the rep pushes a sales agenda rather than helps solve a problem.
  • AND that 74% of B2B buyers do at least half their research online before making an offline purchase.
  • An Accenture study found that 94% of B2B buyers admit to conducting online research before making a buying decision.
  • According to SiriusDecisions, 70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer even reaches out to sales, not only that, they also report that 67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally.
  • Corporate Executive Board says that 57% of executives reach a decision before they contact sales.

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This means that buyers are already in the sales process BEFORE your reps even talk to them. It means that they don’t trust reps as easily and assume they have an agenda rather than the desire to help the prospect find the best solution. 

It’s no wonder that 68% of buyers prefer to interact with salespeople who listen to their needs and provide them with relevant information. And that 57% admitted they’d prefer to purchase from a salesperson who “doesn’t try to apply pressure or hassle them when following up.” (Source)

In short:

Buyers are more sophisticated and their decision-making process is often longer than it used to be. Ultimately, it means that your sales reps have less opportunity to influence your prospect’s decisions.

Where does that leave today’s B2B companies? It means the buyer is in charge of the sales process and that B2B companies must adapt to the buyer’s journey, NOT the other way around.

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Understanding the Buyer Journey

We’ve written in depth about the buyer journey, which is a great read for how to adapt your sales process to the buyer. (Highly recommended read for any company).

In that article, we defined the buyer journey as:

“The decision-making-road the prospect travels on, morphing from total stranger, to visitor, to prospective buyer, and finally, to client and advocate. The buyer’s journey demands different approaches from marketing and sales at each stage of the journey.”

You must understand this journey - and most importantly WHERE your buyer is on that journey before you jump into any type of conversation.

To accomplish this, you need to know who your buyer is and what’s going on in their head. If you can join the conversation that already exists, you’ll have far more success in overcoming that modern-day trust barrier.

This means that you assume (based on the research above) that the buyer has already done quite a bit of research before they even get on your radar. Knowing that means now you can meet them at that level. You can offer value in a way that actually catches their attention because it’s:

  • Relevant
  • Educational
  • Even Entertaining

For example, let’s take a look at a typical scenario…

By the time our sales reps speak with a prospective client, we find that many times that prospect has been on our list for years, receiving emails, consuming our content, and seeing us on LinkedIn. 

We often ask “Why now?”; “Why have you come to us now to get help with your lead generation?”

The common answer is that nothing else has been working and they’ve seen our multichannel demo and want to learn more. They come to us because they’ve seen our content and have built trust in us that we will help them find a solution that is right for their business.

The key here is “learn more”. They’ve already done research (most of our clients have tried various approaches before coming to us) and they know what they want and what hasn’t worked. 

When WE know this about them, it allows us to adapt our sales process in a way that keeps their attention, puts us head and shoulders over all the noise, and really allows us to be the resource that the prospect is looking for… NOT just another vendor offering up proposals.

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How To Adapt Your Sales Process To Fit The Buyer Journey

Ok, at this point, you might say, “Sounds great! But how do you actually execute that?”

In that previous article (again, consider this a must read), we break down the buyer journey and exactly how we adapt our sales process to it. 

To summarize, we categorize the buyer journey into three steps:

The modern B2B buyer is generally in stage 2) Consideration, or even entering stage 3) Decision before they even speak with a sales rep. 

What B2B companies must do is give them what they need at each stage that will entice them to want to “learn more.” That means you provide resources and sales materials at each step that answer pertinent questions and move them closer to the decision.

Here is an overview of our whole process from marketing and lead generation to sales development to close:

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How to Meet the Buyer “Where They’re At” Using Content, Case Studies, and Third Party Testimonials

Ok, if the modern buyer is already at stage 2 or 3, what can sales reps do to tilt luck in their favor?

Ask yourself this question:

What does the prospect research look like and how can you make sure you’re part of it?

Try these steps:

  1. Recognize that at first their research will be broad. The potential buyer will look for more information that educates them about the problem and start diving into case studies and reviews. They’ll begin to recognize and develop the criteria that really fits their needs as they pursue different options available to them.

    Example: At this point, your sales team and marketing needs to keep this in mind with very specific educational materials and case studies that will address the prospect’s questions. Here, lead generation and the beginning of your sales development efforts need to come in strong, again, especially as the buyer is doing a lot of this research on their own.
  2. As your prospect clearly defines their challenge and really starts narrowing down their choices, they’ll start looking more at specific offerings. Here your lead generation and sales development efforts need to move from “nurturing” and staying top of mind, to really qualifying.

    Example: The prospect will continue to look at case studies, educational materials to really understand your process, how you measure success, the costs, and what they can expect from working with you.
  3. Finally,  as your qualified buyer has drastically narrowed their options and needs buy-in from all the decision makers, they will need materials supporting pricing, ROI, results and more. Here specifics on implementation, terms, and pricing will likely be a big concern for the buyer.

    Example: Marketing needs to provide materials that speak to the decision makers, providing more specific and advanced information for using your products or services more effectively. It’s the time to really focus on the value of your offerings. This will also help re-sell them on your services when it’s time to renew - or offer referrals!

Sales needs to be the consultant, who has insight, who can answer specific questions and resolve objections, and who can prove the value of your solution over that of the competition.

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Articles and Blog Posts

Ok, let’s talk about content marketing and how it can support your sales process. What we’ve done at LinkedSelling is a strategic approach based on the most frequent questions and objections we get when we get involved with prospects.

Instead of writing about what’s interesting to us and putting our prospect to sleep with “soap-boxy” mumbo-jumbo (cue the “short attention span” Seinfeld was talking about, ie irrelevant content), we write about what’s relevant to them and their current needs. This is where marketing and sales really need to have a great alignment to ensure that marketing is producing content pieces that will support the buyer journey and also just as important, the messaging.

Our core content pieces have come about because we listened to our prospects FAQs and objections…

What do they really want at each stage?
What kind of information are they looking for? 

If they’re already doing research, you can be a part of that by providing what they need. 

Distributing and getting that info in front of them is a whole different topic, but you can look into email marketing, social media marketing, social media ads, SEO, and other ways to stay top of mind and catch the attention of your prime prospects.  

Here are a few key pieces that our prospects continually turn to for answers to their questions:

>>> The Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn Ads <<<

>>> A Manifesto For Sales and Marketing Leaders <<<

Webinars, EBooks, Reports, and White Papers

We use this medium as a key component in our content marketing and lead generation strategy. Specifically in our ad campaigns, we have found advertising a report that’s interesting and answers a KEY question or pain point or prospect has will go farther to build trust quickly, open the conversation and even get appointments on your team’s sales calendar.

Here are a few examples of videos & reports we use to educate our prospects:

>>> Multichannel Outbound Demo <<<

>>> B2B Client Acquisition Report <<<

>>> B2B Paid Social Media Executive Brief <<<

To learn more about what kind of content makes for a great report or ebook for your specific target market, click here to see our process.

Case Studies and Third Party Referrals/Testimonials

You could argue that the best way to sell yourself is to get someone else to do it! 

One reason why people do research online is to find reviews, see what experiences and results others have had and to determine whether or not it might work for them as well.

If it’s compelling enough, they’ll keep researching and reach out to book an appointment (or if your Sales Development Reps call them at the right time, they’ll be open to accepting an appointment.) 

Testimonials are powerful tools for building trust and credibility

The numbers don’t lie…

  • Client testimonials are the most effective form of content, coming in at an 89% effectiveness rating, compared to other content types.  
  • Demand Gen Report states that 97% of B2B buyers feel that user-generated content like consumer reviews are more credible than other types of content.
  • They also significantly contribute to customer’s purchasing decisions. As one study found, when asked how important reading online reviews was before purchasing a product, 38% of respondents answered “very important” and 19% responded “extremely important.
  • Additionally, in a study conducted by Trust Radius, survey respondents characterized customer reviews as being more authentic and unbiased even than case studies. They also said they were easier to consume, more personal, and more reflective of the real-world experience. Client testimonials were described as impacting multiple stages of the buying process and as being useful for comparing products, relaying pros and cons, and validating information from the seller.

As you can see, adding in third party reviews, testimonials, and references might have THE biggest impact on your sales process. Include them in case studies, in your content marketing, and in your emails. Have them front and center on your website, and have them readily available as part of your sales and marketing collateral to send to your prospects at any time. 

Tip: Make case studies a part of your internal process. When you have a client, you don’t think twice about your processes for onboarding and fulfillment, creating a case study, and collecting testimonials should be no different. 

The easiest way to do it is to decide that at a certain milestone or after a specific time period, you reach out to collect testimonials and discuss the results and the client’s experience. 

The best case studies are those that illustrate the frustrations beforehand, and how your solutions resolved them.

Think We Can Help?

Book a call with someone on our team.

We’ll discuss strategy in a free consultation and cover what you’ve tried, who you want to reach, and what your goals are, along with what we recommend - and maybe even how we can work together to make it happen. But only if we both see that we’re a fit. 

At minimum, you get a free strategy session with a lead generation expert. Expect to walk away with ideas to implement. 

If that sounds good to you, click below to schedule a call. 

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