Buying decision cycles – particularly in the business to business (B2B) market – have evolved significantly in recent years as the internet, in particular, has played a major role in speeding up decision making processes.
With buyers using the internet to conduct research into potential suppliers, it’s become much easier for vendors to showcase their products and services.
Phase one – identify needs
In the first phase of the buying decision cycle B2B customers are thinking about improving their enterprise. They’re looking for information that gives them insights to industry trends that could give them competitive advantage.
Writing white papers and opinion pieces will help demonstrate that you know your customer’s market, the challenges they face and how you can help them meet those challenges.
Phase two – setting criteria
Once they’ve established what the latest trends are in their industry, businesses begin to set criteria for the companies they want to buy from.
They’re hungry for knowledge – such as information that demonstrates how a potential supplier’s products and services will make a practical contribution to their success. FAQ content, best practice guides and return on investment calculations will resonate.
Phase three – specific research
As buyers enter phase three of the cycle, the insight and knowledge you displayed in phases one and two now need to be complemented by relevant, operational facts such as case studies.
Keeping this content current, clear and comprehensive will ensure you’re able to to answer key questions as they close off the research phase of the buying process.
Phase four – evaluation and testing
Typically, customers will cover phases one to three of the cycle by themselves – more often than not using the internet to gather information and shortlist suppliers. Phase four is where the modern B2B sales cycle typically starts – and it’s the point at which they’re likely to reach out to vendors to evaluate their services.
They need evidence that you can deliver on the expectations you created during the first three phases and they’re looking for documented proof of how you manage relationships. Content that explains how you run proof of concepts or supporting testimonials from existing customers will help deliver this evidence.
Phase five – selecting suppliers and negotiating
The penultimate phase of the buying cycle is the point at which buyers select potential suppliers. But before they do so, they want very specific reinforcing information about your business. To some, this will be financial insights and BBBEE scorecards; to others it might be clarity on how your service level agreements work.
Related: The Sales That Really Count
Phase six – buying and implementing
This final phase is where POs are released, so it’s best to make sure no last minute surprises – like technicalities in your legal agreements – derail the deal. Publishing your terms and conditions on your website is a good way to mitigate the risk of a small detail coming between you and an order.
Using content effectively – and understanding what collateral to provide as you nurture your prospect through the sales funnel – will help differentiate you from your competitors, speed up the buying process and, ultimately, drive profitable sales.