The What Ifs? that Can Derail a Deal

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We’ve all read the reports and research that shows B2B sales win rates are in an overall decline. But, it’s not just losing the sale to a competitor that companies need to reverse, but the growth in “no decision” being made. CSO Insights finds that “no decision” being made in relation to a purchase has grown from 20% to nearly 25%.

In a B2B complex buying process, companies are often still focused on only one decision maker, if they have even developed a thorough understanding of the motivators, priorities, and responsibilities of that person. The problem is that a complex B2B purchase decision is never made by only one person. Never.

As marketers embrace content marketing and mapping content for delivery across the stages of the buying experience, one of the stages that gets the least attention is the one I label Step Backs.

BuyerProcess underlay


Step Backs is the buying stage where the buying committee is actively reviewing research and considering options that can solve the problem. This is when the “funnel” swells as more people enter the conversation, bringing their own perspectives and concerns to the fore.

This is where the What ifs? happen:

  • What if it doesn’t work?
  • What if it effects X?
  • What if I have to re-engineer processes?
  • What if users won’t adopt it?
  • What if it takes longer to implement than we think?
  • What if it doesn’t play nice with our other systems?
  • What if…

The problem marketers face when this happens is that they rarely have content at the ready to answer the what ifs. This means that when the buyer who’s championing the deal goes back to try and find the information he or she needs to answer those questions to the satisfaction of the committee and can’t find content that does so, momentum halts.

Let me repeat this – momentum toward purchase stops in its tracks!

For, without consensus, the committee cannot choose.

You’re probably thinking that they’ll just call a salesperson to get the answer, right? Not necessarily. But, even if they do, are your salespeople prepared to answer those questions?

If salespeople are only called upon once the short list is selected, response time and the value of that response are critical factors for keeping the momentum of the deal moving forward. Buyers aren’t the only ones who need content for that purpose.

However, consider the impact on the buyer if marketing has been providing content throughout the buying process that has helped to facilitate their buying process. Now, when it’s critical to them to find an answer, they cannot find anything to quell the what if questions.

  • Are they disappointed?
  • Will they begin to rethink their choice of your company as their partner?
  • Is this a disconnect that impacts their confidence in what they thought was the right solution?

The interesting thing to note is that as marketers become more proficient at content marketing, we also raise the expectations of our buyers based on the value that content provides. This is why the content needs for each buying stage must be addressed.

Consider that case studies need to be truer reflections of the journey to solving the problem. Reveal obstacles and show how your company’s expertise was critical to overcoming the issue discovered along the way. Create a tip sheet of the “10 things that could go wrong, but why they won’t” content asset and make sure it’s findable – by both salespeople and your buyers.

There are many ways to address the what ifs that can derail a deal – but first, you need to figure out what those are. Do your research and ask your salespeople, new customers, and even those who didn’t buy from you.

Then get content out there to address those key issues you discover.

Marketers need to address each stage of the buying process based on what buyers need at that time. Step Backs is only one stage – but it’s an important one that can have a true impact on customer acquisition.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee is a B2B Marketing Strategist and the CEO of her firm, Marketing Interactions, Inc. She helps B2B companies with complex sales create and use persona-driven content marketing strategies to turn prospects into buyers and convince customers to stay. Ardath is the author of Digital Relevance: Developing Marketing Content and Strategies that Drive Results and eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale. She's also an in-demand industry speaker.

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