Find Ian’s articles on Forbes.com

I had the pleasure of speaking at a workshop and session for Content Marketing World 2016 in Cleveland with about 3,500 attendees. While many companies have embraced the value of using content to share their message, I realized that there are simple questions that most businesses don’t ask, but they should.

The Sales Process

When I ask CEOs and executives to map the sales process, they generally list out the following steps (plus or minus a couple):

  • Initial Contact
  • Meeting
  • Proposal
  • Negotiation
  • Sale

In support of this process, businesses create marketing messages around their products and services. However, is the sales process taking into consideration the way buyers operate?

The Buyer Process

The buyer (you might call them a “client” or “customer”) follows a similar, but dramatically different process. Though the major steps are quite similar, today’s customer also spends time getting answers to their questions when you’re not around.

  • Initial Contact
    • Who else should we be speaking with?
    • What’s the vendor’s focus or reputation?
  • Meeting
    • I’ve met with the vendor, but what do others say about them?
  • Proposal
    • What could go wrong with this vendor?
    • Who else has used them?
  • Negotiation
    • Am I getting a fair deal?
    • Are they ripping me off?
    • What impacts pricing?
  • Sale
    • How is this vendor in terms of supporting their customers?
    • Do others have the same issues we are facing?

Your client has a bunch of stuff going on inside their head. Most CEOs and executives, however, don’t think about those things when thinking like a vendor/seller.  In fact, all you have to do is consider two great questions.

Two Great And Powerful Questions

Why would the client pick your company?  Why wouldn’t the client pick your company? Think about what happens if you exhaustively consider these questions.

What matters most is not the generic topic, but the underlying condition for each circumstance. For example, there are various reasons why someone would pick your company. For each one, lay out the reason, and then consider the questions that your clients might ask with respect to that reason.

Example Of Why They Would Pick You

If you are a technology vendor, one reason why they might pick your company is if their current provider is not delivering the right results. A client in that situation might wonder, “How do I know if my current provider is doing a good job or not?”

Your answer, as content marketing guru Marcus Sheridan from TheSalesLion.com would say, must be unbiased. Your job is not to persuade them that their vendor is awful. Rather, your job is to help them diagnose their real condition.

Example Of Why They Would Not Pick You

Let’s say you are a professional services company. One reason why your client might not pick you is because you don’t have an office in the same city as one of their offices. In that situation, you might create a piece of content (article, video, podcast) that talks about when location definitely matters, and when it does not matter. Once again, you have to be unbiased and balanced. There are undoubtedly reasons why proximity would matter. You have to include those.

How To Use Content

The content related to conditions why someone would pick you will serve as a magnet to attract the right customers. The content related to potential objections of why they might not pick you are there to help them reach a conclusion and for your client to overcome any objections on their own (with a bit of help from you).

What About Salespeople?

When the salesperson hears a question about location from the client, they don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Instead, your salesperson can simply say, “In some cases, proximity and location is critical. Here is a link to an article that you might find useful. Please let me know it if helps with your decision.”

The idea is that if you don’t create the content to help your client along their journey, someone else will. Would you rather they learn from you, or from someone else? It’s your decision. Just be sure you are asking the questions.

It’s Your Turn

When has the presence or absence of the right information helped or hurt a vendor when you were making a buying decision?  Share your thoughts in the comments or via Twitter or LinkedIn.

Identifying The Client's Underlying Condition That Your Product Or Service Treats

Tune-In