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What Role Does Content Play In The Selling Process In B2B Sales?

In the B2B world, buyers are in charge and that is the current sales landscape. They are more informed and knowledgeable than before, and this has shifted the balance of power from the sales professional to the buyer. For companies this means that they have to build a relationship with their customers way before they start interacting with them directly. And this is done through content.

So what really is content?

To put it simply, content is information. And information is crucial in B2B Sales. There is an abundance of information available at the buyer’s fingertips and they research everything in advance of deciding what and from who they wish to purchase. This means they already know the features, benefits, comparative data, performance reviews etc. of the product or service. With so much information or content already at their disposal, the buyer does not want salesy pitches or demos as this adds zero value.

A good content strategy in B2B sales supports the sales teams while building trust and loyalty among buyers. Deals in B2B are of higher value and therefore the sales cycle is longer. There are also multiple stakeholders involved. The role that content plays in the selling process can be divided based on the different stages of the buyer’s journey, aka the marketing funnel.

The Awareness Stage

In the Awareness Stage the buyer is experiencing a problem or recognising a pain point. They start to research this to understand and clearly define the problem. At this stage, the main goal of content should be to attract leads and encourage them to become customers by putting your product or service in front of them, so they realise that you exist.

Buyers at this stage are not ready to make a purchase yet. All they want is information and they want it from a trusted source. Therefore the content generated at this stage must establish your authority and expertise and build trust with the audience. Some common types of content used during the Awareness Stage include:

1. Blogs/Articles

When we have a problem, we Google it! The internet is the primary source of information for everyone. We read many articles or blog posts, look at statistics and try to gain as much knowledge as possible. Articles are a great way to provide information and establish authority without pressurising the individual to purchase our product or service. Creating SEO focused blog posts ensures that this information is ranked higher on the search results, thus increasing the chances of more people seeing it.

2. Videos

Videos are a great way to make the people behind the brand or the experts in your organisation more visible. It is another great way to establish that you are an authority in the industry. The videos can be product or service trailers, whiteboard videos, Educational videos, Vlogs and so on. A good example of a video in this stage can be found here.

3. Social Media / Paid Ads

Organisations use social media to build a community around their product or service. Content could be in the form of posts, videos, infographics, webinars, etc. Used smartly, social media can help B2B companies reach out to niche audiences as well. For example, Bosch Power Tools tied up with micro-influencers to convince tradespeople to upgrade their tools.

However, because of the way the algorithm on social media works, organic reach alone will not be sufficient for B2B sales. Social media is a paid platform and for B2B organisations, running sponsored posts or paid Ad campaigns is needed to elevate the content.

Content in the Awareness Stage is all about providing information. This lays the foundation for the subsequent stages of the selling process. The content needs to be strategic in order to generate leads.

The Consideration Stage

In the consideration stage, the buyer has more clarity and is able to define the problem or pain point. They are now committed to researching and finding a solution for their problem. They evaluate the different methods and approaches by which they can resolve their issue. They are also well aware of your competitors.

So, content in this stage should directly address the pain point and how your product or service can alleviate it. This is the next step to building your authority and providing continuity. Some types of content that can be used at this stage include:

1. Videos/Blogs

Just like in the Awareness stage, videos and blogs can be used for the Consideration Stage as well. Videos at this stage should expand on the information that the buyer already has. While videos in the Awareness stage should be short (30-50 seconds), videos in the Consideration stage can be longer (2-5 minutes). Videos can be product or service reviews, company culture videos, How-to videos, etc. For example, Dropbox frequently features their employees and their diverse passions in the form of videos.

Blogs in this stage should focus on the solution and answer specific questions. Avoid talking about your brand and instead indirectly compare the benefits of your product or service with those of your competitors.

2. Downloadable resources

Allowing the buyer to download free assets such as checklists, cheat sheets, templates, case studies and research reports will highlight your expertise to the buyer. It provides buyers a glimpse into your brand and business.

3. Webinars

Webinars are a great way to connect with your community/industry and build credibility. It allows you to engage with hundreds of people from around the world – answering their questions, understanding their problems and offering specific solutions. The customers will look at you as a trusted advisor. A recording of the webinar can be provided on the company website for people to watch or download.

The consideration stage is a critical stage where the buyer has information about your competitors as well. Creating value and staying at ‘top of mind’ is imperative, so when the buyer moves to the Decision Stage, they remember the value, credibility and trust that you built.

The Decision Stage

At the Decision Stage, the B2B buyer has found the solution to their problem and are now evaluating providers. They are ready to buy and compare competitors closely to decide who meets their needs the best. The B2B sales environment and the selling process are complex as it involves multiple decision makers who need to be engaged with different types of content.

At this stage, buyers are more interested in knowing how you helped others solve their problems and what results they were able to achieve. Your content must also provide answers to possible objections.

1. Whitepapers/Case studies/Research

Case studies and white papers are useful in all stages of the buyer’s journey but lends itself better to the Decision Stage. These type of content are best to highlight the positive results that you helped others accomplish. It should contain statistics and infographics to highlight the results.

Unique research that is useful to your audience can help with lead generation and thought leadership. For example, Oracle teamed up with MOI Global to conduct in depth research into the disconnect between consumer expectations and present banking practices, along with a benchmarking tool for evaluation. The research was distributed across multiple channels supplemented by workshops. The research resulted in 350,000 new leads for Oracle.

2. Free trial/demo/consultation

Allowing the buyer to try the product or service is one of the easiest ways of showcasing value and convincing customers to buy as it provides tangible proof. If the product or service itself checks all the boxes, then all the sales rep has to do is answer a few questions and a couple of objections and close the deal.                

3. Independent Reviews, Industry Testimonials, and Customer References

Adding reviews, testimonials and references from industry professionals and satisfied customers on the company website and in brochures and other assets will convince potential customers to buy from you. It provides social proof and positively influences purchase decisions. Because B2B salespeople rarely sell at volumes, it becomes necessary to secure loyal customers who they can build relationships with and upsell to. It is up to each organization to determine who their ideal buyer is and focus on creating content that speaks directly to them. Highlighting your differentiation and the value that you can offer will set you apart from your competitors.

Swetha Sitaraman is a Business Content and Communications Manager who spent 15 years working with British Diplomats. She creates and edits content assets that include articles, case studies, company profiles and thought leadership interviews along with handling internal communication. When she is not immersed in a sea of words, Swetha enjoys diving into the world of watercolours.

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