The B2B world can seem daunting for new salespeople or marketers who have spent most of their career catering to B2C customers. The sales process is longer, getting your foot in the door is harder, and getting a sale requires more resources than B2C brands that sell cupcakes or ice coffee. However, with the right strategic planning and a deep understanding of the buyer, sales teams can thrive and grow their companies. Here are four key statistics your sales team needs to know about marketing to B2B buyers and how content plays a role in your selling efforts.

An Average of 5.4 People Are Involved in a B2B Buying Decision

Image via Flickr by ThoroughlyReviewed

Salespeople need to keep in mind that there is no single decision-maker within a company. Instead, they will need to target an average of five decision-makers that all have different levels of power and knowledge about your brand. All of these decision-makers are important. For example, a marketing software vendor who is pitching to a company might speak to the following people:

  • A middle-manager who wants the software for their team
  • Entry-level employees who will be the heavy users of the software
  • Senior managers who need to understand how the software will increase revenue or efficiency
  • VPs who will sign the contract and negotiate a price

If a company can’t get buy-in from middle managers who are lobbying for the change or lower-level employees who will actually use the tools, then there’s no way they can ever get in front of senior managers and VPs.

Furthermore, the content needs are vastly different for each of these audiences. Lower-level employees need tutorials to learn how the product will make their lives easier, while senior managers need to know why investing in the product will make them more competitive in their industry.

By understanding your target audience and tailoring content to their needs, your salespeople can pitch to decision-makers in all levels and departments within a company.

47 Percent of B2B Buyers Consume 3-5 Pieces of Content Before Talking to a Salesperson

According to the Demand Gen 2016 Content Performance Survey, almost 50 percent of B2B buyers review content by a company before contacting a salesperson, and more than half rely on content to learn about a brand than they did a year ago.

B2B buyers have many reasons to turn to content before talking to a salesperson, and each of these reasons depends on the exact customer and where they are in their buying journey. A few potential reasons include:

  • The customer wants to prove that your product or service provides value.
  • The customer wants to know why your company is better than your competitor’s.
  • The customer wants to learn about your company outside of a sales call.

The Demand Gen report also discussed which content pieces a B2B Buyer is likely to share. Almost 80 percent of respondents reported sharing whitepapers, while 68 percent shared webinars and infographics. This means buyers look for content to make their case and educate others on your brand and services.

If you’re not creating content, then you’re isolating half of your potential customers because you’re not answering the questions they have or teaching them about your brand.

More than Half of B2B Buyers Consult Third-Party Sources Before Talking to a Sales Team

Word-of-mouth marketing is equally important and trusted in the business world as it is in B2C marketing. Decision-makers want to know that they’re making the right decision by accepting a sales call and starting the buying process with a company. It’s better to know that a company isn’t worth talking to before the first sales call. That way, buyers and their stakeholders can save time and credibility.

When asked what types of third-party sources B2B Buyers consult before speaking to salespeople, survey respondents at Avanade said:

  • Third-party websites
  • Feedback from a business partner
  • Social media channels
  • Conversations with peers who already use the product or service

Salespeople need to remember that there’s more on the line for B2B buyers who are making company decisions. In fact, 52 percent of B2B buyers say their biggest risk when adding a new vendor is wasting company money, while 23 percent said that losing internal credibility is their top concern, according to SAP.

Talking to third-party sources reduces the risk of losing money in the short run and losing credibility in the long run. These sources also help B2B buyers lobby for approval to hire a vendor, because they back up the salesperson’s claims.

82 Percent of B2B Decision-Makers Think Salespeople are Unprepared

One of the reasons so many B2B buyers choose to research a company and engage with its content before speaking with a salesperson is that most B2B buyers think salespeople lack preparation. This doesn’t necessarily mean the salesperson doesn’t know about their products and have a planned pitch, but rather they might not understand the potential buyer’s unique needs.

Buyers expect salespeople to tailor their pitches to their unique needs. B2B buyers know when they’re hearing the same tired pitch that the salesperson has presented it to dozens of other potential leads.

Content can serve as a solution. When salespeople engage with potential leads, they can use existing content to answer questions that B2B buyers have. Salespeople don’t have to have all the answers all the time — no one does — but they do need a strong resource library that they can turn to if they want to prove to B2B buyers that their problems are not unique and can easily be addressed. Sharing content and resources is also a useful way to thank a lead for scheduling a call or follow-up with them if the buyer hasn’t messaged back.

Content isn’t replacing the traditional sales, but it is enhancing the process. B2B customers are more informed than ever and use the Internet to answer basic questions. They can use time with salespeople to ask challenging ones. By creating content, B2B salespeople can increase the number of leads they generate while increasing their conversion rate. You just have to know who you’re talking to and what they want to hear.