One aspect of successful sales, B2B or otherwise, is anticipating your prospective buyer's alternatives so you can have strategies in place to rebut any objections and differentiate yourself. But how do you learn what questions are going through the minds of your buyers? By determining how they evaluate their alternatives.
Evaluation of Alternatives
Once prospective buyers determine their needs and complete an information search, they may have several alternative solutions they feel meet their identified needs, even if they have failed to fully define the problem. Indeed, during their information search, they probably ran across enough information about the problem itself to begin evaluating the alternatives, before they ever contact your company.
As has been the trend for the past few years, potential buyers are moving deeper into the buyer’s journey without contacting a sales representative.
As buyers evaluate their options, there are several processes at work through which they form beliefs and attitudes about all the products and services they’ve researched. These processes evolve based on the buying situation which, in turn, evolves from a set of attributes the buyer uses to evaluate those products. For example, when evaluating replacement laptops, buyers look at:
- Speed of performance
- Amount of RAM
- Solid State Drive (SSD) vs Hard DiskDrive (HDD)
- Size of screen
The buyer then determines the level of importance of each attribute as a method of weighting or scoring. Once this is complete, the buyer may turn to reviews, peers, or sales people while refining their choices.
Anticipation through Data Mining
You have access to the same research buyers do, but you have an additional font of knowledge: Data drawn from your website analytics, completed forms, resource downloads, email analytics, and other interactions that takes place online both before and during the time you are engaged with a prospect.
Over time you can begin to see patterns in the data; certain questions or topics come up repeatedly, often at the same segment of the buyer’s journey. From these patterns, you can begin to predict or anticipate specific information needs and provide content and tools to answer them.
Your sales representatives may have further insight from their experiences during sales presentations that can expand your knowledge of customer buying habits. Study how buyers are evaluating their alternatives to learn the attributes they focus on and how important each is to the solution of a particular problem.
Influence the Buying Decision and Identify Alternatives
Once you have identified the attributes and information buyers have needed in the past, you can begin to develop tools and content to answer the questions ahead of time and map them to the most appropriate part of the sales funnel and buyer’s journey.
While you are creating or tweaking your content and tools, use the identified attributes to research other options, just as your buyer is doing. See which companies identify their products as containing those attributes. Those will be the customer’s alternative options as well.
Speed Decision and Sales Cycle Time
Once you have identified the attributes the customer is weighing as well as potential competitors who appear to have those attributes, you can make changes to your own content and tools to show how your solution fits those attributes more closely. In doing so, you will appear highly knowledgeable and, perhaps, a bit prescient to your buyers.
If your engagement plans include tools that provide specific information about each prospect, you can target more specifically and provide the right information at the right time to speed up the decision process and shorten your sales cycle.
Buyers learn about alternatives during their search for a solution to their problem. They have attributes that they use to measure how well a solution fits their perception of the solution. You can monitor for patterns in the research process to use in developing tools and content to answer common questions and illustrate innovative solutions when the buyer is ready for them and before they even ask.
In the process, you will find out who or what your competition is.