Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Finding that your buyers are taking longer to make their decisions and that your deals are taking longer to close? A new Demand Gen study confirms this B2B buying trend: Fifty-five percent of buyers report that their purchasing timelines have grown — with 1 in 5 reporting they have increased significantly!
But why is this happening? And more importantly, what does this mean for entrepreneurs and small business owners? This article will take a look at why sales cycles are getting so long and what you can do about it.
Why B2B sales cycles are getting longer
Narrowing this change down to any one factor is hard. But clearly, companies (and their buyers) are tightening their belts due to economic headwinds and fears of a recession. Not only does this mean that spending is slowing down, but it also means that companies are taking longer and being more deliberate about making purchases.
It’s also critical to keep in mind that any larger-ticket B2B sales rarely involve only one or two decision-makers. The study found that 60% of buying groups involve four or more members. And when each of these buying members has different needs and demands, it’s understandable that purchasing decisions can take some time to make.
What to do about these lengthening buying cycles
Sixty-three percent of respondents stated that their number one criterion for making a purchase was “easy access to relevant content that speaks directly to my company.” Content remains the key piece to the marketing and sales puzzle.
In fact, as buying cycles lengthen, it’s more important than ever that you create amazing, helpful content. As LinkedIn‘s B2B Institute has found, the brand that comes to mind (or in their terms, is “mentally available”) is the brand that wins most of the time. And one of the most impactful ways to stay top of mind is to have content that helps your buyers through every step of their journey.
The problem is that while many companies are creating content, few are creating content that truly meets all three criteria outlined above:
Easy to access
Speaks directly to the buyer’s company
If you want to succeed and win business with lengthening sales cycles, it’s essential that you create content that checks off all three of these goals. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to support that objective:
1. Do I truly understand my buyers?
Specifically, do you understand each of the individuals who would comprise a buying committee for your offering? If you’re like most companies, you probably don’t understand your customers as well as you think you do. It’s crucial to have a strong understanding of your actual buyers’ needs and challenges, ideally formalized in one or more buyer personas.
2. Do I have the content my buyers need at every step of their journey?
Understanding your buyers is just the first step. The next part is to think through the journey that they need to go through when researching a product or service like yours. Identify what types of content they need each step of the way. For example, when they turn to Google, do you have SEO-focused content that buyers can find? As they continue their research, do you have longer-form educational content like eBooks or white papers? And when they get closer to buying, do you have the assets they need, such as case studies and datasheets?
Many companies are stronger at creating content for one stage of the digital marketing funnel than the rest. The most common mistake is to create content that’s too promotional and only focused on your product and your company. Once you know what content your buyers need, do a gap analysis to understand what content you have and what needs to be created. By following steps one and two, you’ll be in a good position to create relevant content that speaks to the buyer’s company.
3. Is my content easy to access?
Once you create that content, you need to promote and distribute it. If you have a blog, that’s a good start — but the key to great content delivery is “right message, right place, right time.”
Can you add calls to action onto more website pages so that buyers can find helpful content? What about creating ads targeting your buyers on LinkedIn or other networks to get your content in front of more buyers? And could you create nurturing emails to thoughtfully drip out the content your buyers need?
The bottom line is that you want to make your content easy to find and maximize the chances that the right content gets in front of your buyer when they need it most.
Despite our best wishes, you can rarely control your buyers and their timelines for purchasing. What you can control is being the ultimate resource for everything they need to inform their decision. If you can do this in a helpful, relevant and accessible way, you can outdo your competition and win more business … even if that business takes a bit more time to close. Longer buying cycles are tough — but you can come out ahead.