With the Internet, the Great Recession, and intensification of competition in many industries, the way buyers buy has changed. Buyers are busier, they have more choices, and they are better informed than ever.

So what are the companies that are bringing in new customers and growing their accounts doing that's different?

To find out, we went to the source: buyers themselves. We surveyed over 700 B2B buyers responsible for $3.1 billion in annual purchases. We wanted to know what the winners of actual sales opportunities are doing that's different from what others are doing. We published the results in our new book, Insight Selling: Surprising Research on What Sales Winners Do Differently

Seven factors rose to the top as those that most separate winners from second-place finishers. These are what tipped the scales in favor of the selected provider:

Although those factors directly relate to what the seller did during the sales process, there are four core ways Marketing can help support Sales to do those things.

1. Connect buyer needs and your company's solutions

"Listened to me" and "understood my needs" were the No. 4 and No. 5 factors, respectively, among those that most separated the winners from the rest. Factor No. 7 was "crafted a compelling solution." It's often Marketing's role to understand buyer needs and develop materials and insights that hit on buyer hot buttons. Most companies, however, leave it up to individual sellers to come up with all the ways to match needs to solutions.

At the same time, Marketing tends to have reams of data for how their offerings benefit the customer. Marketing can and should create playbooks—graphs, charts, grids, and so on—that show how specific buyer needs match up to company products and services as solutions.

To make it relevant for sellers, marketers should collaborate with sales leaders to come up with questions that sellers can ask to uncover needs across different categories. By asking those questions, sellers demonstrate that they are listening to buyers, at the same time uncovering a broader set of buyer needs.

This kind of tool—and appropriate training on how to use it—can have a major impact on sellers' consistently connecting the dots between needs and solutions.

2. Educate buyers with new ideas and perspectives

Of the 42 factors we studied, the No. 1 factor that separated winners from second-place finishers was that sellers educated buyers with new ideas and perspectives. In marketing lingo, we're talking about content marketing. It's never too early to start educating buyers via valuable content on your website and blog.

Later in the sales process, companies often leave it up to sellers to figure how to educate buyers on their own. But it's marketers who are masters of storytelling, crafters of the best PowerPoint slides, and producers of insightful content such as whitepapers, videos, research, articles, webinars, and the rest.

The more Marketing supports sellers to provide and introduce those new ideas and perspectives proactively to buyers, the more sellers will sell and the happier everyone will be.

3. Persuade buyers they will achieve worthwhile results

"Persuaded me we would achieve results" was the No. 3 factor among those that most separated sales winners from second-place finishers. That statement has two important parts: (1) results and (2) some reason buyers believed they could achieve them.

This is truly an area in which Marketing can shine by producing...

  • Case studies that demonstrate how results were achieved with clients
  • Testimonials—text and video—featuring buyers and their experiences and results
  • Research and trend data to support that the new idea, whatever it is, is the wave of the future, and that those companies employing said strategy will succeed in the new business environment
  • Presentation decks to help sellers explain new ideas and showcase the return-on-investment case

These kinds of marketing pieces not only help buyers see what results are possible but also build a buyer's desire to achieve those results.

Brand awareness and perception also play a key role here. The stronger a company's brand, the more likely buyers will believe that similar results are within their reach.

4. Collaborate with buyers

The No. 2 factor among those that most separated winners from second-place finishers was "collaborated with me." Marketing is often instrumental in creating platforms for its customer base and market for interacting with the company.

Platforms can be as simple as running online and offline events, or as involved as creating robust online communities. Either way, Marketing can create the perception, and provide the platform, for the company to be collaborative and customer-focused.

* * *

In the end, Marketing's job is to grow revenue for the company. To do that, you must understand how buyers are making their purchase decisions in the new business environment, and how you can influence those decisions. By helping Sales in these four core ways, you can best support the success of sellers at your company by giving them what buyers are looking for.

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How Buyers Buy... and Four Ways You Can Help Them Choose You

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image of Mike Schultz

Mike Schultz is president of RAIN Group, a global sales training and performance improvement company, and director of the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research. He is the bestselling author of Rainmaking Conversations and Insight Selling. He also writes for the RAIN Selling Blog.

LinkedIn: Mike Schultz

Twitter: @mike_schultz