According to Hank Barnes at Gartner, 68% of the buying process has no direct involvement with the vendor, their partners or the vendor’s specific content and information. He stresses that buyers “have access to all this stuff from vendors, but making sense of it, interpreting it, understanding that they have the right stuff is where they’re really struggling.” Maybe the buyers just can’t translate the jargon-laden generic marketing content, regardless of how good marketers think it is, to their specific requirements.

The lack of interaction with prospective buyers makes your website, marketing content and customer success stories all the more critical. And if your salespeople are only getting engaged at the tail end of a buyer’s decision process, your reps are unlikely to know anything about how the buyer navigated the earliest stages of the buying decision, a troubling limitation when this is the part of the buyer’s decision that marketing needs to influence the most.

Did the buyer say it matters or are you guessing?

Before your marketing team and/or agency creates any new content, the first thing you should do is ask yourself "did the buyer say it matters" or are you making assumptions and guesses about what you think is important to them. If you're guessing about what triggers their search, what outcomes they’re trying to achieve and the selection criteria that they believe will match their specific requirements, then your content isn't likely to resonate with what prospective buyers are looking for.

The smart marketers understand this limitation and realize that the only way to influence the purchase decisions of a “silent” self-educated buyer is to anticipate their specific requirements, uncover the questions that they’re going to ask and provide answers that you know they'll want to hear.

The best way to uncover this information is to ask recent buyers who just spent time and money on a solution like yours, to tell you everything they did and thought about as they evaluated their options and made a decision. Whatever they tell you is something that was very important to them or they would have forgotten it by now. The insight is pure gold!

Unfortunately, the best insights come from the deals that you’ve lost. These buyers have moved-on and don’t want to talk to you for fear that you will try to re-engage with them and your own sales organization doesn’t want you to talk to them either, in case you uncover failures in their sales strategy.

You’re on your own, to sell the buyer on why they should speak with you. You’ll need to master an unscripted conversation that’s free from bias and encourages people that don’t want to talk to you, to share their true stories and buying experiences openly and freely. And you’ll need a background in sales and sales management to follow the purchase process and know exactly where and when to probe for deeper insights.

You can do this!

Our clients have used the information from our insight interviews to capture the questions that buyers are asking about their solutions and used the verbatim quotes to create compelling, genuine and authentic messages that provide the answers that buyers want to hear and trigger a prospective buyer’s search.

They’ve built case studies that focus on business and personal outcomes that they know buyers are trying to achieve, dealt with the perceived risks and barriers that they’re likely to be concerned with and addressed the selection criteria that recent buyers have prioritized in order to win new deals. And their sales people have continued this theme, sharing the details and capabilities that influenced the selection process in recent purchase decisions to guide prospective buyers through their own decisions.

How do you know if these insights will be any better than what you already know?

Before we take a dime of our client’s money, we conduct an interview with one of their lost deals at our expense. As we share the results from that interview, prospective clients can understand exactly what they’re paying for and we can determine how difficult the job is going to be. In every case, this single interview has uncovered an insight or two that the client was unaware of or had neglected to consider as important.

Know your buyer

More choice has led to more in-depth research. Self-educated buyers are turning to online resources to discover their options, research pricing and gather expert and peer recommendations. Before buyers ever pick up the phone and call a rep, they’ve formed strong opinions, evaluated and eliminated vendors and made dozens of decisions about their purchase.

If you’re able to speak their language and understand their problems better than anyone else, you’re much more likely to get them to call, request more information and help them find your solution before they discover another one on their own.


Gordon Hogg is the President and CEO, INSIGHThought. For the past 30+ years, he has sold technology products and solutions, contributing millions of dollars in revenue and profits for large enterprise software companies, hardware manufacturers, ecommerce suppliers, solution integrators and consultants and a few early SaaS start-ups. Hogg has held positions in sales, channels, consulting and marketing and executive roles as GM, VP, EVP and CEO/founder.