The five phases of a B2B sale

Your content marketing needs to move buyers through different levels of awareness about your leads’ problems and their solutions.

Your content marketing needs to move buyers through different levels of awareness about your leads’ problems and their solutions.

At first, your leads may not even know they have a problem—so you need to make them aware that they might.

Eventually, they’ll come to know enough—and feel comfortable enough—to make a purchase. (Hopefully from you!)

But you’re not done then either—they’ll still need things from you after they buy.

Here are the five phases:

  1. Recognition
  2. Research
  3. Evaluation
  4. Purchase
  5. Post-purchase

These are not linear steps. Buyers may move back and forth between the phases or even jump some altogether. But it can help to think of them that way and create content for your site that matches each one.

The recognition phase

Content designed to create the recognition that there’s a problem should speak broadly about the issues your buyers likely have.

Once you write that content, you want to put it in places where leads might accidentally find it.

That means articles or blog posts, guest blog posts, social media updates, trade magazines articles, and podcasts—wherever it is that an ideal client could find you and say, “Oh wow, I’ve got to go check that company out.”

The research phase

Once clients realize they have a problem, they’ll start researching solutions. That means e-books, guides, reports, and webinars can work well for you.

You need content that’s long enough to let prospects sink their teeth into, but not so “salesy” that they might get turned off.

And to be clear, leads at this stage are not ready to buy. They won’t want to read aggressive messages like, “Here’s what to do if you’ve got this problem: call us now and save $500.”

After all, they’re not yet convinced they need what you have to offer. Leads may indeed want information that teaches them how to buy, but they don’t want to feel pressure to make a choice.

Evaluation phase

Leads may be more ready to buy when they reach the evaluation phase. They’ve got a handle on their problems, and they know about a few solutions—and they’re starting to compare providers.

And that means it’s an excellent time to show “features and benefits” comparisons, the total cost of ownership calculators, checklists, buying guides, educational email series, and so on. You’ll need content that informs their choice—something that subtly says, “Hey, while you’re thinking about it, don’t forget to consider this, this, this, and this.”

Remember: try to transform a sales situation into an education process that buyers enjoy. You’ll bias your leads against your competitors and toward you.

Purchase phase

If your leads have reached the purchase phase, that usually means they’ve narrowed their choices down to the point where they’re considering signing with you.

Here, you’ll want content that tells them it’s okay to trust you—because fear and risk are huge issues at this stage.

Leads often panic about delivery times, or the cost of the solution, or other arcane details. They may even invent new requirements that they’ve quickly decided they need to have. (If you’ve ever seen a client run off like a scared rabbit when they’re right about to buy, now you know why.)

Case studies, testimonials, and information about your guarantee will help you at this stage.

Post-purchase phase

Content marketing doesn’t stop when you’ve made the sale. Providing training videos, welcome email series, and regular newsletters can help orient customers and build a feeling of connection.

That’s important because people can struggle with buyer’s remorse—that sick feeling in your gut that says, “I’ve made a mistake, and I want my money back.”

Putting it all together

There’s a lot to digest here, but your best strategy will always be to provide content pieces for each of these five phases.

That way, it won’t matter what phase buyers are in when they come to your site—

They’ll always have something to dig into.

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