If you were to go back just fifteen years, your customers generally relied on your salespeople to answer questions and gather information. The way customers research information to make decisions has changed. There are surprising ways customers now find answers to questions.

The Buyer's Process Is Not Linear

If you ask sales professionals to map out the buying process, they'll layout the seven steps (or five or six steps) in the sales process. It might look like: Initial Contact, Identify Needs, Qualify, Buying Vision, Identify Decision Makers, Proposal, Negotiation, Contract. However, here's the unfortunate reality: customers don't follow a linear process to make decisions.

Buyers Have Questions and Concerns

Buyers want to understand how you operate, and how your products and services might help them. They want to know the problems associated with your products and services. They might also want to know when your product or service is not the right fit. Of course, they also want to know what it costs, and what impacts the variability of cost.

These are just some of the questions they might be asking. Where will they get the answers to these questions? If you are not addressing those issues on your website with unbiased content, then your customers are going to get the answers from someone else - likely a competitor.

A Simple Formula For Remarkable Results

In Marcus Sheridan's new book, They Ask, You Answer (Wiley, 2017), he explains a simple formula that turned his swimming pool company from a struggling business to the most trafficked swimming pool site in the world - while slashing their investment in advertising.

In the simplest sense, Sheridan explains that they simply adopted a policy that said, "If our customer is asking the question, we are going to answer it on our website." That's exactly what they did. The transparency built trust, and moved their closing rate from in the teens to over 85%. Their business went from struggling to thriving, even in tough times.

Sheridan then shifted to becoming a silent partner in his swimming pool company and became a leading voice in content marketing.

Real Examples

Sheridan profiles companies who have followed his same formula and achieved remarkable results. In the foreword, Krista Kotrla of Block Imaging talks about how the policy outlined in They Ask, You Answer led to a growth of 5% sales attributed to web leads, to 40% coming from web leads - all directly tying to more than $9 million in sales.

Sheridan provides numerous case study examples throughout the book to illustrate how this approach is incredibly effective regardless of industry. In one example, he speaks about Yale Appliance, a once small appliance retailer in the Northeastern United States. Just about any question you could think of asking about appliances, they have addressed. Yale appliance is the number one source if you have questions about appliances.

I observed a great real-life example of this during my own home renovation. Each time my wife would have a question or concern, she'd go to the all-knowing Google and search for information. Yale Appliance seemed to have the answer for each question. I recall my wife saying to me, "It's too bad Yale Appliance doesn't have a store in our area. I'd prefer to buy from them." She had never met anyone from their company. But, because they had addressed her every question, she trusted them.

Think of any appliance question you might have. When you search online, see how many are addressed by Yale Appliance.

In the book, Sheridan gives many brilliant examples of companies who have seen extraordinary growth.

A Deeper Dive

I had the good fortune of spending 30 minutes with Marcus as a guest on my Grow My Revenue Business Cast recently. You can listen to the full interview here.

Where You Can Start

Make a list of the top reasons why someone might not do business with you. What questions or concerns would they have? Then, see how many of those topics you currently address on your website. You can easily work with your team to assemble 50 topics within thirty minutes.

Once you have the list, prioritize them and set an editorial calendar. When in doubt, Sheridan's book provides a blueprint for everything you need to do to jump ahead of the competition.