We all make assumptions — and that’s not a bad thing. Assumptions are shortcuts that give us a starting place for exploration. The scientific process begins with a hypothesis, which is essentially an assumption. Assumptions only become dangerous when they’re unchallenged.
Unchallenged assumptions are particularly perilous in the buying journey since they often cause prospects to overlook important information or believe things that just aren’t true. Our job as marketers is to identify incorrect assumptions and challenge them in a persuasive way.
Let’s take a look at the common assumptions prospects make when in the process of buying an enterprise tech or software solution and how you can identify the specific assumptions your audiences are making in the buying journey. We’ll also explore how you can challenge harmful assumptions that stall the buying process.
5 Assumptions Prospects Make that Stall the Buyer’s Journey
Buyers may be making any number of damaging assumptions, but here are five of the most common. These assumptions are especially prevalent in enterprise tech and software.
1. “The status quo is safer than taking action”
Change is hard. And few people enjoy taking risks, particularly those that could negatively impact their careers. Making an enterprise-level purchase that involves change for a team or an entire organization is uncomfortable at best, and can be nerve-wracking for some buyers. Your biggest competitor isn’t the market leader in your category — it’s the status quo.
2. “I need x type of solution”
There are almost always multiple ways to solve a problem. Buyers who have researched their problem will have uncovered various categories of solutions, and your product’s category may not even be on their radar. They may be convinced that they need a different type of solution altogether.
3. “I need x feature”
Prospects’ initial research may also lead to a belief that they need a particular feature in a product in order for it to be effective. They may have read a popular book or article that points to this feature as a must-have, or they may have colleagues who use products with this feature and insist that they couldn’t have solved their problem without it. If your product doesn’t have this feature, you’ll need to persuade prospects with this assumption that this feature isn’t the best solution.
4. “Older is better”
Many prospects will initially include only market leaders in their consideration set. The assumption is that a well-established company or product has to be better or it wouldn’t have survived. If your company is a relatively new player in the market, buyers may be especially wary.
5. “Bigger is better”
Another variation of the previous assumption is the idea that the prospect needs the most robust solution available. While nearly everyone will say they prefer simplicity, their buying research may have convinced them that they need a particularly aggressive approach or a lot of bells and whistles to fully solve the problem.
How To Identify the Assumptions Your Prospects Are Making
Your prospects may be making these common assumptions or they may have an entirely different set of assumptions. You’ll need to identify the specific assumptions that are relevant to your audiences. Here’s what I recommend to uncover the assumptions that are holding your prospects back.
- Talk to your sales team. The folks on your sales team are on the front lines, talking with prospects day in and day out. They’ve heard all the assumptions your audiences are making, and they can tell you exactly which target segments believe which ones. Take advantage of their knowledge!
- Comb through case study data. Case study interview recordings can be a gold mine for uncovering assumptions. Most prospects will reveal their assumptions when asked questions related to the trigger event that caused them to begin their search for a solution or questions related to the buying process.
- Request interviews with a few of your ideal clients. The best source of information on assumptions is the prospects themselves. Ask your customer success team to set you up with a few clients for short interviews where you can ask questions about their buying journey. You’ll quickly be able to identify the assumptions you need to deal with.
How to Challenge Assumptions in Your Marketing Content
Effective marketing content challenges assumptions and persuades prospects to consider alternative ideas. But it can be difficult to know how to overcome ingrained beliefs. Here are four best practices that will help increase your persuasion skills.
Seek to understand
Identifying your prospects’ assumptions is a necessary first step, but it’s not enough on its own. Understanding the why behind an assumption — the reason the assumption is being made — is crucial to your ability to challenge it. If you build an argument based on a faulty understanding of why prospects are making the assumption, your argument will fall flat.
Question the costs
Bad assumptions usually have painful costs associated with them. For example, if your prospects assume that the status quo is better than moving forward with a purchase that will involve a company-wide change initiative, you need to present the costs of not taking action and dig into the significance of those costs. When the risks of purchasing your product or service are viewed in light of these costs, those risks look small in comparison.
Dig into the benefits of the alternative
Don’t leave it up to the prospect to figure out exactly how the alternative you’re presenting will benefit them. The benefits may seem obvious to you, but remember that if the idea is new to them, they won’t have connected all the dots. Explaining the impact of these benefits will go a long way in persuading prospects that the alternative is worth considering.
Align your insights to your differentiators
Ultimately, you need prospects to understand the unique value of your particular product or company. You can’t stop at obliterating an incorrect assumption — you need to keep going and lead prospects to conclude that your specific solution is the best one to solve their problem. What does your product do that enables you to solve your prospects’ pain points in a more thorough/faster way than competitors? Insights around that what are the ones you’ll want to focus on.
Challenge Assumptions at Every Opportunity
Many marketing teams make the mistake of thinking that challenging assumptions should only happen in mid-funnel or bottom-of-funnel content — but that is itself a harmful assumption! Even top-of-funnel content provides a fantastic opportunity for challenging assumptions since you can easily weave in points about the dangers of the status quo and the benefits of the alternative you’re presenting. Make it your mission to challenge assumptions as often as you can — you’ll make your content more effective as a result.
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