Think You Need Just One White Paper to Sell Software? Think Again

Just as salespeople can’t be expected to have just one type of conversation with every person who influences the software buy cycle, no matter their needs, a white paper can’t be everything to every buyer.

When considering how many white papers you need, first take a hard look at who’s involved in the decision-making process. Depending on the size of the companies you sell to, just one person may be making the purchase decision—or you could be dealing with a large buying committee that involves the IT manager, finance executive, CEO, department managers, and end user representatives, among others.

These people all have different needs. For example, the IT manager wants a meatier document that deals with product features. Any whiff of “sales” will send this person running—it’s best not to lean on your benefits too hard.

But the CEO needs to hear about those benefits. Most software is about saving time, saving money, or building capacity, and the CEO needs to know how your software does one or both for the company—in a concise, compelling way.

The CEO usually makes the ultimate decision. But he or she may not even hear about your software unless the IT manager recommends it. You have to impress them both, and they both want different things from a white paper.

(And that’s not even getting into what other people involved in this cycle might need—the CFO, the end users, the managers, and others).

Often, the solution is to write a number of shorter white papers, one for each member of the buying committee—rather than one long document that tries to be all things to all people.

In addition, you have to consider your sales cycle. Buyers need different information at different stages. At the beginning of the process, when prospects are in the research stage, white papers that provide a solution to a specific industry problem are often the most effective.

Toward the end of the sales cycle, however, your prospect has already identified several potential software vendors and needs more in-depth information. At this point, a detailed look at your product and its features is often what works best.

The bottom line? Before you decide on a white paper topic, it’s important to evaluate who’s going to be reading it, and what information they need to move them along to the next stage in the buying process.

With a comprehensive strategy that includes several white papers for different audiences and stages, you’re likely to see an increase in qualified leads.

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