Sales Tools: Are You Guessing What Content the Sales Team Needs?


“80% of the content created by marketing for sales never gets used”.


Measure the Impact of Sales Content


I can’t tell you how many times I have walked into a sales organization to talk about content and they tell me: “Marketing doesn’t create any content for us”. When I take the feedback to marketing, they show me hundreds of content pieces they have created over the last couple of years.  
Craig Rosenberg via KnowledgeTree


 

What is the real reason your sales team is not leveraging the sales tools and content you think they should?

One of the most important concepts in enterprise selling is – No Guessing. Ask the customer and they will tell you exactly what you need to know; provided you’ve established both relevance and credibility. Sales people support their families based upon commission. It’s not a “bonus”, but an essential part of their income. So, when they are not doing something you expect, the first rule of thumb is – don’t expect your sales team to do something that doesn’t work. They may have their own terrible habits that are sabotaging their success, but they won’t hesitate to pass on adopting your bad ideas.

Sales tools and content are the most tangible aspect of your sales process and therefore too important to throw up your hands and give up. Start off by mapping sales tools and content to stages in the sales cycle and rate them with a quick self-assessment.

  • Do sales and marketing have the same customer profile in mind?
  • Is the content relevant to the buyer at that stage in the buying process?
  • Does the content address specific issues or is it fluff?
  • Does it prompt the customer to engage and interact?
  • Does it move the buying process forward or test the prospect in some way?

 

Customer Profile

The enterprise sales cycle engages a variety of influencers, recommenders and economic buyers. Even when targeting C-level buyers, marketing funnels are filled with lower level “researchers” who eagerly consume white papers and webinars but have no authority to prioritize resources much less buy.  That’s not necessarily a problem if you hold a realistic view of the “point of entry” in an account and offer quality content that is likely to be shared upward in the organization. Just don’t pass them off as sales-ready leads.


The most important factor in content selling is to understand what content your buyer values most. Both sales and marketing must develop personas together and agree on them.
Craig Rosenberg via KnowledgeTree


Later in the sales cycle, when executive decision-makers are engaged, high quality content reflects the discovery and interaction that’s occurred. Sales people are notoriously lousy content creators, so an easily modified structure and consistent format have value. There will be multiple buyers along the way and the content requirements evolve accordingly.

 

Sales Process

A good sales process in underpinned by, but not the same as the buyer journey. The “sales funnel” should be filled with active buying cycles and is distinctly different than the business development or marketing funnel. Thought leadership pieces that target C-level executives may shape opinion, but sales people treat such content with disdain when prospects are years away from an active buying cycle and there is no connection to a specific business issue they can sell to today.


“50% of the buying process is completed before engaging a sales rep.”  
– Various Sources


One way to interpret the 50% data point is that each step of the buying process is up to ½ complete before engaging a sales rep, but the sales person must still have the discipline to start at the beginning and lead all the way through. Sales tools and content mapped to specific stages in the sales cycle reflect the information needed by the prospect to move their buying process forward.

 

Timing

Customer self-service is a powerful trend that isn’t going away. As much as the sales team would like to control the sales cycle, buyer research is going to occur on your company website and via 3rd parties. Content addresses the needs of customers from early research to competitors, references and social proof. It is in your best interest to deliver the complete picture or the gaps will be filled in by someone else.


96% of B2B consumers start their research on Google. 76% then indicate that they return to Google two to three times to continue their research, each time searching for more specific information. This pattern mirrors the stages of the sales cycle.
– Salesforce.com |  Pardot


Customer ActivityContent & Tactics
Building InterestMarketing
ResearchingBusiness Development
Active BuyingSales
Get Specific

This is the toughest one for marketers and a primary reason the sales team disconnects. Content designed for 20,000 feet just does not fly for sales people. Customers don’t want thought leadership from sales reps and they will not tolerate marketing fluff that does not address their specific business and technical needs. The corporate pitch…Who cares? Check your ego at the door. Thought leadership is about helping the buyer feel smarter. Active sales-cycle content can only be produced in close collaboration with the sales team. The form-factor is framework + library that can be readily modified, mixed and matched to specific customer needs.  Yet, it must still maintain the integrity of an explicit business value proposition with competitive differentiation.

 

Black Box

No one can consistently create quality content and effective sales tools without seeing how it’s used and getting regular feedback. Too often, I see new content “delivered” via remote presentation, posted on the sales portal and it goes there to die.  First, recognize that content marketing at a business development stage is an entirely different discipline than creating content, messaging and tools for the active buying cycle. You won’t get the sales part right unless you are willing to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.

 

Action Plan
Sales Calls    

Offer to make sales calls with new hires and anyone struggling with insufficient pipeline.  With such a high percentages of early sales calls delivered via Go-To-Meeting and WebEx, it is easier than ever to help out. Develop a specific topic, objection, use-case etc. that you are an expert in. Prepare for 90% listening and 10% adding value by helping your company establish credibility with the prospect.

Feedback

This is an easy one that I recommend to all my clients. Each quarter, publish a quick 2-question survey that nets you data on sales usage and customer impact for your primary sales tools and content pieces. Each time you deliver new or updated sales tools, use the polling feature of your remote meeting software to get instant feedback right then and there. You will find it much easier to get specific. Whenever you hear the derogatory term “fluff”,  it really means “not specific enough”.

Put your improved content and tools in the context of the buying & selling “process” and get ongoing feedback. Let your competitors whine and drain their resources with the 80% problem.

Resources

Accelerate Your Content Selling Strategy and Improve your Sales Tools

Why You Should Care about Stage-Based Marketing

10 Critical Steps to Sales and Marketing Content Alignment

 

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About Neal Murphy

Neal Murphy is the publisher of Enterprise Sales Operations and former VP of Worldwide Sales & Operations with 20 years experience in enterprise technology.

+Neal Murphy +ESO