A detailed strategy on how to empower your sales team with content. Looking at the role of content, getting internal buy-in and turning a lead into an advocate.
The future of B2B sales
B2B sales have transformed with the advent of the information age and the ever-evolving purchase journey. What does that mean for today’s salesperson?
In recent years, the life of the sales person has changed immeasurably. Gone are the days where the salesperson was the face of a company, holding all the control. Today, the typical B2B buyer is 57% of the way through the purchase process before they engage directly with a supplier, meaning they do almost all their learning before the salesperson has any influence. A salesperson can no longer discuss a business problem, reframe it, and point the buyer towards a product or service. Nowadays, its the buyer who is in the driving seat.
Often, it comes down to price, and no B2B salesperson worth their salt wants to simply have price wars day in, day out. Furthermore, the number of stakeholders in the decision making process has grown to an average of 5.4. Sales teams are facing a perfect storm — their prospects are more savvy, more price sensitive and come with more complex approvals processes. So where does content come in?
The role of content in sales
In a world where you are only as good as your last content initiative, why is it that 60 – 70% of content churned out by B2B marketers goes unused? With the increased focus on the role of marketing in the sales journey, and the pressure on sales to deliver despite having little influence, how can content help?
Let’s keep this simple.
Companies consistently want to sell more. And marketers are tasked with making this easier through their various methods, resources and channels. Clever marketers know they need to be challenging audiences with insight, so as to reach the multiple buyers when they are learning, not buying.
In the ‘information economy’, content needs to play a more impact full role than before. Thought leadership only serves to explain the benefits of ‘alternative action’ but true commercial insight – highlighting the ‘cost of inaction’ – is significantly more compelling, especially when selling.
Making the link between content marketing and sales can be challenging to prove if done carelessly. The simple way to overcome this is by equipping your sales team with the same insight you produce in a stretegic, appropriate way – giving them the tools to disseminate it, and thus implicitly giving them the power to unlearn and reteach their targets on the point.
Engaging sales — the internal communications battle
Your internal stakeholders (eg. sales team) are ‘paid’ to read your content – if they don’t engage with it, why would your prospects?
1. Speak to each other: Meet with your sales team regularly, and have a concise but flexible content calendar. Get ideas from them — they are front and centre of client needs- and collaborate on the execution.
2. Make it easy: Build a useful internal content bank with explanatory notes, templates and trackable links so your sales team can keep it front of mind while you are keeping things ‘on message’.
3. Communicate cleverly: Communicate with your sales team (and other internal stakeholders) with the same enthusiasm and finesse you do with prospects. Focus on headlines, engage with stats, be independent and use real insight to help them in their day-today conversations. Have an internal comms strategy for every piece of flagship content you create.
4. Evaluate: Most companies evaluate their external communications with pre-determinated metrics. To monitor engagement with content initiatives, take a similar tack. Employee surveys, intranet open rates and water cooler conversations are helpful barometers.
How to win the content game
There is an adage in rugby that the forwards decide who wins the game, and the backs decide by how much. Marketers must influence and educate before the sale takes place, in the same way forwards have to combine graft and guile to march the team upfield towards the opposition try line. And, it is once they have made those hard yards and created that all important scoring position, that the backs, or the sales guys, swoop in and grab the five-pointer and, with it, the glory. Your sales team might be initially reluctant to engage in discussion around content when it does not seem imperative to achieving their KPIs or revenue targets but remind them that you are all on the same team, and while they may be kicking the goals, they might be missing the tries.
1. HAVE A GAMEPLAN. Sales should be involved from the start, at the planning, creation and execution stage. They no doubt have a specific set of market challenges and can guide the content effectively.
2. SHARE THE PITCH. You both want the company to increase its bottom line, you already have a common goal — remember this.
3. GET IN A SCRUM. In many organisations, marketing and sales are two distinct teams, maybe even sitting many desks or floors away. Challenge this structure. Even if it’s initially counter-intuitive, bridge the gap. Sit together, share ideas and collaborate daily — you’ll find a lot in common.
4. PASS THE BALL. Content is a two way street. Ideally, the marketing team will control the messaging and create content that will enable the sales team to be more successful, but marketers need to remember that sales are on the frontline of client conversations and can give valuable insight to ensure messaging remains relevant.
5. GET IT OVER THE BAR. Marketers may sit on their throne thinking ‘I make awesome content, that’s my job done’ but how can you ensure your content is relevant if it’s not being used? Equip your sales team with the tools they need to leverage it properly.
6. DO A VICTORY LAP. Seeing is believing. Share success stories, metric uplifts or anecdotes on lower sales resistance and celebrate the rewards of the combined efforts.