“Put. That coffee. Down. Coffee’s for closers only.”
If you work in Sales or Marketing (and were born before 1992), you probably recognize that line from Alec Baldwin’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross. But let’s shake it up a bit.
Content is for closers.
It’s time to consider content an integral part of the sales process. We all know that content can be a reliable source for lead generation, keeping us flush with a steady stream of qualified prospects. But, in many cases, that’s where the ball drops.
From a marketing perspective, leads come in and we do our best to qualify them, score them, and nurture them. Eventually, we pass them off to sales and all of a sudden the steady flow of useful content dries up for these sales qualified leads.
Maybe it’s not being sent, or maybe it doesn’t exist.
The sales process becomes long and cumbersome. The prospect begins to waver in their belief about the value you provide. They doubt whether they truly need your product.
This, of course, is a scenario that can be avoided.
Leveraging content throughout the sales process is a powerful way to educate and persuade potential customers, clarify the value proposition, manage objections and expedite the sales cycle.
To be clear, I’m not talking about bottom-of-the-funnel content versus top-of-the-funnel content. I’m talking about content your sales team can use to help close a deal. Depending on the specific challenges their prospect is facing, this content might sit anywhere along your funnel.
If you’re a content marketer, you know that it’s important to create content at every stage of the buyer journey. On paper, this seems like a nice, clean way to guide people towards a sale. People will consume content at one stage, then move along to the next.
Photo courtesy of Uberflip.
But the reality is not that linear — people won’t just magically find their way along the path you created. While it’s true that great content marketing can help bring a prospect close to becoming a sale, there are often more questions or concerns that arise once they speak to a sales rep. The more complex and expensive your product, the more likely this is to occur. This is why marketing and sales have to work together to expose relevant content during the sales cycle.
But, before we get into how you can do this, allow me to bust a few myths.
Yes and no. Social, blog articles, websites, videos, the list goes on and on—they all start with the formulation of content. Many take this to mean that content belongs only to the marketing team. To craft great content you need to stretch past the perspective of a marketer. Yes, you need to talk to customers. But beyond that, your content must be informed by sales.
If your sales team can provide input about the type of content that’s created, they’ll be more likely to use it. On the flip side, understanding the conversations that sales reps are having daily can help marketers create amazing content.
Wrong. Good salespeople — effective salespeople — do care. They understand the impact that a well-crafted, strategically placed piece of content can have on the sales cycle. And if they don’t, fire them.
While in some cases this might be true, “lazy” isn’t necessarily the problem. But “busy” might be. If you’re on the marketing side, how many times has a sales rep asked, “Do we have a blog post about X?”
So, you go to the blog, search for the post, forward the link, and as your temper rises you secretly imagine the sales rep spontaneously combusting. After all, couldn’t he have done all that himself?!
Part of making sure your sales reps use content throughout the sales cycle is to make it as easy as possible to access the right content at the right time.
In a perfect world, marketing and sales are like bees and flowers, participating in a give-and-take relationship that enables both of them to flourish. But the world isn’t perfect and history has shown that marketing and sales need defined processes in order for a company to thrive. It doesn’t have to be a complicated process, but it does have to be explicitly understood.
When it comes to leveraging content for sales enablement, there are a few things you should consider as you develop your process.
Mining insight from your sales team can help you surface gaps in your content, identify questions at each stage of the sales cycle and manage objections via content.
Here are a couple of questions I like to ask my sales team to get the conversation going:
Creating content around the answers will give you the opportunity to address them before the prospect even speaks to a sales rep. And if they don’t see the content beforehand, then your sales reps are now armed with relevant content that they can use to help close the deal.
Once you’ve had the first conversation with your sales team, keep them in the loop. Continue to refine the process and the content as your company and customer evolves.
Whether you’re sending a blog post, a whitepaper or a video, the content experience is key. Remember that perfect world we talked about? In it, sales reps can send prospects to a highly targeted stream of content curated just for them.
Here’s a great example of how a custom content stream that we created for one segment of our customers who use Pardot.
This was created by our marketing team and provides information about our Pardot integration and marketing automation in general. It’s a great place for our sales reps to send prospects that fit into this segment.
Lately, we’ve been getting even more targeted thanks to one of our account executives, Jon, who was able to take it one step further with our content marketing software.
Below is an example of a custom stream created specifically for one of his prospects. The stream is hidden, meaning that only those with the link can access it, but you can see that everything about the experience is targeted at that company including the title, description, even the call-to-action that prompts them to “email Jon” directly.
At Uberflip we have an advantage. Our product revolves around content marketing and as a result everybody (including our sales team) buys into the power of great content. If your sales team isn’t ready to take the initiative themselves, then as marketers we need to create these experiences for them to leverage.
Once you’ve identified the right content and experience, how do you make it easy for the sales rep to actually use the content?
You employ tools that make it easy to introduce content into their process.
There are a few ways you can do this:
A sales team armed with content — content inspired by their own insights — is a sales team that can more effectively close deals. To make this happen you’ll need the right tools combined with the right processes for your company. So before you craft another piece of content, take a step back, walk over to the nearest sales rep, and have a conversation.
Want to learn more about the state of marketing in 2014? Visit salesforce.com or download the free e-book.