In sales, we are always trying to read our prospects’ minds: we want to understand what they are thinking and what drives them. We are constantly on the search for some insight that will enable us to connect more effectively so that we can position ourselves and our product most favorably.
There are various ways in which we might try to do this. Perhaps, we consult our prospect’s purchase history; although that’s almost certainly not what’s on their mind right now. Marketing automation is helpful to a point — a high lead engagement score will confirm that your prospect is very engaged with your organization’s marketing but it can’t explain why they are so interested. Similarly, social media has been a boon for revealing the inner workings of our prospects; Facebook lets us know what they ‘Like’, Twitter tells us what they’re doing right now, and LinkedIn gives us access to their professional persona. This all sounds like a sales intelligence goldmine until the reality kicks in that far from revealing your prospects true selves, social media profiles are often curated to reflect idealized, contrived versions of themselves (that is, if your prospect is even using social media at all!).
There is a higher buyer reliance on content than ever before to assist in research and purchasing decisions. In the latest 2015 DemandGen Report survey, 77 percent of B2B buyers said they did not talk with a salesperson until after they had performed independent research. This is particularly the case when it comes to ‘considered purchases’ with prospects consulting more than 10 sources of information to arrive at their decision, according to a Google’s ZMOT macro study.
Author Walter Mosley once said, “A man's bookcase will tell you everything you'll ever need to know about him”. It is with this philosophy in mind that organizations should start to see the value of understanding what prospects are reading and engaging with online. Prospect self-education is taking more and more of the B2B (and high value B2C) purchase journey. Clearly, if content is the main conduit through which buyers engage with a vendor then it also serves as a useful proxy for understanding what is going on inside their head.
We know instinctively that if someone is looking at our pricing page then they are at least ostensibly interested in pricing. But we can learn a whole lot more about each buyer from the myriad other types of content they will consume — such as e-books, blog posts or emails — well before they even consider looking at pricing.
Most company content mentions a plethora of concepts, organizations, people or products. If you are reading this article right now, it would not be unreasonable to infer that you are interested in “Salesforce,” “content” and “prospecting.” Of course, one article is not enough to come to any sensible conclusion about your current needs or pain-points. However, if your reading arc was tracked over a short period of time, very quickly we might learn that you’re regularly consuming content that talks about “email marketing” and “collaboration.” Knowing this would be hugely useful for any salesperson who might be charged with getting prospects along to a conference or a marketer who might wish to segment their audience based on current interests, not static personas or context-less lead scores.
Working out a prospect’s interests from their content consumption may be possible for someone with a lot of time on their hands, but what happens when a firehose of leads are coming in? No one person has the time to parse every prospect’s unique content history to identify their recurring content topics of interest. If content choices are to be a helpful proxy for understanding our prospects’ current thinking then it requires technology to unlock this intelligence at scale for the modern day sales force.
The typical demand generation stack is not enough: content management systems are useful for creating, storing and labelling content with descriptive metadata; marketing automation distributes content to the right prospect based on pre-programmed automation logic; and CRM software collects the customer data which evolves and grows with each marketing campaign interaction. Content Intelligence is needed to marry these technologies together and provide actionable insight from prospect content consumption for salespeople to exploit.
This kind of knowledge is useful for salespeople in several ways:
It also means that although buyer self-education means salespeople are now engaging with prospects at later and later stages, they can still capitalize on the insight revealed by the content that has now ‘replaced’ them.
Content consumption is the best and most accurate signal for what a buyer is interested in and likely what they will do next. Tracking prospects interactions as they browse and engage with content means B2B organizations can see current and evolving interests, inclinations and needs — sometimes before the buyer knows themselves!
Great salespeople know how their prospects think and feel and use this insight to sell from the prospects’ perspective. Fortunately, reading your prospect’s mind is becoming easier with tools that interpret their digital body language.
Andrew Davies is the CMO and Co-Founder of idio, which helps leading content marketers maximize the value of their content marketing. idio's Content Intelligence platform analyzes your content automatically, understands your customers via the content they consume, and recommends the right content to the right person in real-time, on any channel. To find out more, please visit idioplatform.com and follow Andrew on Twitter @andjdavies.