On his website, MarketingThink.com, Gerry Moran recently wrote a great post about the ability of content to accelerate a sales pipeline. He cited 24/7 availability, support for value propositions, self-education, and SEO value among the sales benefits of content. On the strength of points like these, Moran makes a strong case for the value that marketing content provides the sales team.
With that said, most business have at least a few quality assets, yet they don’t necessarily enjoy the sales successes that Moran discusses. There’s a key component of this success that warrants further exploration: the utilization of content in the sales funnel.
Though a sufficient body of content is undoubtedly an important component to the sales process, the mere presence of content doesn’t guarantee a smooth trip through the pipeline. There are specific steps marketers can take to ensure that their sales team has access to the content they need when they need it.
Here are our four tips to ensure that you are providing content that empowers your sales team.
1. Make it Available.
It seems painfully simple. If you want the sales team to benefit from your content, they have to know where to get it. Unfortunately, this proves to be a problem more often than you would think. In fact, Qvidian reports that over 40% of marketing materials are not used by the sales team. They go on to say, in some cases, this number can be as high as 90%.
That’s right. Up to 90% of your hard work could be going to waste. What’s the number one reason for content going unused? The sales team can’t access the content; that is, they don’t know it exists or they don’t have the ability to obtain the asset in a timely manner.
It’s up to marketers to make their content available to the sales team. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways. More advanced organizations may have internal portals where marketers can upload content to be downloaded by Sales. A simpler, but similarly effective solution is to use a shared content folder or drive. Either way, the sales team needs a searchable, regularly-updated content inventory.
2. Make it Usable.
As much as you’d love your sales team to thoroughly read through every asset, it’s not realistic to expect all your salespeople to have an in-depth understanding of your content. Salespeople are already being asked to spend more and more time with pre-sale activities – the average salesperson spends 59% of his or her time doing things other than actively selling.
Do your sales team a favor and make it easy to work with your content. Provide some accompanying information to serve as a quick reference for the sales team. This could be a simple, like a short summary or abstract, or more detailed, defining the recommended buyer persona and stage of the purchase process. Your content should also include descriptive, “client-ready” titles, allowing the sales team to send assets directly without needing to remember to retitle. Finally, make sure to provide web-hosted content for the sales team. Web-based content is easy to link, updated remotely, and doesn’t require a prospect to download.
3. Cover the Pipeline.
As a marketer, it’s important that you give your sales team the content that it needs to succeed at each stage of the sales process. Your pipeline is only as effective as its weakest point. A stage that’s left without appropriate content can become a roadblock for the rest of the process.
A content segmentation grid is your best friend when it comes to uncovering needs in your sales process. The grid is created by mapping your primary buyer personas against the stages of your sales process. At each intersection, list the content that’s relevant to the given persona at the given stage of the sales process. As simple as it sounds, this tool is remarkably effective in exposing gaps and opportunities, as well as deciding how to move forward.
4. Be Responsive.
When a marketer uses the term “responsive”, it’s usually in regard to web design; however, in this context, being “responsive” refers to responding to the changing needs – stated or unstated – of the sales team.
The most obvious way for a marketer to be responsive is to regularly communicate with their Sales Department. Consistent meetings, even informal ones, can be incredibly telling. For example, talking to the sales team is a great opportunity to identify frequently asked questions and buyer concerns (both of which can then be proactively addressed through marketing materials). For the less obvious needs, marketers need to pay attention to conversion metrics. It’s important to benchmark conversions at each stage of the sales process, monitor these numbers over time, and compare them to historical data and industry standards.
Let us know what you think:
- On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate the alignment of your marketing and sales teams?
- What factors have been a benefit to your company’s marketing/sales alignment?
- What tips would you add to this list?